Auburn eyes Hugh Freeze as coach: Tigers focus turns to Liberty boss while Lane Kiffin stays with Ole Miss

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SATISFACTION

With Lane Kiffin opting to remain as Ole Miss coach, Auburn has shifted the focus of his coaching quest to Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, sources close to the situation tell CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. Talks between the sides began weeks ago and continue as Auburn prepares for the Iron Bowl against No. 7 Alabama on Saturday.

Freeze, 53, has a 34-15 record in three seasons with Liberty. The former Ole Miss coach is now the league leader replacing Bryan Harsin on the Plains.

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

The attraction to Freeze stems from his success with the Rebels from 2012-16. He was 39-25 (including vacated wins) during his tenure, defeating both Alabama and Nick Saban in back-to-back seasons (2014-15). Freeze led the Rebels to a 10-win season, a Sugar Bowl finish, and a No. 9 final ranking in 2015, a campaign that included none of those 27 vacated wins.

Freeze was fired by Ole Miss ahead of the 2017 season after it was discovered that he made inappropriate calls from his school-issued cell phone. In combination with a NCAA investigation which revealed a lack of institutional control, his success with the rebels was stained. Ole Miss was punished with a two-year bowl ban and a two-game suspension if hired by an SEC school before November 30, 2018.

With the window closed on that suspension and plenty of changes in the college football landscape coming up that are likely to benefit Freeze when recruiting at the Power Five level (NIL rights, transfer portal), his return to a major program was only a matter of time.

Freeze was two years away from competing before being hired by Liberty in 2019. He never finished with less than eight wins while leading the Flames, who made the jump from FCS to an independent school in the FBS ahead of the 2018 season. He has led Liberty to three consecutive bowl games, including a 10-1 record and a No. 17 overall ranking in 2020. Freeze also developed quarterback Malik Wills, who happened to switch from Auburn, to a third-round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Preliminary.

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