Auburn sees Hugh Freeze as coach: Tigers focus on Liberty boss amid Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss


After Lane Kiffin elected to remain Ole Miss coach, Auburn has shifted the focus of his coaching search to Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, sources close to the situation tell CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. Talks between the parties began weeks ago and continued after Auburn’s 49-27 loss to No. 7 Alabama at Saturday’s Iron Bowl.

Freeze, 53, has a 34-15 record in three seasons with Liberty. The former Ole Miss coach, who led the Rebels to a 10-3 season and second place at SEC West in 2015, is now the frontrunner, replacing Bryan Harsin on the Plains.

“I’m not the one to tell them [the players] something that’s not true,” Freeze said after Liberty’s 49-14 loss to New Mexico State. “Is the job everyone’s talking about one I’d like to talk to? Secure. That doesn’t mean they offered me a job.”

Freeze’s attraction stems from his success at Ole Miss from 2012-16. He was 39-25 (including vacant wins) during his tenure, beating both Alabama and Nick Saban in consecutive seasons (2014-15). Freeze led the Rebels to a 10-win season, a Sugar Bowl berth and a ninth-ranked finish in 2015, a campaign that didn’t include any of those 27 vacant wins.

Freeze was fired from Ole Miss ahead of the 2017 season after he was found to have been making inappropriate calls from his school-issued cellphone. Coupled with a NCAA investigation which exposed a lack of institutional control tainted his success with the rebels. Ole Miss was punished with a two-year bowl ban and a two-game conference suspension if hired by an SEC school before November 30, 2018.

With the window closed for that suspension and numerous changes to the college football landscape ahead that will likely benefit Freeze in recruiting at the Power Five level (NIL rights, transfer portal), his return to a major program was only a question of time.

Freeze spent two years away from the game before being hired by Liberty in 2019. He has never completed less than eight wins as the leader of the Flames, who made the leap from FCS to an independent school in FBS ahead of the 2018 season. He has led Liberty to three straight bowl games, including a 10-1 record and a No. 17 overall ranking in 2020. Freeze also developed quarterback Malik Wills, who happened to transfer from Auburn, to a third-round draft -Pick in the NFL 2022 draft.