Hugh Freeze Introductory Press Conference
Dec. 5, 2011
Below is a transcript of Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, Chancellor Dan Jones and coaching search committee co-chairs Archie Manning and Mike Glenn.
"Thank you for your presence today for our exciting announcement about leadership in Ole Miss football program. We are here today to welcome back to the Ole Miss family, as our head football coach, Hugh Freeze. Coach Freeze will be introduced momentarily.
Joining him will be his family including his lovely wife, Jill, and daughters Ragan, Jordan and Madison. Also with Hugh today are some family members including his parents Danny and Rita Freeze of Independence, Mississippi and Jill's parents, Sid and Jo Vaughn of Vaiden, Mississippi. Please join me in a warm welcome to the Freeze and Vaughn families.
A few weeks ago we announced the decision to make a change in leadership in the football program. Because of the impending retirement long-time Athletics Director Pete Boone, a search committee was appointed and given independence to seek the very best fit for Ole Miss and make a recommendation to me. That five-person committee is co-chaired by two icons of the sporting world and Ole Miss life, Archie Manning and Mike Glenn.
Archie Manning is simply Archie Manning. He needs no introduction. No one is more connected in the world of college athletics and no one is more respected in Ole Miss football circles. I hope you have seen Archie's video from this morning announcing our new head coach. He is not able to be with us today in person because of responsibilities in his role as Chairman of the National Football Foundation. Their annual awards dinner is tonight in New York. He sends his regret and full support. Other committee members are with us today including Dr. Ethel Young-Minor, President of Ole Miss Alumni Association, Richard Noble, and Ron Rychlak, Professor of Law. Co-chairing the committee is Mike Glenn. Mike has demonstrated his commitment to Ole Miss in too many ways to count. In our first meeting together, our search committee made it clear that they would seek a new head coach with a number of attributes they thought would be necessary to be successful at Ole Miss. These attributes included integrity, character, a desire to be at Ole Miss, a demonstrated ability to win and a belief that we can win championships at Ole Miss.
When Mike and Archie looked me in the eye a few days ago and told me they had found the right fit for Ole Miss I could feel their enthusiasm. After spending time with Coach Freeze I am absolutely confident that Hugh Freeze is the right man to lead our football program forward. Coming now to introduce your new head coach is co-chair of the search committee, Mike Glenn. Please join me in expressing your appreciation to Archie and other member of the committee. Here is Mike Glenn."
"Thank you, Chancellor Jones. When the chancellor asked Archie and myself to co-chair the committee, the first thing out of his mouth was that we would have the latitude and resources necessary to find the very best coach. I want to thank you again for your commitment Chancellor Jones. I also want to thank the other committee members. I also want to thank Archie. It has been a pleasure to work with him. I cannot tell you how passionate he was about this search. I want to thank my wife Donna and on behalf of Archie I want to thank Olivia Manning. We outlined the process, selected search firm and started looking for the right person for Ole Miss. The ability to assemble a staff that could coach young men up and recruit the state were necessities. You have to be an aggressive recruiter in order to win in Mississippi. We want an exciting brand of football. We want someone who is committed and understands the kind of defense it takes to win in the SEC. We were looking for a disciplinarian. We wanted someone with the interpersonal skills that could galvanize and unite our fan base. We were pleased with the level of interest in the Ole Miss job. Once we completed our interviews our number one choice was clear. Our number one guy was Hugh Freeze. Coach Freeze is one of the most highly regarded young coaches in the country. He is known as an offensive genius, but he also understands that it takes great defensive to win in the SEC. Bob Beaudine made it very clear that he had placed many coaches throughout his career and that Hugh Freeze has what it takes. Bob Beaudine told me this morning one more time what a gem we got here at Ole Miss. Coach Freeze's Arkansas State team finished this year with a 10-2 record and were one of four teams in the country to finish in the top 30 in total offense and total defense. During his interview he presented a very impressive detailed plan and titled it, "Ole Miss: The Journey to SEC Champion". That journey starts today. Please welcome the new head coach of Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze."
