I had good conversations with Archie Manning and Mike Glenn last week that led to today’s Hugh Freeze profile in the Mother Ship.
They were co-chairs of the search committee that recommended Freeze’s hiring to former chancellor Dan Jones.
They’ve admired the work Freeze has done at Ole Miss especially since they had to defend their decision when Freeze was announced.
The tone of the email they received in the days that followed was more curious than angry. They were asked to explain their choice. There were no personal attacks against Freeze, but there was quite a bit of concern over his short body of work as a college coach at both the assistant and head coach levels.
Manning, the former Ole Miss star, wanted to make sure whoever was hired went beyond being a good coach.
For all that Manning had been and continues to be involved in college football, the Freeze search was the first time Manning has participated in a hiring process.
There were lots of names thrown out then, one of them Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech coach who was successful with a wide-open offense in Lubbock and has now turned the corner in the Pacific Northwest.
“That was the first time for me to ever do that. My theory was, ‘He’s got to be a good fit.’ It couldn’t be a guy who was just a good coach and had got it done at Washington State. He had to be a good fit, not necessarily geographically but with just everything.”
Freeze’s Mississippi background alone – a native of Senatobia – wasn’t the determining factor.
“We thought he was a good fit, a good coach and a good person.”
Freeze is facing a complex decision now of what to do with Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemidche’s apology and statement issued Tuesday by Ole Miss media relations turned into a plea to play in the Sugar Bowl at the end.
The investigation by Atlanta police is not closed. Freeze has said he’ll gather all the facts before making a decision.
Glenn thought Freeze had all the right answers in the interview process, particularly when it came to Archie’s question about how Freeze would scheme for Alabama.
Glenn and Manning were also a part of the committee that helped hire Ross Bjork as AD. Glenn says he’s just as proud of that hire and that the long-sought stability that Ole Miss currently has in its head football coach position is due in large part to the relationship between Bjork and Freeze. Glenn says he’s as proud of the Bjork hire as he is the Freeze one.
“I’m proud of Hugh and his staff. I would be remiss if I did not say that a key part of Hugh’s success is Ross Bjork. Ross and Hugh are a phenomenal team. I’m not surprised by that. If anything, I’m surprised that it happened this quickly. If you’d have told me we’d be (in the Sugar Bowl) a year or two from now that would be more in line with my expectations. The state of the program when Hugh took over had a lot of issues,” Glenn said.