Hugh Freeze could have returned to Oxford next football season. It just might have been for a team that competes against the Ole Miss Rebels.
It was reported that multiple teams including Tennessee, Missouri, LSU and Alabama tried to hire the former Ole Miss head football coach in some capacity. Alabama and Nick Saban, who were looking to fill their open offensive coordinator spot, led the charge, and if the decision had been left up to the uber-competitive head coach, Freeze could be in Tuscaloosa at this moment.
“This would have been a home run hire for Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri or LSU,” Clay Travis, host of Outkick the Coverage, said.
However, it was reported that the SEC commissioner, Greg Sankey, said the move would look bad for the SEC and blocked the hire using a bylaw which states that the hiring of a coach associated with an NCAA investigation spurred by unethical conduct requires the consultancy of the league commissioner.
“What the SEC hopes is that Freeze can get a job somewhere else (in the country),” Travis said. “Then come back into the (SEC) having cleansed himself in some way, letting another conference take a chance with him.”
Freeze has the credentials to coach again at the collegiate level. In five years at Ole Miss, he amassed a record of 39-25 (19-21) in arguably the toughest division in college football, the SEC West, and led the Rebels to two appearances in New Year’s Six Bowls that included a Sugar Bowl win in 2016. He added to his season win total every year he was head coach except his last, and his offense was one of the top 50 in college football for three of his five years in charge.
“I think Hugh Freeze will get a chance to be a head coach in the SEC again,” Travis said.
Freeze was also the head coach when the NCAA began multiple investigations into the recruiting practices of the Ole Miss football program. The investigation began in January 2016 when Ole Miss received its first notice of allegations just days after its Sugar Bowl win. The NCAA sent a second notice of allegations in February 2017, which eventually resulted in a self-imposed bowl ban. The investigation continued, and the Rebels received an additional year of bowl ineligibility in November 2017, which Ole Miss is appealing, among other sanctions. Freeze has never been tied directly to any of the allegations or charges; however, a “lack of institutional control” was a part of the second notice filed by the NCAA.
However, Freeze wasn’t around for the conclusion of the investigation or for the entire 2017 season, for that matter. In July, Freeze resigned after the discovery of a “pattern of personal misconduct” that, in a mind-blowing turn of events, a Mississippi State fan discovered was linked to calls to escort services. Freeze has avoided the public eye since then, except for releasing an apology letter to the Ole Miss family in September 2017 and doing a January 2018 interview on Clay Travis’ radio show.
Any team that even looks into hiring Freeze, especially an SEC program, faces a storm of public intrigue and media speculation. Though Freeze almost assuredly won’t be back in college football this year, it could be in the near future that the formerly revered coach returns not only to college football but to the SEC.
“They don’t want Hugh Freeze to come back into the conference as an offensive coordinator (right now),” Travis said.
It isn’t a stretch to say the talented coach could be hired not just as a coordinator but, potentially, as a head coach in the next few seasons. Unfortunately for the Rebels, it also isn’t crazy to say that he could face off against the very program that owes him for many of its recent successes.