The Ole Miss football program is heading back in the right direction with head coach Hugh Freeze at the helm.
In just his second season, the Rebels have earned another bowl game appearance.
On Tuesday, Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork announced that coach Freeze will receive a one-year contract extension and a raise to $3 million a year.
In a press release Tuesday, Bjork stated “In just two short years, Coach Freeze and his staff have placed Ole Miss among college football’s top rising programs. Their hard work and devotion in all facets of the program have resulted in postseason berths, elite recruiting success, personal development of our student-athletes and a renewed energy throughout Rebel Nation. With these salary commitments and our on-going Forward Together Campaign, we are committed to placing our football program among the SEC’s best and make the Ole Miss family proud. We want Hugh Freeze to be our football coach for a long time to come and our commitment is to invest in the present and future success.”
Lets talk money first. Is any football coach worth $3 million? Maybe not, but at that rate, Freeze joins the upper pay echelon of SEC coaches and no credible observer can deny he deserves to be there. Based on his coaching and recruiting track record, that’s what the market demands.
The Rebels finished the 2013 regular season with a 7-5 record and look to add an eighth victory in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Since Freeze has arrived, the atmosphere around the program has changed for the better. People and fans look forward to seeing the team perform on Saturdays. In Houston Nutt’s last year, the Rebels ended with a 2-10 record and suffered back-to-back losing seasons.
Over the past two seasons, the Rebels have shown great effort on and off the field. Freeze deserves much of the credit for that turn-around. Have their been down moments and disappointing losses? Sure, with the most recent Egg Bowl loss standing out as particularly gut-wrenching.
But perspective is in order here. Lets look at the entire two-year picture instead of a snapshot of Bo Wallace fumbling into the end zone against MSU. Climaxing with the key Egg Bowl 2012 victory over Mississippi State by the score of 41-24, the Rebels clawed their way into a six-win season. The squad then performed marvelously in the BBVA Compass Bowl against then Big East opponent Pittsburgh Panthers.
Coming into the 2013 season, Ole Miss put together one of the best recruiting classes in the country, as Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil and Lequon Treadwell signed their letters of intent to play for the Rebels.
After the success of last season, the Rebels opened the year undefeated with a conference win over Vandy, before going into Austin and shocking the Texas Longhorns. Coach Freeze seemed to have orchestrated every facet of the Rebels’ game to work in sync.
Treadwell was becoming a go-to receiver for the team as opponents double-teamed Moncrief. Bo Wallace was on fire — throwing no interceptions until the Alabama game.
After three hard-fought losses to what turned out to be two of the top three teams in the nation, Alabama and Auburn, as well as the top-15 ranked Johnny Football-led Aggies, the LSU Tigers rolled into Oxford. Again Freeze regrouped the troops and everything clicked for Ole Miss.The 27-24 victory over the Tigers gave Freeze and his team all they would need to reel off four straight wins to become bowl eligible.
A painful loss to State put a damper on the season for some Rebel fans, but a victory in Nashville and another successful signing period could pave the way for a breakthrough 2014 campaign.
The Rebels and Yellow Jackets will kick of the Music City Bowl at 2:15 CST on Dec. 30. ESPN will broadcast the game live.
— Adam Brown is Sports Editor of HottyToddy.com