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Coming home

Petre Thomas/The Daily Mississippian

 

On Monday, Hugh Freeze was officially announced as the 37th head coach of the Ole Miss Rebel football program, but it wasn’t a hire the entire fan base loved. 

Not at all, actually.

Since Ole Miss made the decision to fire Houston Nutt after losing to Kentucky, Ole Miss fans were ready for a new leader. They were ready for someone to come in and take the reins of the Rebel football program and take them to places they haven’t been in a long time. Those fans were anticipating a hire that would make everyone in the college football landscape realize Ole Miss meant business.

And why wouldn’t you expect that as an Ole Miss fan when you have former quarterback and legend Archie Manning and the executive vice president at FedEx Mike Glenn co-chairing the committee responsible for making the important hire?

However, Manning and Glenn found their guy to lead Ole Miss just 150 miles away in Jonesboro, Ark. That guy is Hugh Freeze.

Many know Freeze from his depiction in the book and movie “The Blind Side” as former Ole Miss football player Michael Oher’s high school football coach, but since those days at Briarcrest Christian School, Freeze has made his mark in the collegiate game first as an assistant at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron and then as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State before getting the head job a season ago. Freeze led the Red Wolves to a 10-2 record and the school’s first Sunbelt Conference Championship in his first season at the helm.

But a lot of people are skeptical about the decision to hire Freeze, and it’s well warranted skepticism.

Freeze has only been in the college game for a few years and a head coach at a Division I school for just one season. What has he done to prove that he is ready to be the head man of a Southeastern Conference program?

The answer is simple: not a lot. 

But that isn’t what is important. What is important is that everyone comes together as one. Everyone from the fan base to the players to the managers to the administration to the assistant coaches Freeze brings in. Everyone wants the same thing.

Since the moment the news of the hire had leaked across media outlets, many fans cheered the hire, while many others were disgruntled. Sure enough, Freeze would need to deliver one heck of an introductory speech to get the Rebel fan base and his new Ole Miss team behind him.

For anyone who watched it live or online, there is no doubt Freeze did just that. 

He had the crowd excited as he gave his plan to get Ole Miss to the SEC Championship Game. Freeze even threw a shot back to Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Fedora who declared they were the Flagship university in Mississippi when he was hired three years ago.

“This is THE University of Mississippi,” Freeze said passionately. “There a few who think they are the Flagship of the state of Mississippi, but THIS is the Flagship of the state of Mississippi.”

For a fan base as torn apart as Ole Miss has been lately, they needed something to light a fire under them. They needed something to get them going.

Who knew that something would be Freeze?

Not to mention the love he has for this University. Barely two sentences into his comments to the Rebel faithful, he began to choke up. 

“I’ve taken them all around the country to bring them back to one place,” he said. “And that’s the University of Mississippi.”

Freeze noted that for him Ole Miss is not a stepping stone to land him a more high profile job, but he said Ole Miss is a place he has dreamed of retiring at. He kept referencing the overwhelming joy he has been given this opportunity.

So for those who are wary of the hire, I understand your logic, but give Hugh Freeze a chance. He’s a man who will do whatever it takes to be successful at Ole Miss. Buy in and see what he can do with this program.