It was a matter of when, not if, Auburn was going to let go of Gus Malzahn as its head football coach. A situation that has been brewing for a few seasons finally came to fruition on Sunday as the Tigers fired the 55-year-old after a 6-4 season. Malzahn led Auburn to the national championship game in 2013 where the Tigers fell to Florida State.
Malzahn’s buyout is a reported $21.45 million. Paying that sort of money during a pandemic shows that AUburn was more than ready to move on.
While Malzahn’s firing was seemingly in the works for quite some time now, so too has the idea of his replacement being former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. The current head coach at Liberty was seemingly exiled from the SEC after Ole Miss was hit with recruiting violations and calls to an escort service, but the growing consensus is that he’s served his time outside of the Power Five and could return to the SEC.
Freeze was linked to the South Carolina job that became open earlier in the year, but it was rumored that he could hold off for either the Auburn job or Tennessee job. Auburn will theoretically have the first shot at Freeze seeing as how Jeremy Pruit is (somehow) still the head coach on Rocky Top.
According to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Freeze has been vetted for a possible return to the SEC and is expected to be the top candidate to replace Malzahn. The other big name to keep an eye on is current Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.
Freeze did not coach for two seasons after resigning from Ole Miss following the 2016 season and took over at Liberty two seasons ago leading the Flames to a 17-6 record including a 9-1 campaign this year.
Freeze led the Rebels to 39 wins in five seasons (before the NCAA took 27 of them away) including a Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State in 2015.
Whichever program decides to give Freeze another chance will get an immediate shot to the arm. His brand of football is an exciting one, he’s a big-time recruiter, and knows how to put up points, three things Auburn certainly wouldn’t mind adopting at the moment.