With the College Football season ending soon, teams are looking to fire and rehire. In Week 14, only teams who were at the top of their divisions get to play while the rest await their bowl status. In the meantime, teams that aren’t in contention for the playoffs are aggressively recruiting for next season and looking to fill vacant coaching positions. Auburn University found their new leader, Hugh Freeze will take over as head coach of the Tigers football team.
Auburn’s New Coach And His Scandalous Past
Hugh Freeze’s coaching past isn’t all bright, as he’s made several questionable calls dating back to his time as the head coach of Ole Miss. Freeze was hired by Ole Miss as the head coach in 2012 and retained his job until he left in the summer of 2017 after several allegations popped up. The NCAA accused freeze and the university of several recruiting violations, including staff and boosters. Freeze was involved in a lawsuit by the former Ole Miss coach, which brought up questionable phone calls. He was rumored to have made several female students uncomfortable with inappropriate behavior back when he was a high school coach.
Ole Miss Recruiting Violations
Ole Miss self-imposed several restrictions as a result of allegations from the NCAA. Over four years, Ole Miss imposed a double-digit reduction in scholarships for the football program. They also set a one-year bowl ban for the 2017 season. As of February 2017, the NCAA had accused Ole Miss of 21 rules violations by current and former staffing members at that time, most of which were the result of Freeze’s lack of control.
The NCAA case included academic, booster, and recruiting misconduct. Two coaching assistants were accused of altering recruits’ ACT exams so they would be eligible to attend Ole Miss. In addition, several Boosters were caught offering players and families money to persuade them to attend Ole Miss. These offers were upwards of $15,000. In addition, boosters aided recruits in transportation, electricity bills, car loans, and obtaining free items from their stores and restaurants.
As a result, Ole Miss was forced to vacate 33 wins over six seasons for fielding ineligible players between 2010 and 2016. Hugh Freeze was accused of 15 Level One violations. Most of the wins vacated were under Freeze but some dated back to the previous coach, Houston Nutt. The total wins removed from each season were four in 2010, two in 2011, seven in 2012, seven in 2013, eight in 2014, and five in 2016. One of the wins that were stripped was Freeze’s historic win over Alabama in 2014 when the Rebels beat the Crimson Tide 23-17.
One of the most notable recruited players was offensive line Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil is currently an offensive tackle for the Houston Texans but was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2016. After the stripped wins, Houston Nutt has 18 wins instead of 24, and Hugh Freeze has 12 wins instead of 39.
Freeze’s History Of Inappropriate Behavior
In July 2017, former head coach Houston Nutt filed a lawsuit against Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze due to a “smear campaign” in which the team and Freeze tried to push most of the NCAA allegations onto him. The team was trying to limit as much of the blame on Freeze and, as a result, push the blame onto a former coach to lessen the penalties. As a result of the lawsuit, phone calls and numbers from Freeze’s “phones” surfaced, especially on his Ole Miss issue cell phone. In addition, Hugh Freeze had contacted a number associated with a female escort service at least a dozen times during his career with Ole Miss.
After Hugh Freeze left his job as head coach of Ole Miss, a story was published regarding inappropriate behavior with three female students when he was a coach at Briarcrest, a Christian school in Memphis. Many people don’t know, but the movie The Blind Side involved Hugh Freeze as he coached Michael Oher. The three females accused the coach of inappropriate behavior when the dress code was violated. As a result, one girl was forced to change her shirt in front of the coach, and another was taunted and “paddled” as a punishment. Freeze denied all allegations.
Freeze’s Recent Coaching Success
Freeze found a “rebirth” as a coach when Liberty University hired him as the head coach in 2018. In his first three seasons with the team, he led them to three consecutive bowl wins from 2019 to 2021. In the 2022 season, Liberty should have another bowl appearance, as they finished with an 8-4 record. He compiled a 34-15 record in four seasons as the Liberty head coach.
Auburn University knowingly knew about Freeze’s history before offering him the job. Auburn fired its previous head coach, Bryan Harsin, in October after going 9-12. Assistant coach Cadillac Williams was named the interim coach and was a favorite to land the head coaching job before Auburn chose Hugh Freeze. However, Auburn Athletic Director John Cohen said, “Of all the candidates we considered, Hugh was the best fit.”
Cohen also said, “Fit has several meanings, but the most important factors were student-athlete development, football strategy, recruiting, and SEC experience.” Hopefully, Freeze can make a new name for himself and let the past remain in the past regarding recruiting. Hugh Freeze has an 83-42 record over his ten-year coaching career. He’s coached at Arkansas State, Ole Miss, and Liberty University, and now will add Auburn University to his resume.
Reactions From Auburn Hiring Hugh Freeze
During Hugh Freeze’s time with Liberty, he acquired and helped develop quarterback Malik Willis. Willis was drafted in the 2022 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. Auburn University currently has a similar-sized quarterback in Robby Ashford. So Ashford was excited when he learned that Freeze was taking over as the head coach of Auburn. In Freeze’s introductory conference, Ashford said, “I’ve been praying for this.”
Ashford went on to praise Freeze. He called him a winner and a proven winner. He’s excited to work with him, especially knowing he helped develop Willis and pushed him to the next level. Freeze is also looking forward to working with the Auburn quarterback. After commenting on Ashford’s game film, Freeze said, “I do think I have a gift to help develop quarterbacks. If you look at everywhere we’ve been, we’ve had pretty good success with that.”