"I can't tell you the thanks I have for the committee lead by Mike and Archie. The time I spent with them showed me their great integrity. It is going to be a pleasure to work with them and for Chancellor Jones. I've taken my family all over the country to get to back to this one place. That place is The University of Mississippi. There is one university that claims they are the flagship university of the state of Mississippi, but this is the flagship university of the state.
I went to San Jose for a brief stop as offensive coordinator and a pay phone at church had a sign that said "Phone Call to God $10,000". I asked the pastor why that was and he said it was due to the high inflation on the west coast, jokingly. We were visiting here last Sunday and on the wall of a church there was a similar pay phone with a similar sign expect it said it only cost $0.10. I asked the pastor why it was so cheap and he said it was because we were in the South and here God is a local call.
It is very important that we make things happen here at Ole Miss. I want to talk about our vision. Three things I have to know is exactly what "it" is. I met with our team today and they were glued in. They understand where we are. Here very shortly when you walk into our offensive meeting room and you ask them what our "it" is, it will be to be a fundamentally efficient scoring machine. When you walk into our defensive room every one of them will say that "it" is to relentlessly pursue the football and to knock the ever-loving stink out of their opponents. That will be our "it". Our special teams "it" will be to provide the winning edge. When you talk about recruiting our coaches will clearly understand that we are establishing dynamic relationships with everyone that is involved in our decision making process. We will win a championship. We have to win the state in recruiting and it will start with great coaches. To the Rebel nation the "it" is really simple. We have to be united as one. I understand where things are. I told our team today that we understand that we are in the wilderness and we have to realize why we are here and how we are going to get out.
Family will be a huge thing. I understand the Ole Miss people and the love you have for the University, each other and the love you have for family. I have that love. This is a destination place for me. This is where I want to live and retire. This is home to me. We understand that to accomplish what we want will take tremendous energy, passion and desire. Our players have to play like that. The first thing we have to get together is that we have to play with passion and effort for sixty minutes. Then we will look up and see where the clock is. We have to start this to get our of the wilderness. The word F.A.M.I.L.Y will be on our team room wall soon enough. The "F" stands for faith in one another. We have to care more about the guy sitting next to us if we are going to be successful. "A" stands for attitude. We have to define who we are to ourselves and not pay attention to how everyone else and the media defines us. I look forward to working and getting to know you members of the media, but it is what we think of ourselves that is important. "M" is for mental toughness. No matter where we are playing, on grass, turf, or parking lots it doesn't matter. It is the game of football. I promise you next I will hire men that will change the lives of young men and make them mentally tough for all that life has to throw at them. I promise you the guys that I will bring in here will impact these young men's lives and we will become winers. "I" is for integrity. We have to tell each other the truth. The "L" is my favorite. It stands for the love we have to have. We are going to tell each other we love each other. We are going to love one another. We are going to start talking about love in the way we play. "Y" is for you. It is for everyone in here. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have a love for this place. I am indebted to you. It is a burden that I will carry with me daily. I will carry the flag of this University with energy passion and a positive attitude.
I will pick three things every day that I can do that helps this program at Ole Miss get to the SEC Championship game. The last thing I told our team is that no matter what we have to stay in the game. You cannot get discouraged. You can't lose sight of the goal and vision. We are going to be open and honest about what our "its" are, but the deal is if you aren't winning today, you aren't going to get there. Our daily actions have to be our spoken goals. Our actions and our goals have to match. You can't say that you want to be an honor roll student and not go to class. You can't say you want to be an All-American athlete and not practice hard every day. You have to win the day. We will start immediately and we will win the day here. That will be the first priority. The players will enjoy family time over the holidays and we will get going as soon as they get back. I can't tell you the joy that I am experiencing right now. I owe a lot to Arkansas State. They are wonderful people that gave me an opportunity to do something that had never been done. Those kids chose to buy in, and it was one of the greatest rides of my life. However, that does not compare to the joy I receive joining this university and this state. We are the University of Mississippi and I am thrilled to be your next head coach."
