To be frank, we’re just now groggily reanimating from our Thanksgiving dinner hangovers here at Red Cup Rebellion. There was lots of dressing, lots of bourbon and apparently a football game that devolved into near-fisticuffs. Dunno.
If you yourself have taken a while to get tuned back into the college football news cycle, you may have missed the rapidly expanding Hugh Freeze rumors that have been flying around the internet. Hell, even if you’ve been glued to Twitter, it’s probably been tough to keep up with all of them. Over the past 24 hours, the former Ole Miss head coach has been linked to at least five schools, most notably Tennessee and Florida State.
Most of this speculation links Freeze, who hasn’t been on the sidelines since Ole Miss fired him in July of 2017, to offensive coordinator positions, though he’s been tied to at least one head coaching gig.
To help you wade through it all, we’ve set up a tracker, which we’ll update as rumors develop.
Mind you, Freeze is scheduled to be the offensive coordinator in The Alliance of American Football when the new developmental league opens its inaugural season in February. With all the rumors flying, it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll be back in college ball instead.
In the week since Vols offensive coordinator Tyson Helton accepted the head coach job at Western Kentucky, nobody has been mentioned more as a possible replacement than Freeze. ESPN’s Chris Lowe reported Monday that Freeze is “in the thick” of UT’s search. Tennessee’s Rivals site claims that Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with Freeze last week during a recruiting trip to Memphis.
Yet Freeze remains unsigned. Some rumors suggest that UT could be deliberately slow-playing Freeze as the administration wrangles with his past. Others suggest Freeze is waiting to see what other jobs open up across the college football landscape.
Could UT be slow-playing him? I suppose, but I can’t buy it. They have the money available because of Helton’s salary. They have the opening. But all actual evidence points to him being the one waiting.— Brian Rice (@briancrice) December 3, 2018
“Tennessee has competition, and in talking with people in the last 24 to 48 hours, it’s pretty obvious that Hugh Freeze really likes Tennessee a lot,” Volquest’s Austin Price said on Monday afternoon. “Out of Florida State, Auburn, and Tennessee, I think Tennessee is at the top of his wish list. But for whatever reason, it’s not a done deal yet.”
Which brings us the rest of the rumors.
The Noles snapped their national-best 36-year bowl streak thanks largely to an impotent offense rated 108th by S&P+, so it makes sense that Willie Taggert is on the hunt for an innovative coordinator to turn things around. Per Football Scoop, Taggert spent “considerable time” speaking with Freeze on Monday.
“It’s unclear if the FSU administration would sign off on his hire, but we’re hearing from sources that Freeze is a serious candidate for this job,” 247’s Florida State site reported. “If FSU chooses to go in the Hugh Freeze direction, we believe a deal could get done quickly.”
Gus Malzahn’s job depends on his ability to revitalize his offense after a disappointing 2018. AL.com reported Monday that Auburn is expected to part ways with coordinator Chip Lindsey, opening the door for Freeze to land on the Plains.
There haven’t been reports of formal contact between the two sides, but you’d have to assume that Freeze and Malzahn, who both came up coaching high school ball in the Mid-South and are close friends, have been in touch.
With Mike Locksley the frontrunner to land the head job at Maryland, it appears as though Nick Saban will once again be in the market for an OC. When the job opened up last offseason, only an intervention from SEC commish Greg Sankey kept Freeze from landing in Tuscaloosa.
It was only a few days after Saban’s mid-January meeting with Freeze that he learned he couldn’t make the hire. Sankey informed both Freeze and Alabama that it would look bad for the SEC for Freeze to be back coaching in the league while Ole Miss suffered from NCAA penalties incurred under his watch. The SEC preferred that Freeze, who resigned in July following a “pattern of personal misconduct,” go off the radar for at least a little while before trying to return to work at one of its schools.
With all the buzz surrounding Freeze, it doesn’t sound like Sankey is stepping back in this season. Volquest’s Austin Price expects Bama to speak with Freeze and “go down that road.”
If Freeze prefers a head coach position to a coordinator, it sounds like he’ll have a chance at Liberty. In the wake of Turner Gill’s retirement, Football Scoop reports that Freeze is a strong candidate and that the private school has already “advanced discussions.” Freeze, who’s never been shy about his Christian faith, reportedly has strong connections with the administration of the evangelical school—when he made his first public appearance in the wake of Ole Miss departure, it came at a convocation session at Liberty.
It could be that these rash of rumors are a ploy by Freeze’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, to force Tennessee’s hand. Either way, it sounds like Freeze has plenty of options for where to begin his comeback.