Sources: Auburn, Freeze in talks on coaching job

Sources: Auburn, Freeze in talks on coaching job

Auburn has been in discussion with Liberty‘s Hugh Freeze for weeks about him becoming the school’s next football coach, sources told ESPN’s Pete Thamel.

Sources said the Tigers are not expected to make a formal offer until after Saturday’s Iron Bowl game against Alabama, but the sides have informally discussed a contract for more than a week. After Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss coach, stated earlier this week that he intends to stay at the Rebels despite being offered the position of head-coach by the Tigers , the focus has shifted to

Auburn. On Saturday, Kiffin told ESPN’s Chris Low that he had agreed a contract extension with Ole Miss.

New Auburn athletic director John Cohen, who was hired Oct. 31, had narrowed the search to Kiffin and Freeze and heavily vetted both coaches, sources told Low.

Freeze would return to the SEC after spending five seasons at Ole Miss from 2012 to 2016. Freeze went 39-25 for the Rebels before he resigned in July 2017 after being found to have used a university-provided cell phone to call a number associated with an escort service.

Ole Miss was also placed on NCAA probation in 2017 for violations that occurred in part under Freeze, and the sanctions included a two-year bowl ban.

Freeze was cited by NCAA’s committee for infractions for failing to monitor his assistant coaches. However, he did not receive a show cause penalty and “promoted compliance,” according the NCAA report.

The 53-year-old Freeze rose back to prominence with the Flames. After Turner Gill went 6-6 in Liberty’s first full-time FBS season in 2018, Freeze raised the bar, going 8-5, 10-1 and 8-5 in his first three seasons. This run also included a Cure Bowl win over No. 9 Coastal Carolina in 2020.

The Flames are 8-3 this season, including a win over Arkansas on Nov. 5.

Sources said that Freeze’s winning record and his ability to analyze his quarterback development and analytics made him appealing to ESPN. Auburn officials considered Freeze a great fit for the community. His outgoing personality fits well with the program’s college-town feel.

Freeze signed an eight-year contract with Liberty in Oct. According to Thamel, his salary was just over $5 million per annum, making him one of the highest-paid coaches within the Group of 5.

Auburn fired Bryan Harsin on Oct. 31 after a four-game losing streak dropped the Tigers to 3-5 on the season. Harsin was 9-12 overall in less than two seasons at Auburn, which experienced repeated struggles on offense and had difficulty sustaining success on the recruiting trail. Auburn owed Harsin a $15.5 million buyout, with 50% of that due within 30 days of termination.

The Tigers are now at 2-1 under interim coach Cadillac Williams. Williams was a former star running back at Auburn.

Freeze will be Auburn’s third coach in the last four years. Gus Malzahn, currently at UCF, was fired at the end of the 2020 season before Harsin lasted parts of two seasons.

The Tigers last won an SEC championship in 2013, Malzahn’s first season as coach, when they also played in the BCS national championship game, losing to Florida State.

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