On offensive philosophy:
"That fast style fits my personality. That is all I know to be. If you aren't yourself as a coach you are hampering your abilities and chances of competing. My personality is kind of like basketball on grass. I think it is an advantage for teams that may play in a league like this that don't see that kind of offense all the time. I know that it limits exactly what a defense can call. I am not suggesting that defenses can defend it, but it has been very successful for us. We will go very fast. We have three speeds and we like to go the fastest a lot. We need a lot of receivers to catch balls and quarterbacks and runnings backs to get a lot of touches. We have to find out if we have guys that enjoy that style. I think we have that."
On instate recruiting:
"I hope my ties will be a huge advantage. I understand that what family members and coaches say influence the young men in this state. I understand the things they may go through in different parts of the state. It is a mixed bag of different things and coaches have to have a great understanding of all that. One of the gifts we want to have is the ability to go into a home and develop relationships through this decision making process. I have recruited very few kids that did not look at others and ask what they thought they should do. We have to go capture those. Being born and raised in this state is a huge advantage."
On learning from Ed Orgeron:
"I am indebted to him for the chance he gave me to get into this business. I learned so much watching him go about recruiting. We will have a twelve month plan. It is the same plan as we put in at Arkansas State. We have 17 commitments right now there and we will put this plan into place immediately here. We do not vary from that plan. I learned great lessons from that aspect. It was a privelege that he allowed me to go and watch people like Pete Carroll and spend time with guys and see how they ran their programs. We have to have a swagger and an attitude about us. There is a great place for humbleness, but we have to also feel good about ourselves. Obviously there were some things that didn't go right during our tenure. We will take those and tweak them. We are obviously different offensively. This is more of my personality."
On considering working in the ministry:
"I have absolutely considered it. I feel blessed by God. I think this is the ministry. All joking aside I am so far from perfect but I know where my forgiveness comes and I am blessed to be here. Every morning God has given this to me."
On team discipline:
"The discipline falls on my shoulders. Period. I am charged with that by our administration and I am responsible for it. We are big on accountability groups in our program. As soon as they get back from Christmas they will have accountability groups. They will be a mixture of every person from every position. If someone in that group chooses to not do things the right way, that whole group has to pay the price. It has worked for me everywhere I have been, particularly in the spring. I don't know all the issues that have been here in the past and quite frankly I don't get caught up. These players have a clean slate with me and what they do from this point forward is what they will be judged upon, unless there are things that are carrying over that we have to address. If you sign on with me as a coaching member on my staff they understand that their charge is the capture the hearts and the minds of their position players. That includes discipline. They are accountable to me and I am accountable to our chancellor and AD. If discipline is an issue, then they truly don't love our team and we can't win."
On allocation of playing time:
"We are going to play the best players. I don't care what grade they are. We are going to play the players that practice the best that week. Competition is great and you have to compete every day to win that day and you should be rewarded for that."
On current Ole Miss commitments:
"As far as the commitments, I want to give credit to Gunter Brewer for holding things together in this interim time. We had a brief meeting today about the status of those commitments. I think they have done a remarkable job as far as how we will proceed with honoring those. That is the state of our program right now. We have to figure out if these kids are the type of characters that fit our philosophies. Some of them I have watched and them some I am not as familiar with. We have to spend time digging into that in the next few days. That is never a comfortable feeling if you choose to go in a different direction, but it is a part of this business. The great thing is that if you do it ahead of time then they have time to reevaluate as well. I would not feel good about notifying them that late in the game. We are going to try to be respectful and do it as well as we can do it if we are going in a different direction.
On the Forward Together campaign:
"I think is is invaluable. It really solidified the state of the program in recognizing that we are not where our administration, players or fans want to be. Obviously infusing money in facilities and improvements in this conference is big. We will all be able to put our heads together to see where it will be best used to benefit our kids."
On short-term plans:
"One of the things I did in this interview process was put together a 90-day plan. We will get a partial staff in place and get our paperwork done so that we can recruit for this university. There there will be a week left before the dead period by the time that is all complete. Then there will be a little over two weeks in the dead period where we will try to finalize the recruiting and staff. In the coming days we will have a partial staff in place hopefully as early as Wednesday. We want to get on the road and get to recruiting."
