Hugh Freeze is set to make his return to the SEC, as he is reportedly finalizing a deal with Auburn to be its next head football coach.
Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated first reported the news and an official school announcement is expected to come later Monday. Freeze, 53, has spent four seasons at Liberty where he has gone 34-15 with three consecutive bowl wins. He led the Flames to just their second 10-win campaign in 2020 and first since 2008. Sitting at 8-4 this season, this will be the 17th consecutive winning season for the program.
Liberty earned its first-ever AP national ranking and recorded the program’s first wins over an ACC and SEC school under Freeze. Freeze inked an eight-year deal worth just south of $5 million annually with Liberty in October amid speculation he would take another head coaching job.
This will be Freeze’s second stint in the SEC after serving as head coach at Ole Miss from 2012-16. Freeze guided the Rebels to back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl appearances in 2014 and 2015 — winning the Sugar Bowl over Oklahoma State in the latter year. In both those seasons, Freeze and Ole Miss defeated Nick Saban and SEC West rival Alabama.
Freeze’s time in Oxford came to a screeching halt in the weeks leading up to preseason practice in 2017. He resigned as head coach after Ole Miss officials discovered he made several calls to multiple numbers associated with a female escort service, per ESPN. The NCAA placed the university on probation in 2017 for violations that occurred under Freeze. The sanctions included a two-year bowl ban.
Hugh Freeze Takes Over Auburn Program in Shambles
Freeze will become Auburn’s third head coach in the last four years. Auburn fired Gus Malzahn after the 2020 season and hired Bryan Harsin. Harsin failed to replicate the success he had at Boise State, going 9-12. Auburn fired Harsin on Halloween — two days after the 41-27 loss to Arkansas. Harsin’s time at Auburn ended at the same time athletic director John Cohen’s began.
Cohen was hired shortly after Harsin’s firing, replacing former athletic director Allen Greene. Greene, who hired Harsin, negotiated a settlement with the university to leave in August.
A tumultuous season at Auburn ended with a 49-27 loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl Saturday. The Tigers finished 5-7, failing to make a bowl game for the first time since 2012. Auburn has gone nine years without winning an SEC championship — the first season of the Malzahn era.