For a short while, Bryan Harsin was the ‘new Sheriff in town’ and now he is (as of late Wednesday night) Auburn’s lame-duck football coach. A Wednesday of wrangling did not execute a split between Harsin and Auburn, but no one, except maybe Harsin, can see him hanging on much longer.
Based on multiple insider comments, ‘The Reverend’ Hugh Freeze is expected to be the next Auburn head coach. Alabama football fans, who fear Freeze’s past success against the Tide can be replicated in Auburn, have no reason for concern. What Freeze did in Ole Miss, beating Alabama in 2014 and 2015, is now meaningless.
Before ‘The Reverend’ was defrocked in Oxford, after the 2016 season, his record against Nick Saban was 2-3. The two wins were made possible by cheating rather than coaching wizardry. He can’t repeat that in Auburn.
Not that Auburn has any aversion to cheating. The Tigers have been masters at it going back to the tenure of Pat Dye when players were paid to play. The problem for Auburn is now with NIL opportunities, in an almost rule-less NCAA package, everyone can entice players with deals. That it can be done so openly does not bode well for the Tigers, who have a pretty campus in a lovely, little town, but little else to entice recruits.
Auburn certainly cannot show success in developing players for the NFL. It can try continuing to exploit its ‘family’ theme, but any player and his family paying attention must know the claim is hogwash.
Alabama Football Fans Should Rejoice
ESPN’s Chris Low, who recently said Freeze has been punished enough.
"At some point, I think Hugh Freeze has paid his penalty. I mean Bruce Pearl went back to Auburn and was fired for unethical conduct at Tennessee. How much does he unify that fan base with what he’s done. Look at the job he’s done."
Instead of apprehension, Alabama football fans, even those who don’t agree with Low, should rejoice Freeze is likely going to Auburn. Welcome Freeze back to the SEC, not for whatever price he has paid, but because he cannot win big at Auburn.
Before Auburn hired Bryan Harsin, I penned a note, Dear Aubies, and suggested they hire Freeze. The reasons then are much the same today.
Freeze was caught doing what other coaches have done. Many have done worse. In almost every case, their transgressions quickly dim. When his calls to escort services were discovered, that Freeze wears his piety on his sleeve, made it worse. But now more importantly, by all counts, his family has forgiven him.
How much can Hugh Freeze improve Auburn? At least in the near term of the next couple of seasons, the answer is not much. A toll must be paid by the Tigers for holding on to Gus Malzahn too long and hiring a bad fit in Bryan Harsin. The 2022 squad will not have the talent to compete in the SEC West and a losing season is almost inevitable. After that, who knows? Auburn can throw some big NIL dollars around. That might get them back to being an average SEC team under Hugh Freeze.
There is a rumor outgoing Auburn President Jay Gogue is opposed to hiring Freeze. Weeks away from stepping down, his opinion may not be enough to block it.