On recruiting challenges:
"I am the ultimate optimist. We are going to do well, but I am also a realist. I know we are behind. I like to recruit a kid for a full year and we are behind a bit. I think the relationships between myself and the coaches with kids who maybe deep into the process with other schools. Our contacts will at least get us in the front of them. We will judge where we are at that point. The partial staff is not a disadvantage for the next week and a half. We have to sit down and get our plan together. We have to make sure we are attacking right where we need to go. We will have to double time a bit, but with the people that are currently here and the ones that wish to help us out in the meantime, as well as the guys we will bring in immediately, we will have close to seven recruiters we need to put on the road."
On career path:
"I think whatever level you coach at, you think that there is a different defense or offense being run. Every single place I've been the kids are the same, their emotions and desire to win are the same, and their desire for someone to love and care for them is the same. The defenses line up the same way. Some may be bigger and stronger than others, but the schemes are still the same. What makes a coach special is when they can create discipline in a way that the kid also still loves and cares for you. They understand it is required but we don't want it to be demeaning. We have to get it right. My path is special and how it all happened we would have to say is a God thing. The time I left here was a devastating time for me because of my love for this place. My whole aspiration was to find a way to get back. Many people told me I had lost my mind taking the head job at Lanmouth. At Arkansas State they had never won more than six games in football since they went FBS. We were able to pull out ten this year. That credit goes to who you surround yourself with. The kids will be buy in and there is no doubt that we can do that here also."
On game strategy:
"I talked to Coach Orgeron this weekend. I can't tell you how indebted to him I am. Obviously we don't always fulfill our dreams at the right times and who knows why that is, but I am very much indebted to him. He also sent me Chris Kiffin who is a rising star in this business. He is awesome and he will be our defensive line coach shortly. Offensively, we are wide open. Defensively, I think I have hit a homerun in Dave Wommack. He took our defensive team from being 108th in the country and with the same guys they are around 15th in the country now. He understands physical football. Sometimes when you coach a fast paced offense people say your defense gets soft. That is true. To combat that we do a little something on Tuesday's at practice called PODS so we don't lose the physical mentality that we have to have in this conference. I feel very blessed to have him. We will be an aggressive defense."
On the Egg Bowl:
"It is not big, it is paramount. I have great respect of the job he [Mullen] has done there. I take nothing away from that job, but being raised here I have a quite good understanding of what that game means. The administration does not have to tell me that. I get it. It is about us regaining the momentum."
On putting together a staff:
"Maurice Harris is going to capture Memphis again for us. Tom Allen, Chris Kiffin and Dave Wommack are for sure right now. I have great coaches on the staff that we have at Arkansas State. I want to take my time. I think it is very important that I get it right on the front end. Whether it is a guy in the SEC that has been here of whatever conference they are from, they are going to have to capture the hearts and minds of his players, help us win football games and recruit. I feel comfortable where we are for the next week and a half. I am going to take my time and get that right."
On social media:
"I have a lot of help with my social media accounts, but I have to be up to date on what they are saying. I don't have time to do every single tweet, but I like give our guys something motivational every day. I do have help on those, but there is no doubt that in this world of recruiting and kids operating technology in the ways that they are, you better be involved in that."
"Jimmy Sexton is the best in the business. I think that the salary for me is very fair. It was not about negotiating a salary because this is where I want to be. The market value for coaches in this conference is what it is."
On confidence in Hugh Freeze:
"The way Archie Manning and Mike Glenn said that he is the best fit for Ole Miss gave me every confidence in the world."
On timing of hire:
"We made the decision together last night. I spent time with Hugh and the committee met and made a final decision last night."
On hiring new athletic director:
"When I announced the search committee for the head coach, I also announced that Mike and Archie would head the search committee for an athletic director as well. As we know, Pete will be retiring sometime in the next calendar year. We will continue with that process sometime after the holidays."
We crafted what we think is a market based salary. Coach Freeze's base is in the $1.5 million range. It is a heavily performance based salary. There are a lot of opportunity for greater compensation in excess of $2.5 million if he meets a lot of those performance metrics. On the field winning and winning championships are a few of those. Some of those metrics are related to academics. I am pleased to say that he did not shy away from any of the on the field or off the field performance incentives. We took him a contract that was incentive laden with a mixture of on the field and off the field incentives. It is a happy contract for the university and a happy contract for Coach Freeze."
