News What really happened between Hugh Freeze, Alabama and the SEC

  • Thread starter Matt Zenitz | mzenitz@al.com
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Matt Zenitz | mzenitz@al.com

#1
The story behind why Nick Saban wasn't able to add Hugh Freeze to Alabama's coaching staff.

If Nick Saban had gotten what he wanted, Hugh Freeze would be in Tuscaloosa this week helping Alabama prepare for its annual A-Day spring game.

It's what the former Ole Miss coach wanted, too.

The Southeastern Conference, though, wasn't in favor of that happening.

Alabama was one of at least five SEC schools that had contact with Freeze about on-field jobs this offseason. Saban wanted to hire Freeze as a co-offensive coordinator and position coach, sources told AL.com.

However, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey encouraged Alabama not to hire a man as well known for the personal shortcomings that led to his Ole Miss resignation as he is for his success as a coach.

It's the primary reason why Saban, the highest-paid and most powerful coach in college football, couldn't add Freeze to his staff this offseason, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation who provided previously unreported details about Alabama's pursuit of the former Ole Miss head coach.

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.

The SEC declined to comment for this story.

Sankey's stance left Saban disappointed. Saban has a strong respect for Freeze, who bested him twice as Ole Miss' head coach -- one of only three SEC coaches to beat Saban multiple times during his time in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama ultimately hired Josh Gattis away from Penn State to be its co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach and promoted Mike Locksley to offensive coordinator as part of a staff shakeup. When asked in late January about the possibility of hiring Freeze, Saban said, "I think Hugh Freeze is a really good coach, so we'll keep evaluating and trying to make our staff as strong as we can make it."

It wasn't just Alabama that considered adding Freeze this offseason.

Multiple SEC schools looked into hiring Freeze as their offensive coordinator, including LSU and Missouri, but no deal was ever reached because of the league's opposition, according to sources. Freeze was publicly linked to the Missouri offensive coordinator position before Barry Odom hired former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley.

While it seems implausible a coach as influential and successful as Saban couldn't get what he wanted, a nearly year-old SEC bylaw gives the league's commissioner additional oversight into schools' hiring practices. According to bylaw 19.8.1.2, a school must consult directly with Sankey before offering a job to a coach "who has engaged in unethical conduct as defined under NCAA Bylaws or who has participated in activity that resulted, or may result, in a Level I, Level II or major infraction."

That's relevant because Ole Miss received a two-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions through 2018-19 and had to vacate wins after the program was deemed to have "fostered an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting," according to the NCAA Committee on Infractions. The committee, though, seemingly viewed it as more an institutional than Freeze issue at Ole Miss. While multiple Ole Miss assistants and staffers received multi-year show-cause penalties, Freeze was hit with only a two-game conference suspension should any school hire him as a head coach before Nov. 30.

Roger I. Abrams, the Richardson Professor of Law at Northeastern University, says the SEC bylaw doesn't legally prevent a school from hiring someone like Freeze -- a school could have its president make a case to Sankey on why it wants to hire him -- but "it's exactly what the SEC wanted to happen."

"We have seen especially in basketball that coaches who get their programs into NCAA hot water, if they are a good coach, they'll get another job fairly quick," Abrams said. "What the SEC is saying is 'Not in our conference.' I think it makes a lot of sense. Like everything else, the effect of the consultation with the commissioner depends on the personalities involved. Not all universities are equal within any conference."

To this point, the former Ole Miss head coach hasn't fought back against the SEC's stance. Even if he did, he likely wouldn't have any legal recourse against the conference.

"I would conclude he does not have a case," Abrams said. "If someone doesn't like the bylaws, go change your conference."

As spring practice wraps up across the Southeast this week, it looks increasingly unlikely that Freeze will have an on-field coaching job for the 2018 season. It's possible he could land an analyst or consultant job, but sources have indicated he's reluctant to uproot his family from Oxford for that type of position.

Freeze, who compiled a 39-25 record in five seasons in Oxford, has kept a relatively low profile since his July resignation but has expressed remorse in his few public appearances.

"I really believe I have a lot to offer a program whether as an assistant or a head coach, and I'm hopeful it's very soon," Freeze told Gridiron Now in December. "That program will get a very determined, motivated, better coach Freeze if given a second chance."

Matt Zenitz | mzenitz@al.com
What really happened between Hugh Freeze, Alabama and the SEC
 

TUSKstuff

Riding The Wave
#2
Well, that was embarrassing. For all the fuss made over Bo Davis and his lies to coach Saban when he was confronted with the recruiting violations, this seems much bigger in scope.
 

TheChief

Verified Member
#3
I have a difficult time believing head coaches don't know when boosters buy players, and I can't imagine the head coach being surprised that a recruit suddenly and inexplicably chose their school out of the blue. Using that as a premise, why would any coach, especially one that lost due to recruiting improprieties, hire a cheater? That cheater negatively affected your livelihood and diminished you.

Hugh Freeze should never be hired to coach again.
 
#4
I don't like Sankey past,present,or future but I agree that Hugh needs to go spend time with the family for a year at least.

