Auburn has found its man.
Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated reported on Monday that Auburn is finalizing a deal to hire Hugh Freeze as its next head football coach. Freeze has spent the last four seasons as the head coach of Liberty, where he posted a 34-15 record. The new head coach of the Tigers will now return to the SEC, where he previously left in a blaze of controversy.
A longtime high school coach in the Memphis area, Freeze served as the head coach at Arkansas State for one season before taking over at Ole Miss in 2012. Through five seasons in Oxford, MS, he posted a 39-25 record where he led the Rebels to two New Year’s Six bowl appearances and most notably beat Alabama in back-to-back years.
However, his time at Ole Miss is best remembered by scandal as the program came under NCAA investigation for providing impermissible benefits to players. While this was happening, his predecessor Houston Nutt filed a defamation suit against Ole Miss, claiming that Freeze blamed him for the violations and launched a smear campaign against him in the press. Making a FOIA request for calls made on Freeze’s university-issued cell phone, Nutt’s attorneys discovered calls made to a female escort service from the phone and alerted both Ole Miss officials. With the scandal being revealed in the media, Freeze stepped down prior to the 2017 season.
Freeze was hired as Liberty’s head coach in 2019 and would win at least eight games in all four seasons as the upstart FBS independent. However, controversies would continue. Chelsea Andrews, a former Liberty student who was one of several plaintiffs that sued the school for mishandling sexual assault cases and Title IX issues, took to Twitter this past July to criticize the school for the hiring of athletic director Ian McCaw, who resigned in disgrace from Baylor in 2016 as a result of the school’s sexual assault scandal. Andrews later revealed that Freeze sent her a direct message on Twitter to defend McCaw shortly afterwards. With Freeze’s name emerging as the top candidate for the Auburn job on Saturday, she emailed the school about the interaction that took place over the summer.
The news of Freeze’s hiring has already set off a backlash throughout the college football world. We’ll see how the university responds.