Several months ago when Hugh Freeze was announced as the head football coach at Ole Miss, none of us knew what to expect from this guy who had seemingly come out of nowhere to become our coach. To be honest, it wasn't an impressive hire. Many of us felt like we deserved better. We felt like we deserved a person with experience coaching and recruiting at the top levels of college athletics. We knew we were far from where we wanted to be in terms of a football program, but we were an SEC school. Who wouldn't want to be our coach? Names like Mike Leach, Dana Holgrorsen, and Kirby Smart were thrown around with carelessness and many of us, including myself, believed that one of these top-tier coaching talents would come to Oxford and deliver us from the downfall of the Houston Nutt era. We were all wrong.
In the end, we got stuck with Mr. Freeze, that guy who taught Micheal how to play football and who had spent most of his time coaching high school and D-II schools. Many of the Ole Miss faithful, myself included, were disappointed. But the first time I heard Coach Freeze speak, I noticed something different in his voice. For the first time in several years, a breath of fresh air surrounded the football program as Coach Freeze spoke the simple truth that all of us understood but none of us wanted to hear. We were in the wilderness. That simple phrase not only summed up where we were as a football program, but it also summed up the type of program that Freeze would run. That phrase told me that we would no longer be subject to excuses for unnecessary losses or be fed a constant stream of opaque optimism from our leaders. This phrase made me, and maybe many others, realize that truth would no longer be pushed aside and transparency would no longer be an option.
As Coach Freeze began to move forward with the football program, he made no promises that he could not keep. There were no promises of winning seasons, bowl games, or national championships. As fans, we were promised only one thing going into the season. Coach told us that the team would play passionate football for 60 minutes.So far, I believe that this promise has been kept. This program that went 2-10 last year went out against a Texas team and hit them in the mouth every play. Undersized and over matched, the team played 60 minutes of some of the most passionate football that I've ever seen from an Ole Miss football team. Two weeks later, against the "gold standard" of college football, the Ole Miss team came out again and challenged the top team in the country in their home stadium. Going into halftime, Coach Freeze pulled no bull again as he called out his quarterbacks for being "greedy" with the ball. Truth was spoken without hesitation in front of a national audience.
Throughout the past few months, I think we have all noticed something new and different surrounding this football program. We've experience some nice wins and some blowout losses, but throughout the still young season, one constant has remained. The truth has been spoken at every turn. As I look back at the off season and the circumstances surrounding the Hugh Freeze hire at Ole Miss, I begin to realize why this was the man hired for the job. It seems that Archie knew a little bit more than we did when throwing out names for a head coach. He understood that there are many coaches that are good with X's and O's. He understood that there are plenty of great recruiters in college football. But Archie, it seems, was looking for something else in a coach. He was looking for someone who does it the right way, for someone that the Ole Miss community could rally around, and, finally, for someone who would speak the truth no matter the circumstances.
Through the last year, I have gained the utmost respect for Coach Freeze. Not simply because of his recruiting skills or his ability to call the right plays at the right time, but because he has proven himself to be a man who has no qualms about speaking the truth in all situations. Don't get me wrong. This program is a long way away from competing at the level we all expect to be at. If Coach Freeze would like to be here longer than 3-4 years, we must see drastic improvement in all aspects of our football program. If Coach Freeze truly wants to retire here, he must prove himself beyond any other coach in Ole Miss history, but I believe that this is the man that can change things around Oxford. We began the coaching search looking for people that we as a fan base deemed worthy for us. We looked in all the wrong places for someone that we wanted, but in the end we ended up with a person who wanted us. Thank you Coach Freeze.