Ready for a pun? I started to headline this post: “Ole Miss To Announce Hiring Freeze.”
Hugh Freeze of Arkansas State will be introduced today at 3pm ET as the Rebels’ next head football coach. As the school put it in a press release:
“A Mississippi native, inspirational leader and one of the nation’s top rising coaches, Hugh Freeze was the first choice to return championships to Ole Miss Football and will be introduced as the Rebels’ 37th head coach today…”
The whole “first choice” part might not be exactly true as a few reports have claimed Southern Miss’ Larry Fedora — who’s being listed in connection with several higher-profile jobs, including Texas A&M — turned down overtures from Archie Manning’s search committee.
Freeze may well turn out to be the right choice for the job, but he certainly isn’t the splashy choice.
Fedora has turned Southern Miss into arguably the best program in the state of Mississippi. He’s also lived in the state for four years and knows every dusty Delta backroad when it comes to recruiting inside the Magnolia State.
Mike Leach and Rich Rodriguez were available for pursuit as well. Manning and crew decided to look elsewhere. Now Freeze will be held up to the successes (or failures) that Leach and Rodriguez have at Washington State and Arizona respectively.
Also, we do not believe Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart — despite several reports to the contrary — was ever given a serious look by the UM search committee.
If Fedora, Leach, Rodriguez and/or Smart flourish elsewhere while Freeze becomes the umpteenth UM coach to flame out by The Grove, it might just put a tiny dent in ol’ #18′s halo.
We have no problem with Manning and crew deciding not to pursue an assistant like Smart. The Rebel program needs a proven head coach at this point. Unfortunately, Freeze is hardly proven.
As you’re sure to hear time and again in the coming weeks, months and years, Freeze was coaching high school football and girls’ basketball in 2004 at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. His star player there was Michael Oher of “The Blind Side” fame.
Ed Orgeron plucked Freeze from the high school ranks — and landed Oher, too — when he made the coach an assistant AD for football external affairs in 2005. In 2006 he became Orgeron’s recruitng coordinator and tight ends coach. He then became the team’s receivers coach as well.
When Orgeron was ousted in 2007, Freeze headed to NAIA Lambuth University as head coach. He went 20-5 at Lambuth in 2008 and 2009.
In 2010, he moved to Arkansas State as offensive coordinator. The team finished 4-8 and head coach Steve Roberts was replaced by Freeze last offseason. In his first year as head coach of the Red Wolves, Freeze led the team to a 10-2 record and a Sun Belt Conference title.
While his rise has been impressive, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this is a mighty big gamble or Ole Miss. Freeze may eventually prove that he was indeed the best choice the UM search committee could make. But there’s not much on the resume — at least not on the BCS level — to suggest that will be the case. It’s a long way from coaching girls basketball to competing with Nick Saban, Les Miles and Bobby Petrino in the toughest division in college football.
Archie Manning released a video on UM’s official website today announcing the hire.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has more here.