Reports have surfaced that Ross Bjork is working on a contract extension and slight raise for Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze. Freeze's current deal, which he inked around this time last year, pays him a base salary of $4.3 million plus incentives, good for 10th in the nation and third in the SEC. Since Mississippi state law limits contracts to no more than four years, this will tack on just one additional year.
"Nothing's final, but we're having those conversations right now to get to that point," AD Ross Bjork told The Clarion-Ledger.
As infuriated as I would have been imagining such a thing after the losses to Memphis and Arkansas, Freeze really got things together in the month of November, something he had historically struggled with at Ole Miss. He finally showed the ability to overcome his stubbornness and make necessary adjustments, and this raise and extension are well deserved.
The assistant coaches will also receive a pay increase. I cannot speak to the ability of the assistants, generally. I can say that there are certain assistants Ole Miss really needs to focus on retaining, namely D-line coach Chris Kiffin, wide receivers coach Grant Heard, and anyone else who is actually recruiting well. There are others who, let's say, wouldn't be a major hindrance if they left.
But regardless of their actual ability, coaches need to associate Ole Miss with making a competitive salary. It's the way you continue to attract interest from coaches, and it's essential in the SEC. Alabama just nabeed Jeremy Pruitt as its defensive coordinator. Will Muschamp spent a year as a DC. John Chavis is a hot name. Ole Miss must continue to find good assistants and pay them well. That's not currently their situation, as the Rebels rank 12th in the SEC in assistant coaching salaries (the Rebels could technically be 13th since salaries aren't listed for Vanderbilt, a private institution).
"Basically, my position was, ‘Hey, let's do what we have to do to maintain the continuity and the consistency,'" Bjork said. "I know with our assistant pool we've been toward the bottom of the SEC, and we need to step up. We're in the process of doing that."
So while I couldn't have imagined this at times during the season, all of this is good news and very well deserved.