Why Hugh Freeze left Ole Miss, and what it means for Auburn football

David Eckert
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Auburn football has settled on Hugh Freeze as its next head coach, replacing the fired Bryan Harsin, according to reports. 

Freeze has spent the last four seasons coaching Liberty, leading the Flames to a 34-15 overall record and a trio of bowl victories. Before that, Freeze spent five seasons as Ole Miss coach, beating Alabama twice, winning a Sugar Bowl and bringing the Rebels as high as No. 3 in the polls in back-to-back seasons. 

Stunningly, he resigned on July 20, 2017, after an Ole Miss investigation found a “pattern of personal misconduct” on the part of Freeze. 

USA TODAY reported that Freeze used a university-issued phone to make a short call to a phone number connected to a female escort service on Jan. 19, 2016. The call was uncovered when the attorney for former Rebels coach Houston Nutt, who had filed a lawsuit against the university and its athletic foundation, requested Freeze's phone records. That prompted the Ole Miss investigation. 

“We all step over boundaries,” Freeze said at the Little Rock Touchdown Club in September, 2018. “Mine are public. Some of it has truth and some of it has no truth to it. But it doesn’t matter. I can’t win that battle.” 

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Had Freeze not resigned, Ross Bjork — the Ole Miss athletic director at the time — said he would have exercised a “moral turpitude” clause in Freeze’s contract to terminate it. 

“In our analysis, we discovered a pattern of conduct that is not consistent with our expectations as the leader of our football program,” Bjork said during a press conference after Freeze’s resignation. “As of yesterday, there appeared to be a concerning pattern.”

Jeffrey Vitter, then the Ole Miss chancellor, said at the time that Freeze’s resignation was not connected with a list of 21 NCAA allegations received by the university that February. 

Ole Miss was accused of 15 Level I violations, and an NCAA infractions panel said the university fostered “an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting,” while also lacking institutional control. Some of the charges posed by the NCAA dated back to Nutt’s tenure, but most occurred under Freeze. 

Ole Miss ultimately vacated 33 wins, served a two-year bowl ban and endured three years of probation — including scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. 

As a result of the NCAA investigation, Freeze received a punishment requiring him to serve a two-game conference suspension if a program hired him before Nov. 30, 2018. With that deadline well in the past, Freeze can be on the sideline for the Tigers.

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.