Hugh Freeze recently left Arkansas State after one season for the supposed greener pastures and fatter pocket books of Oxford, Mississippi. While the departure of a head coach is usually followed by a period of recovery and rebuilding, this will not be the case in Jonesboro.
What may be one of the strangest coaching "trades" in college football turned out to be one of the luckiest moments in the history of Arkansas State Athletics, and perhaps the university itself.
The SEC, and Ole Miss specifically, gained a heck of a football coach in Hugh Freeze, who replaces the troubled Houston Nutt as head of the Rebels. This left the Sun Belt Champion Red Wolves without a head football coach.
What was originally an unforeseen problem ended up becoming one of the biggest surprises of the 2011-12 coaching carousel when Auburn's national championship-winning offensive genius, Gus Malzahn, accepted a position back home in The Natural State.
The decision to accept a position that had paid Hugh Freeze around $152,000, which is even less than half of the Sun Belt average, was not totally driven by monetary reasons it seems.
It was no secret that Malzahn wanted to someday return closer to home, where he had once run a highly successful high school program, and the beneficiary of those desires is Arkansas State.
Coach Malzahn steps into an ideal situation in Jonesboro. Hugh Freeze walked into a program as offensive coordinator in 2010 that was nothing to brag about. Arkansas State had played second fiddle to the Razorbacks on the opposite side of the state for...well, forever. Freeze made an instant impact, and in 2011 was given the head job.
The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt, got a bowl bid and gained a ton of national attention for their program. Enough attention to make Hugh Freeze a household name and a popular head coaching candidate. When his chance came to make ten times the paycheck, he took it.
Now Arkansas State has one of the premier offensive play-callers in all of college football, and he brings with him a running back in Michael Dyer, who, like his coach, is coming home.
The Red Wolves will dominate the Sun Belt, and they will do it immediately. State has a solid roster left behind by coach Freeze, and with Gus Malzahn in charge they will shine.
Look for big things out of Jonesboro in 2012 and beyond.