On length of contract:
"It is a four year contract and I don't want to be evasive on how much we paid the search firm. I do not want to be inaccurate. I don't remember off hand the exact details. We will get you that information."
On number of candidates interviewed:
"We had tremendous interest in the job. We made a commitment to confidentiality with all the coaches we talked to and their athletic directors. Many of these coaches are still employed elsewhere and are interested in their continued employment. Some of them are coaching in bowl games. We did not want to disrupt anything regarding any other program. We had a large number of coaches express interest and we had an opportunity to talk to numerous coaches about the position."
On candidate evaluation
"Bob Beaudine sat in on the interviews as well and gave us feedback immediately. Archie and I used the old Abe Lincoln in evaluating coaches. We set out the criteria and we evaluated the coaches individually. When we compared notes we both came away with a number one target and that was Hugh Freeze."
On what separated Hugh Freeze from the pack:
"I've never seen a candidate come into an interviewe more prepared and with greater passion and energy. Regardless of the topic, whether it was offensive or defensive philosophy, strength and conditioning, nutrition, academics, how to address an APR issue, or how to deal with other social issues that kids might have, it did not matter. I have never seen anything like that. At one point Archie asked him what he would do against a certain opponent in the SEC, and the way in which he disected the opposing defense and what he would do to keep them off balance with lesser talent was amazing to me. I deferred to Archie on these football technicalities, of course, but I know leadership when I see it. I have had an opportunity to hire a lot of people in my career and have learned that success starts with tremendous leadership skills."
Archie Manning/Mike Glenn
On how many candidates were formally interviewed and who conducted the interviews
Manning: "Obviously we considered several candidates of course all of this is new to me and there are several candidates that don't want it known they were interviewed. I understand that from their standpoint and that's the difficult part. Mike and I did most of the interviews and reported to the rest of the committee. I don't have a number."
Glenn: "We had Bob Beaudine join us during the interviews the three of us together did most of the interviewing."
On criticism that Ole Miss did not hire someone with SEC couching experience or maybe this was a convenient hire
Manning: "I think anything to do with college football you can expect criticism. I'll be honest with you, BCS didn't enter my mind very much. We were looking for a good football coach, a good fit for Ole Miss I don't understand at all about a convenient hire I think, I know Mike can speak for himself, we spent a lot of time together we went into this thing wide open we considered people from coast to coast."
Glenn: "The pool of candidates was significant, including NFL coaches, D1 level coaches, coordinators and we feted each of the candidates in great detail along with Bob Beaudine from Eastman-Beaudine. We started conducting interviews and selected the candidate that stood out the most to the committee. He was our number one choice coming out of those interviews and we got our guy."
On sentiment that this was a predetermined hire
Glenn: "When Archie and I first got together we laid out a process that we wanted to follow and that included hiring Eastman-Beaudine. The choice in Eastman-Beaudine was to identify candidates that they felt would be a good fit for Ole Miss. We wanted coaches that had an interest in Ole Miss and present a large deep and pool to us for consideration. Once that was done we began feting the candidates, narrowed the list of candidates and Archie and I went in to that with an open mind about who would be the best candidate for Ole Miss and coming out of those interviews it was a clear that the best for Ole Miss was Hugh Freeze."
Manning: "I can assure you that if this was a predetermined hire I don't think Mike and I would have been consumed for the last few weeks like we have been. I don't know how much FedEx business he got done, but if it was predetermined I'd probably gone to my grandchildren's baptisms and done a lot of other business that didn't get done. So there was nothing predetermined."
On when was the decision made to hire Coach Freeze
Glenn: "The decision to offer Coach Freeze the job was made last evening. That was after an extensive interview process obviously we wanted to make sure the chancellor was comfortable with the recommendation that we were presenting to him. The chancellor spent several hours with Coach Freeze as did the rest of the committee. Once we completed all of those interviews and got appropriate feedback the decision was made to offer Coach Freeze the job."
