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A spirit that is not afraid

Freeze officially introduced in press conference

<p>Auburn Athletic Director John Cohen poses with Hugh Freeze at the coaches' introduction as Auburn's head coach at the Woltosz Football Performance Center on Nov. 29, 2022.</p>

Auburn Athletic Director John Cohen poses with Hugh Freeze at the coaches' introduction as Auburn's head coach at the Woltosz Football Performance Center on Nov. 29, 2022.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Auburn held a press conference introducing Hugh Freeze as the program’s 31st head football coach. 

Freeze was introduced by Director of Athletics John Cohen, who led the coaching search and ultimately announced Freeze’s hiring on Monday, Nov. 28. 

Athletics staff, family and friends of Freeze, members of the media and various others were in attendance. The press conference, held in the new Woltosz Football Performance Center, opened with comments from Cohen, who began by commending interim head coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams for his work leading the team following the dismissal of Bryan Harsin. 

“Before I get started, I want to recognize coach Carnell Williams, who did an incredible job as our interim coach and a tremendous job as a leader,” Cohen said. “Not only for our football program but for our university as well.”

Cohen then went on to describe the coaching search, one that he said involved conversations with “industry experts, teachers, professional college coaches, law enforcement officials, student-athletes, parents of student athletes and many others.”

He noted that a search firm, analytics firms and law firms were consulted, in addition to administrators from each institution Freeze had formerly coached at. In transitioning to his comments about Freeze, Cohen pointed to three aspect of Freeze’s career that were of note to Auburn.

“Hugh Freeze was at the top of our list in the beginning, and we never wavered from that,” Cohen said. “The combination of on-field success, student-athlete development, recruiting at a high level along with coach Freeze's personal inventory of his life.”

Cohen’s comments concluded with a comparison of Freeze’s attributes to those found in the Auburn Creed, and then he gave the stage to the man of the hour. Cohen did not take any questions from the media. 

Freeze began his comments with a compliment to the way Auburn’s football program had finished out the season, then moved to congratulating Williams as the figurehead of the team during that time frame. With those praises, he also announced that Williams would be retained on staff and promoted to associate head coach while also remaining as coach of the team’s running backs.

“I knew my first priority was I have to have Cadillac along my side to help me drive the culture of Auburn football,” Freeze said. “That meeting last night just solidified everything that I've heard and witnessed. I went to bed feeling really, really good last night that Cadillac is going to be our associate head coach and running backs coach.”

Following his praise of Williams, Freeze then gave his thanks to the media members in attendance, to Liberty, the board of trustees at Auburn, President Chris Roberts, Cohen as well as the rest of the athletics staff he interacted with as the search progressed. 

Freeze became emotional in thanking his family. His wife Jill and daughters Reagan and Jordan were in attendance, as well as various extended family members and close friends. 

Upon moving to more football-centered topics, Freeze said that he had met with the team Tuesday morning and looks forward to meeting players on an individual basis. 

“I shared with them how we're going to turn this ship and get out of the wilderness here that we might be in a little bit,” Freeze said. “Every job I've ever taken over has had some type of struggles prior to our arrival, and we've been able to turn them fairly quick. And I look forward to that challenge here with this great staff that we're going to put together and these young men that are going to buy in.”

Following the information about meeting with the team, Freeze dove into the core values he wants to instill in his time at Auburn — faith, attitude, mental toughness, integrity, love and "you."

“Faith in the essence of you have to believe in something bigger than yourself to be a great football team or to be a great university or to be a great family. It's really not about you,” Freeze said. “You can't run fast enough. You're not strong enough to do it alone, so you have to have faith in someone bigger than yourself. The team, everyone around us, the staff.”

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He discussed attitude as the voices that the team would have inside their locker room, an encouragement from one another that would drive players forward. He discussed how he sees this attribute most in the men’s basketball program under head coach Bruce Pearl. 

“This guy is teaching a master class in to how to get people to buy into a culture, and I look forward to spending time with him,” Freeze said. “Man, he would never say anything other than ‘Just encouragement’ and ‘just encourage, just encourage.’ And I see why people are so attracted to him, and he wins, obviously.”

He went on to talk about mental toughness in the context of waking up every day and powering through whatever obstacles might be presented, no matter how difficult it might be. 

Then to build on the idea of mental toughness, Freeze said he wanted to instill integrity, where the team will focus on correcting mistakes rather than focusing on some intangible idea of perfection. 

To conclude his introductory statement, Freeze discussed his final core value, “you.” 

“We need the fans. We need the Auburn Family. We need the staff. We need the players,” Freeze said. “We need everyone in this building that is involved in our program to buy in to our core values to drive this train to get it where everyone wants to be. It is all of us that must pull together. The Auburn Family. You will notice that acronym spells family, and I believe that is what Auburn is all about.”

Following his prepared statement, the floor was then open for media members to ask questions of Freeze. He fielded a variety about what he has learned at other programs, areas where he can improve as a coach, the idea of second chances and his perception of Auburn’s program. 

"I believe with the commitment that has been shown by our fans, boosters and administration to invest in things like this that matter in recruiting and they matter in the NIL and the On To Victory Fund – all of that matters today," Freeze said. "when I took over at Ole Miss and they hadn’t won an SEC game in two years. Obviously, we were going to some New Year’s Six Bowls in year three and four, so I see no reason why with the current structure we can’t (win championships) fairly fast.”

Freeze says he looks forward to coaching against Nick Saban in the Iron Bowl, looks forward to hitting the recruiting trail and sees Auburn's quarterback room as a place where he can help to develop that position.

In discussing what has worked when he transitioned to programs in the past, Freeze pointed to staff as an area where he sees team culture being instilled. 

"The staff has to drive the culture. I’m not near as concerned about X’s and O’s with most of the staff. The defensive coordinator has got to be masterful at that. But the rest of the staff, it’s about culture," Freeze said. "But what will be the deciding factor is putting a staff together that complements each other and drives the culture consistently."

A full video of the press conference can be found on the Auburn Athletics website

Callie Stanford | Sports Editor

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.

Twitter: @Stanford1Callie

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