Auburn hires Liberty’s Hugh Freeze as its next football coach: ‘The best fit’
Auburn has hired Liberty’s Hugh Freeze as its next football coach, signing Freeze to six year deal worth $6.5 million a season.
Freeze led Liberty to a 34-15 mark in his four seasons in Lynchburg, including an 8-4 mark in 2022, though the Flames disappointed down the stretch, dropping three of their last four games.
He will replace Cadillac Williams, a former Auburn star who was 2-2 as the interim coach after taking over for Bryan Harsin, who was fired after a 3-5 start this season, and a 9-12 record in parts of two seasons at Auburn.
Freeze and Liberty had just agreed on a lengthy extension that would have had him at the school through 2020 at an average annual salary of just under $5 million.
The goal when that deal was announced last month was to keep Freeze from being lured to a big-time job in the SEC, where he had led Ole Miss to a 39-25 mark before being forced out in 2017 in the face of the revelations that he had used a university-issued cellphone to make calls to escort services, and a subsequent NCAA investigation found the program guilty of numerous academic and recruiting violations on his watch.
“After a thoughtful, thorough, and well-vetted search, we ended where we started, with Hugh Freeze,” Auburn Athletics Director John Cohen said in a news release announcing the hire. “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.”
Auburn is a tough place to make a living as a football coach. The Tigers most recently won an FBS national title in 2011 under Gene Chizik, who was fired two years later after following up the national title with 8-5 and 3-9 seasons.
The first year under his replacement, Gus Malzahn, saw Auburn get all the way to the national-title game, which the Tigers dropped to Florida State.
But the next head coach will be the program’s third in four years, after Auburn fired Malzahn following a 6-5 finish in 2020.
Malzahn was 68-36 in eight seasons at Auburn.
Chizik was 33-19 in four seasons.
Tommy Tuberville, who was fired after a 5-7 season in 2008, was 85-40 in 10 seasons.
That’s three guys with a cumulative record of 186-75 who all got fired.
Tough job, that one.
“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,” Freeze said in a statement in the press release announcing his hire.
“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. I can’t wait to work with our student-athletes and the Auburn family to bring championships back to the Plains,” Freeze said.