Hugh Freeze to return to SEC, Auburn finalizing a deal for Liberty HC

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Hugh Freeze is returning to the SEC after more than five years. Auburn is finalizing a deal to hire the Liberty head coach, per Ross Dellenger.

Since taking over the program in 2019, Freeze has led the Flames to a 34-15 record. Outside of Lane Kiffin, rumors suggested Freeze was the favorite to take over for Bryan Harsin, who was fired after just 21 games.

The former Ole Miss coach returns to the conference that he set on fire some odd years ago. Freeze led the Rebels from 2012-16, in which he went 39-25, with his best season coming in 2015 when Ole Miss posted a 10-3 record, including a pair of seasons that featured wins over Alabama and Nick Saban. However, much of his time at Oxford will be remembered for the controversy.

Freeze was dismissed in the summer of 2017 after the school found out that he had been using a university-provided cell phone to call a number associated with an escort service for recruits. It stained Ole Miss and Freeze, but he only spent two years away from football.

It’s easy to see why Auburn is willing to stick its neck out there on a hire like this. There aren’t many desirable candidates, with Matt Rhule and Luke Fickell agreeing to their new deals. Another asset of Freeze is his inept ability to develop quarterbacks. Remember Chad Kelly? The nephew of Jim Kelly threw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2015. Another essential facet of the hire for Auburn is Freeze’s history against Nick Saban. Guz Malzahn stuck around so long for his success against the Tide. Something similar could unfold with Freeze.

Auburn is widely known for having too many cooks in the kitchen, so this hire could have been propelled by any number of people — administration, alumni, boosters, etc. I’m not sure if Freeze’s tenure will turn out successful, but it certainly will be entertaining to watch. With this hire, Auburn alienated a portion of the fan base who still have a distaste for Hugh Freeze from his actions at Ole Miss. I’m sure the people in charge are betting a large percentage of those unhappy with the hire will come around if the team starts winning again. We’ll see.

Photographer: Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire

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