On what made the committee hire Coach Freeze
Glenn: "I think the thing that impressed Archie and I about Coach Freeze was the energy, passion, level of excitement that he approached the interview process. He came in with a very detailed plan. The plan was entitled "Ole Miss the Journey: SEC Championships" that plan included a lot of detail regarding offensive philosophy, defensive philosophy, recruiting philosophy, strength and conditioning, nutrition, just how he handles disciplinary issues, things of that nature. Of course his ability to assemble staff, his approach to recruiting, his understanding of Ole Miss, what it takes to win here is that with passion and enthusiasm for this job and I think all of those things clearly set him apart from our prospective. I'll have to let Archie talk about the football components of that, but I can assure you that we were both impressed with his ability from a leadership perspective and were confident that he will be successful at Ole Miss."
Manning: "I can't add a lot to that, Mike expressed it very well. I will just reiterate his knowledge and love of Ole Miss, his desire to be the coach at Ole Miss, and his leadership integrity. Certainly we talked a lot about staff, a lot about recruiting and Mike hit on all aspects of discipline which is important as many aspects of that now. So, getting into the x's and o's where Hugh is very good and where he is not. He hadn't had years and years of head coach experience, but he's been very successful and has great respect from assistant coaches that work for him even those that coached against him all those things were factored. We pressed that fact last year that Arkansas State had a great year, led their conference in offense and defense, and a lot of people that felt like he's just a rising star in the head coaching fraternity."
On primary qualifications they were seeking
Manning: "I think we mentioned we started with integrity and leadership. The last question I mentioned we went into detail about staff right on down to the last aspect of the staff talked a lot recruiting, talk a lot about recruiting in the state of Mississippi where you begin. Mike mentioned a minute ago, not just discipline, but we talked about weight room, nutrition, off season work, spring practice, just the formula that it will take to win and win right."
On concern for lack of head coaching experience
Manning: "He made a great impression on us so I don't think it was a concern. We just had people tell us two more years of him coaching where he is now what a hot commodity people fell like he would be in this profession. Like I said, he was someone just coming up doing it the right way and doing it with success so we think we're kind of jumping the gun right here and getting an outstanding coach."
Mike: "I think the thing that impressed us is the fact that he's won on every level, and he's won quickly at every level. If you look at his teams, they're built on character, discipline, and sound fundamental football. He's got a formula for success and he's implemented that formula wherever he's been. You don't have to do anything more than look back at the accomplishments at Arkansas State. Where they took a team that was very good offensively, but not very good defensively. That team went 4-8. Then you turn around and go 10-2. That's with a guy who's considered an offensive guru at the helm. He knows how to get it done."
On importance of getting someone who was connected to Ole Miss
Glenn: "I think it was certainly desirable to get someone that was familiar with Ole Miss and that understood Ole Miss. Someone that understood what it takes to recruit Mississippi successfully. Ole Miss is a special place. We certainly didn't rule anybody out because they didn't have connections to Ole Miss, but at the same time we were thrilled that many of the candidates we talked to either had a connection to Ole Miss or certainly had a good understanding of Ole Miss, which is not surprising since we compete in the Southeastern Conference. It was not a criteria, but it was certainly desirable. We feel very good that Hugh brings that to the table, and we are excited to see him lead the team going forward."
On what Freeze said to committee
Glenn: "Once again we talk about the passion, energy, and commitment that he brought to the interview, but more importantly was the plan for success. He had a very detailed approach. He understood a tremendous amount about the program and the state of the program. He gave a fairly thorough review of the existing players on the team. He had a very detailed understanding of what recruiting needs might be. His knowledge of both sides of the ball was impressive. His commitment to having a team that plays four quarters with passion, commitment, and discipline was impressive as well. I don't think there was one aspect of the interview that he wasn't extremely prepared for. We talked to a lot of good candidates. Many of whom could have been successful at Ole Miss. His level of preparation, energy, commitment, and passion for the job really stood out."
Manning: "This has really been quite the experience for me. We were looking for something very complete that would hopefully be a good hire. That's what we were looking for. We feel like Coach Freeze is going to be a good hire and a good football coach at Ole Miss."
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