Groucho made this quote with Hugh in mind.....Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife

Or The secret of life is honest and fair dealings. If you can fake that , you've got it made.
 

bamachine

Master Debater
#6
Well, that was embarrassing. For all the fuss made over Bo Davis and his lies to coach Saban when he was confronted with the recruiting violations, this seems much bigger in scope.
I did not want him to hire Freeze but not exactly the same thing. Freeze did not lie to Saban as his boss. If Bo had told Saban the truth, I think Saban would have kept him and just took whatever temp suspension the league handed down.
 

TUSKstuff

Riding The Wave
#7
I did not want him to hire Freeze but not exactly the same thing. Freeze did not lie to Saban as his boss. If Bo had told Saban the truth, I think Saban would have kept him and just took whatever temp suspension the league handed down.

I believe that Bo had a good chance of still being here if not for the cover-up. Freeze is a pathological liar that made it his business to fabricate bold face untruths to his administration, wife, kids, players and Finebaum and the media every step of the way. Habitual liars as tainted as Freeze don't deserve second changes in the conference he just smeared. Especially since his old program is in the middle of extreme sanctions that he caused. I think that was the sentiment of Sankey, who basically said if you don't like it find another conference. I'm sure he hopes Freeze takes him up on it before the next round of coaching hires take place. To know that so many would have hired this low life is disconcerting.
 

bamachine

Master Debater
#8
I did not want him to hire Freeze but not exactly the same thing. Freeze did not lie to Saban as his boss. If Bo had told Saban the truth, I think Saban would have kept him and just took whatever temp suspension the league handed down.

I believe that Bo had a good chance of still being here if not for the cover-up. Freeze is a pathological liar that made it his business to fabricate bold face untruths to his administration, wife, kids, players and Finebaum and the media every step of the way. Habitual liars as tainted as Freeze don't deserve second changes in the conference he just smeared. Especially since his old program is in the middle of extreme sanctions that he caused. I think that was the sentiment of Sankey, who basically said if you don't like it find another conference. I'm sure he hopes Freeze takes him up on it before the next round of coaching hires take place. To know that so many would have hired this low life is disconcerting.
I am not taking issue with you arguing against Freeze. Like I said, I did not want to see him wearing crimson. I was just pointing out the fault in using Bo as a a comparison. IOW, Bo was a drop in the pond, in comparison. If he had not lied to Saban, he would likely still be on the staff.
 

TUSKstuff

Riding The Wave
#9
I am not taking issue with you arguing against Freeze. Like I said, I did not want to see him wearing crimson. I was just pointing out the fault in using Bo as a a comparison. IOW, Bo was a drop in the pond, in comparison. If he had not lied to Saban, he would likely still be on the staff.
I'm agreeing with you. Bo could have survived. I was making more of a contrast myself.
 
#11
Yeah....friends or not....glad it didn’t happen.....
Saban probably..really...is also...
Honestly, I think he thinks he can "fix" anyone. Glad he didnt get the chance on this one.
IMO, he doesn't try to "fix" anyone. If he knows the guy has talent, skills and experience, he'll see if there's a fit in his staff. In most cases, these have been bargain basement costs for the talent. The coaches he brings in also benefit by learning from the master. The question is: who benefits more? What's the price to benefit ratio?
 

Birdman37

Verified Member
#12
Yeah....friends or not....glad it didn’t happen.....
Saban probably..really...is also...
Honestly, I think he thinks he can "fix" anyone. Glad he didnt get the chance on this one.
IMO, he doesn't try to "fix" anyone. If he knows the guy has talent, skills and experience, he'll see if there's a fit in his staff. In most cases, these have been bargain basement costs for the talent. The coaches he brings in also benefit by learning from the master. The question is: who benefits more? What's the price to benefit ratio?
By "fix them" I mean he sees super talented/smart coaches with "flaws" (usually character flaws) that he thinks he can "fix" and make them all around great coaches (possibly again in some cases).
 
#13
Yeah....friends or not....glad it didn’t happen.....
Saban probably..really...is also...
Honestly, I think he thinks he can "fix" anyone. Glad he didnt get the chance on this one.
IMO, he doesn't try to "fix" anyone. If he knows the guy has talent, skills and experience, he'll see if there's a fit in his staff. In most cases, these have been bargain basement costs for the talent. The coaches he brings in also benefit by learning from the master. The question is: who benefits more? What's the price to benefit ratio?
By "fix them" I mean he sees super talented/smart coaches with "flaws" (usually character flaws) that he thinks he can "fix" and make them all around great coaches (possibly again in some cases).
I'll disagree. His focus isn't on fixing. His focus is making Alabama the best.
 

Birdman37

Verified Member
#14
Yeah....friends or not....glad it didn’t happen.....
Saban probably..really...is also...
Honestly, I think he thinks he can "fix" anyone. Glad he didnt get the chance on this one.
IMO, he doesn't try to "fix" anyone. If he knows the guy has talent, skills and experience, he'll see if there's a fit in his staff. In most cases, these have been bargain basement costs for the talent. The coaches he brings in also benefit by learning from the master. The question is: who benefits more? What's the price to benefit ratio?
By "fix them" I mean he sees super talented/smart coaches with "flaws" (usually character flaws) that he thinks he can "fix" and make them all around great coaches (possibly again in some cases).
I'll disagree. His focus isn't on fixing. His focus is making Alabama the best.
Which "fixing" those coaches continues to do...