Hugh Freeze has agreed to a deal to become Auburn’s next head football coach, sources have told ESPN. An official announcement is expected later Monday.
Auburn administrators, including athletic director John Cohen, met with football staffers earlier Monday to talk to them about Freeze’s hiring. They will meet the players at 6 p.m. ET, and Freeze is expected to arrive on campus later Monday night, sources told ESPN.
Freeze’s contract with Auburn is for six years, averaging $6.5 million per year, sources told ESPN’s Pete Thamel.
Freeze has spent the past four seasons at Liberty, where he took the Flames to all-time highs. He is widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the game. This will be Freeze’s second stint as SEC head coach, having led Ole Miss’s program from 2012 to 2016. He beat Alabama and Nick Saban in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015 and capped the 2015 season with the Rebels’ first Sugar Bowl win since 1970.
But in the weeks leading up to the start of pre-season training in 2017, Freeze resigned after Ole Miss officials discovered he had made a series of calls to several numbers associated with a telephone service. escort. Ole Miss was placed on NCAA probation in 2017 for violations that occurred in part under Freeze, and the penalties included a two-year bowl ban.
Freeze, though cited by the NCAA’s Division I Infractions Committee for failing to monitor his assistant coaches and school boosters, did not receive a show cause penalty and “fostered an atmosphere of compliance “, according to the NCAA report.
Auburn’s new athletic director, Cohen, who was hired Oct. 31, had narrowed his search to Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin and Freeze. Kiffin said Saturday he was staying at Ole Miss and signing a new deal worth $9 million a year.
Freeze, 53, replaces Bryan Harsin, who was fired Oct. 31, two days after Auburn’s 41-27 loss to Arkansas at home. Harsin was 9-12 overall in less than two seasons at Auburn, which struggled repeatedly on offense under Harsin and struggled to maintain success on the recruiting track. Former Auburn athletic director Allen Greene, who hired Harsin, brokered a deal with the university to leave in August. Greene was entering the final five months of his contract and sources told ESPN his contract was not going to be renewed after the season.
Harsin looked absent after freshman year and survived a university-led investigation in January after a mass exodus of players and assistant coaches. He was retained after then-school president Jay Gogue said the process “did not provide information that should change the status of our coaching staff or our coaching program. soccer”. Harsin came to Auburn from Boise State and had never coached in the SEC. He finished 4-11 against Power 5 opponents at Auburn.
Auburn owes Harsin a $15.5 million buyout, 50% of which is due within 30 days of his firing.
Freeze agreed to a new eight-year contract at Liberty in October with an average salary of just under $5 million a year, making him one of the highest-paid Group of 5 coaches in the country. Liberty Football accomplished several firsts under Freeze’s leadership, including the first AP national ranking in school history and the program’s first victories over an ACC and an SEC school.
Freeze becomes Auburn’s third head coach in the past four years. Gus Malzahn, currently at UCF, was let go at the end of the 2020 season. Harsin lasted two seasons before being fired. The Tigers last won an SEC championship in 2013, Malzahn’s first season as head coach; they also played in the BCS title game that season, losing to Florida State.
Over the past 12 seasons, Auburn has either won a national championship (2010) or played for a national championship (2013). Only five other college football schools can make that claim in that time frame — Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State.