Following Ole Miss football's second-straight New Year's Six appearance and fourth bowl game in as many years under coach Hugh Freeze, Athletics Director Ross Bjork announced a one-year extension on top of the Rebel front man's existing contract, which previously ran through 2018. The increased contract signs Freeze on for a total of four years, the maximum-length contract allowable for state employees in Mississippi.
Coach's base salary rises from $4.3 million per year to $4.7 million with increases of $150,000 every year after 2016. The contract's myriad and sundry incentives include bonuses for SEC Championship appearances and wins, bowl games, coaching accolades and academic performance.
Freeze isn't the only one on staff to see a handsome raise: all nine assistants will earn larger checks, along with operations, strength and conditioning, and other support staff.
Ross Bjork had this to say:
"In four short years, Hugh Freeze has taken Ole Miss Football from the bottom of the SEC to one of the premier programs in college football ... Coach Freeze is a unique leader who has the ability to develop young men both on and off the field. With his staff’s leadership, chemistry and integrity, there are championships in our future, and this investment and ongoing stadium renovations indicate our commitment to supporting the vision. We look forward to seeing Coach Freeze on the Ole Miss sidelines for a long time."
And here's Freeze's statement:
"I am humbled and blessed by the continued confidence our administration continues to show in our staff ... I am grateful especially to Ross for his proactive leadership and steadfast support. I also appreciate the salary increases for our assistant coaches and support staff, who have worked extremely hard to build this program. My family loves Oxford and the Ole Miss family and are blessed by God to continue building this program and working with the young men that choose this great university."
Just last April, Andy Kennedy also garnered a contract extension and raise for his success with the Basketbears, whose steady presence in the SEC West has rendered yearly NCAA Tournament appearances expected targets. Kennedy's contract, like Freeze's, was accompanied by apposite investments in operations and support staff; and like Kennedy, Freeze can look forward to a facilities facelift next season.
These salary increases and infrastructural improvements are as much testaments to AK's and Freeze's coaching abilities as they are to Ross Bjork's approach to fund raising and the mechanics of running a successful collegiate athletics program. The University's "Forward Together" campaign has certainly focused and inspired record numbers in donation money, as 2015's goal of $150 million was soon eclipsed and re-calibrated to $200 million.
Congrats, Coach, and Happy belated Christmas.