On Monday, Nov. 28, Auburn announced the hiring of Hugh Freeze to fill the vacant head coaching position.
Freeze comes from Liberty, where he served as head coach of the Flames for four years. He was introduced as their head coach on Dec. 7, 2018.
He replaces Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who served as interim head coach for the Tigers for the final four weeks of the season after it was announced that head coach Bryan Harsin was being dismissed.
“After a thoughtful, thorough, and well-vetted search, we ended where we started, with Hugh Freeze,” said Director of Athletics John Cohen. “Of all the candidates we considered, Hugh was the best fit. Fit has several meanings, but the most important factors were student-athlete development, football strategy, recruiting and SEC experience.”
Williams went 2-2 in his tenure, serving as the first African American head coach for Auburn. He was named interim head coach of the Tigers following the dismissal of Harsin on Oct. 31, 2022.
“I’m pleased that our Athletics Director John Cohen conducted a detailed and thorough national search process, and I look forward to welcoming Hugh and Jill Freeze to the Plains,” said President Christopher B. Roberts said. “I am impressed with Coach Freeze’s focus on player development and his on-the-field success at multiple universities and at multiple levels.”
Contract details have not yet been announced. Freeze’s contract at Liberty dictated a buyout that was deemed "Power 5 friendly."
Freeze is a graduate of Southern Miss in 1992, after which he began teaching at Briarcrest High School in Tennessee, where he worked from 1992-2004.
"I’ve been fortunate to witness first-hand how special Auburn is during my time as a head coach in the SEC and while visiting my daughter Jordan who attended Auburn and currently lives in the community," Freeze said. "I can’t wait to work with our student-athletes and the Auburn family to bring championships back to the Plains.”
While at Briarcrest, he was accused and subsequently denied inappropriate behaviors with female students.
"First, I want to acknowledge Cadillac Williams for the incredible job he did as interim head coach. The impact he made is immeasurable and cannot be overstated,” Freeze said. “Secondly, Auburn is one of the preeminent programs in college football and I’m very appreciative of President Roberts and John Cohen for this opportunity at Auburn."
In 2005, Freeze moved to Mississippi where served as Assistant Athletic Director for football external affairs at Ole Miss. The following year, he became the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the Rebels.
For two years, Freeze was then head coach at Lambuth University, a school that lost its accreditation in 2011, where he went 8-4 in 2008 and then 12-1 in 2009.
In December 2009, Freeze became offensive coordinator at San Jose State where he stayed until February 2010.
From there, he became Arkansas State’s offensive coordinator, moving up to the head coaching position for the 2011 season.
Beginning Dec. 5, 2011, he served as the head coach of Ole Miss, during which time the Rebels went 6-6. By his third season, the team improved to a 9-3 regular season record.
In January 2016, the NCAA charged the University of Mississippi with multiple recruiting violations and upon a reopening of the investigation, it was discovered that players were receiving “impermissible benefits,” not monitoring assistants, not properly controlling the program and, most egregiously, soliciting female escorts on his work phone.
In July 2017, Freeze was given an ultimatum to either resign or be fired for violations of the ethics clause of his contract. In February 2019, the NCAA passed down its ruling on the program and vacated 27 of the team’s wins under Freeze.
His record with the Rebels is officially 12-25 at Ole Miss where it once was 39-25.
On Dec. 7, 2018, Freeze was officially announced as the head coach of the Liberty Flames. In his first year, the team went 7-5 and qualified for a bowl game for the first time in school history.
In December 2019, Freeze signed a five-year extension with the Flames. In 2020, Liberty went 10-1, then 8-5 in 2021. In 2022, he signed an additional extension to keep him with the Flames through 2030, increasing his average annual salary to $5 million.
In 2022, the Flames finished at 8-4 and went on a three-game losing skid, including a 49-14 blowout loss at home to to New Mexico State in their final game.
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Callie Stanford, junior in communications, is the sports editor at the Auburn Plainsman. Currently a junior, she has been with The Plainsman since January 2021.