About half a decade ago, Hugh Freeze was coaching high school football in Memphis, Tennessee, not too far removed from his birthplace of Senatobia, Mississippi. Then, a talented left tackle was placed in his lap thanks to the efforts of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. Michael Oher helped put Freeze on the map.
Ed Orgeron, former Ole Miss head coach, recruited Oher heavily and developed a relationship with Freeze that ultimately landed Freeze a position in the Ole Miss Athletics Department. Freeze found himself on Orgeron’s staff the following season, but was not kept on when the Rebels hired Houston Nutt for the 2008 season.
Freeze ended up with his first Division-I head coaching position for the 2011 season at a Sun Belt school. Arkansas State had not had a winning season since 1995, the year that Freeze assumed the head coaching position at Briarcrest Christian School. Under Freeze, Arkansas State won the Sun Belt Conference with a 10-2 record, only losing to BCS Automatic Qualifying opponents Virginia Tech and Illinois, both on the road.
On Monday, 5 December 2011, Freeze was introduced as Ole Miss’ 37th head football coach to a capacity crowd as well as thousands watching online. It didn’t take long for Freeze to emphasize how important this job is to him. Ten seconds into his speech Freeze said, “I’ve taken my family all over the country to get to back to this one place."
Later on, he again pointed out how much this job means to him by saying, “This is a destination place for me. This is where I want to live and retire. This is home to me.”
While his excitement for the position is definitely something Ole Miss fans are looking for, his lack of a resume leaves many fans doubting the hire. The search committee had other options available to interview that included high-profile names like Mike Leach, Kirby Smart and Rich Rodriguez. To some, it seems that the search committee, co-chaired by Rebel legend Archie Manning and Fed-Ex executive Mike Glenn, settled on a lesser-known coach.
The truth of the matter is Ole Miss is looking for a coach with a fire under him who sees the Ole Miss job as a prize. And that is exactly what they are getting with Freeze. Leach was looking for any school that would take him and his baggage. Smart, if he is looking at all, would see Ole Miss as a starting point to something better (think, Tommy Tuberville). Rodriguez was similarly thankful for any position, meaning that the Ole Miss job would not have been special to him.
Does Freeze have a lot to prove? Absolutely. Should he be dismissed based on a short resume? Absolutely NOT.
With any new coaching hire, only time will tell, but it looks as if Freeze has all of the things that Ole Miss needs.