By Staff and wire reports
By David Brandt/The Associated Press
Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze has agreed to take the Ole Miss job, according to a person familiar to the coaching search.
A formal announcement is expected Monday, the person told The Associated Press Sunday night on condition of anonymity because the school has not announced the hire.
The 42-year-old Freeze led Arkansas State to the 2011 Sun Belt Conference championship and 10-2 record in his first season as a coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Freeze is from Senatobia, Miss., and served as an assistant under former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron from 2005-’07. During that time, he coached receivers, tight ends and also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. He had a 20-5 combined record as head coach at NAIA-level Lambuth (Tenn.) in 2008 and ’09.
Arkansas State has accepted a bid to the GoDaddy.com Bowl, but it is not known if Freeze will coach the Red Wolves in the Jan. 8 game.
Terms of Freeze’s contract weren’t immediately released, but he’s certain to get a significant raise. USA Today reported he made $202,160 this season, which made him the lowest paid FBS coach. Freeze is replacing Houston Nutt, who made about $2.7 million last season.
Freeze met with Ole Miss officials on Sunday night, according to a person familiar with the search. Arkansas State athletic director Dean Lee said in a statement released by the school on Sunday that he had given Ole Miss permission to talk with Freeze.
It’s a somewhat risky hire for the Rebels, who are going with a relatively unproven coach instead of a more high-profile name. But Freeze does have strong regional ties, has had recruiting success and a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks over the past decade.
Now he’s got to win in the tough Southeastern Conference — which will capture its sixth consecutive national championship. He’ll also be competing in the SEC Western Division against the likes of Alabama’s Nick Saban, LSU’s Les Miles and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino.
Freeze takes over for Nutt, who was fired following one of the worst seasons in Ole Miss history. The Rebels finished with a 2-10 record (0-8 SEC) and have holes to up and down the roster. But Mississippi does have a young core of receivers — including Donte Moncrief, Nickolas Brassell and Tobias Singleton — that might be useful in Freeze’s historically potent offense.
The Ole Miss coaching search was led by a five-person committee, including former Rebel quarterback Archie Manning and FedEx executive Mike Glenn.
Freeze worked at Briarcrest High School in Memphis, Tenn., for 13 years, including as the head football coach from 1995 to 2004. He amassed a 99-23 record and won two state championships, but was mostly known as the high school coach for left tackle Michael Oher, who was later featured in the best-selling book and popular movie “The Blind Side.”
Freeze parlayed that high school success into a job with Orgeron’s staff in 2005, first serving in an off-the-field capacity before joining the on-field staff in 2006 as the receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Freeze was seen as an instrumental part of Orgeron’s prowess as a recruiter — bringing in future starts like running back Dexter McCluster, defensive end Greg Hardy, safety Kendrick Lewis and receiver Shay Hodge — though that didn’t immediately translate to on-field success.
Freeze briefly served as the Rebels’ interim head coach after Orgeron was fired following the 2007 season, but was not retained by Nutt.
After his successful two-year stint at Lambuth, he joined Arkansas State’s staff as the offensive coordinator in 2010. The Red Wolves broke nine offensive records that season and ranked second in the Sun Belt in total offense, but head coach Steve Roberts was fired after a 4-8 season.
Freeze was promoted and the Red Wolves took a dramatic step forward this fall, finishing undefeated in the Sun Belt. They finished first in the league in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense. His high-powered, spread offense has worked everywhere it’s been, though it’s never been tested against SEC competition.
UPDATE 6:15 p.m. – By David Brandt/AP Sports Writer
Ole Miss scheduled a meeting on Sunday night with Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze about its opening, a person familiar with the coaching told The Associated Press.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the school has not announced the meeting.
Arkansas State athletic director Dean Lee confirmed in a statement that Ole Miss had requested to speak with Freeze, but did not give any other details.
“We have received a request from Ole Miss, and Ole Miss only, to visit with Coach Freeze, and we have granted them permission to speak with him,” Lee said. “Beyond that, we feel it is inappropriate to comment publicly on another institution’s search for a head football coach at this time.
“We continue to have discussions with coach Freeze at this time regarding his situation, but our major focus during this process has been and will continue to be on the Arkansas State football program. Our priority is on what we can control, and that is exhausting all avenues to give our football program the best opportunity for continued success.”
Ole Miss officials did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Freeze led Arkansas State to a 10-2 record and the 2011 Sun Belt Conference championship in his first season as a Football Bowl Subdivision head coach.
Freeze is from Senatobia, Miss., and worked on former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron’s staff from 2005-07. During that time, he coached receivers, tight ends and also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. He had a 20-5 combined record as head coach at NAIA-level Lambuth (Tenn.) in 2008 and ’09.
He joined Arkansas State as the offensive coordinator in 2010.
UPDATE 10:15 a.m. –
By Parrish Alford
NEMS Daily Journal
Hugh Freeze will be the next coach at Ole Miss, according to sources.
Rebelgrove.com reported that Freeze, the current Arkansas State coach and former Ole Miss assistant, will meet with Ole Mss officials today.
Freeze said Saturday following the Red Wolves’ 45-14 win over Troy that he would meet with Arkansas State officials today and discuss his future.
In a text message response a few minutes ago, Arkansas State coach and Ole Miss candidate Hugh Freeze told the Daily Journal he will meet with his agent, Jimmy Sexton today, and then with ASU athletics director Dr. Dean Lee.
“Then Jill and I will pray about what is best for our family,” Freeze said.
An official announcement is expected to come later today or Monday. There has been no official announcement from the school.
Freeze went 10-2 in his first year at ASU in leading the Red Wolves to the Sun Belt Conference championship,
Prior to his arrival at Arkansas State, Freeze compiled a 20-5 record over the 2008 and 2009 seasons at the helm of the Lambuth University football program.
Freeze was named the American Football Coaches Association’s Southeast Region Coach of the Year in 2009 after leading the Eagles to their best regular season in school history with an 11-0 record.
Prior to taking over as head coach at Lambuth, Freeze served as interim head coach at Ole Miss in November of 2007 and was an assistant coach with the Rebels from 2005-07.
While maintaining his duties as recruiting coordinator, he moved to wide receivers coach in 2007 and tutored two players that were ranked among the top-15 players in receiving in the SEC. Ole Miss’ 2007 signing class was ranked 25th nationally and he was responsible for nine commitments in the 2008 signing class.
Before going to Ole Miss, Freeze served 13 years at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. Freeze compiled a 99-23 record, which included an undefeated season in 1996, while at Briarcrest and led the school to state championship titles in 2002 and 2004.
Bio information on Freeze from Arkansas State University.
More on this story as it is available.