By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Imagine, if you will, a world of Ole Miss football that does not include Hugh Freeze. Ross Bjork is imagining that.
Not that Bjork, the Ole Miss athletics director, thinks Freeze is leaving after guiding a downtrodden program to a 6-6 finish and a bowl game.
It’s that Bjork wants to make sure he’s doing the things from the big chair that make Freeze and his staff want to remain in place.
’Tis the season for coaching change. At Ole Miss a new head football coach has been hired every 3.3 years, approximately, since Billy Brewer’s 11-year run ended in 1993.
Bjork said last week that he was working on a restructuring of Freeze’s current contract.
The word Bjork used here is “proactive” amid a landscape that “shifts by the hour.”
With a coaching search season that had four openings until Kentucky hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, there was loose and distant use of Freeze’s name in the speculation about various openings.
One reason Freeze’s name hasn’t exploded among the searches is the same thing that caused some to wonder aloud if he was the best choice for Ole Miss last year: the relatively small sample size. Freeze had been very impressive at Lambuth, an NAIA school that has since shut down, and had been a head coach at an NCAA school, Arkansas State, for one year.
His body of work is still developing, but you can be certain this year placed him in the consciousness the hiring people.
That Freeze talks about his love for Ole Miss, his growing up a Rebels fan, etc., should give some measure of comfort to Ole Miss fans. Some.
When you start throwing around cash, things can change. A million here, a million there, and pretty soon your’e talking about real money.
I believe Freeze is sincere, but he also deserves to be paid what he’s worth as determined by the market.
Bjork understands this and has seen enough from the coach he didn’t hire to be aggressive in keeping him. One example of this is his handling of strength coach Paul Jackson. How many AD’s go to their coach and say a certain assistant isn’t making enough money?
“He helped me re-work Paul Jackson’s contract. He initiated that, I didn’t. For our AD to seek me out for that tells me he gets it,” Freeze said.
A year into the Freeze Experiment, things are looking good, and among his assets Freeze can claim an AD who, it appears, understands that helping a program reach its potential begins with hiring good people and investing in them.
Parrish Alford (email@example.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.