Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was nearly Alabama’s co-offensive coordinator for the 2018 season, but SEC commissioner Greg Sankey prevented the hire from coming to fruition.
That’s according to a report from AL.com’s John Talty and Matt Zenitz, who adds that Saban didn’t learn about the extra hurdle in the league office until days after he met with Freeze in mid-January.
The Crimson Tide ended up hiring Josh Gattis away from Penn State to be their co-offensive coordinator alongside newly promoted Mike Locksley.
Freeze is one of only a few SEC coaches who has been able to defeat Saban twice since he arrived at Alabama in 2007. The others — Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and former LSU coach Les Miles — have also competed for national championships, while Freeze struggled to reach that level.
Still, Freeze was someone Saban wanted to hire, according to Zenitz’s report. But a new SEC bylaw gave the commissioner’s office consultation power prior to Alabama offering Freeze a job. Here’s the relevant portion of bylaw 18.104.22.168:
“In addition, where a member institution considers hiring an individual 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, the President or Chancellor of that member institution is expected to consult directly with the Commissioner prior to offering employment to the individual.”
Sankey utilized his power to block the move, and Freeze is still out on the open market for now, and presumably for at least the rest of the 2018 season.
Freeze running Alabama’s offense would have been something to behold. Ole Miss’ attack under Freeze was always potent — he could have brought the Tide back to peak-Lane Kiffin levels of offensive efficiency, or perhaps beyond that point.
Freeze mostly got off with a slap on the wrist when Ole Miss was punished by the NCAA in the fall. While the Rebels are serving a two-year bowl ban, Freeze will only have to serve a two-game suspension if he’s hired as a head coach before Nov. 30, 2018.
Perhaps with the punishment out of the way, the SEC office will be more willing to revisit the issue in 2019.