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Though the Florida Gators never offered Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze a contract, as was erroneously reported during Florida’s coaching search last offseason, Freeze was indeed a candidate to replace the exiting Will Muschamp, a source involved in the Gators coaching search confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Wednesday.
Freeze, whose stellar recruiting and top-notch coaching has brought the Rebels back from a state of irrelevancy over the last few seasons, was one of a several of candidates on a list to take over the Florida football program during Muschamp’s dismissal.
It was reported last week by the Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi that Freeze “was never even considered because of the rumors and rumblings involving an NCAA investigation” and that “many of the concerns about Freeze focused on [Laremy] Tunsil.”
However, a source insisted to OnlyGators.com on Wednesday that Freeze was indeed on the list for the Gators’ opening. Contrary to reports last offseason, Freeze was never offered the position and never entered into any negotiations with Florida.
Following an independent internal evaluation, the Gators zeroed in on McElwain – a coach that checked all of the necessary boxes as opposed to Freeze, who only checked some – and did what was necessary to get their man.
OnlyGators.com broke the news last year that Florida was on its way to Fort Collins, Colorado, to meet with McElwain, and the Orlando Sentinel‘s Edgar Thompson was on top of the difficult process UF had to go through to acquire the Colorado State coach.
While rumors about potential improprieties at Ole Miss may have contributed to Freeze’s overall evaluation by Florida’s decision makers, ultimately the Gators decided that McElwain was their target and pursued him as such.
Freeze and his agent used the Florida opening to enhance his value to Ole Miss and net a new contract for the rising coach, a source with knowledge of Freeze’s negotiations confirmed to OnlyGators.com. The tactic is not uncommon in football coaching hires, college or professional.
There appears to have never been a legitimate consideration to leaving the Rebels for the Gators, in some part because UF never even provided and opportunity to depart Oxford, Mississippi, for Gainesville, Florida.
Simply put, Freeze was, for a time, a legitimate candidate for the Florida opening, whether he would have left his hometown school or not. Saying otherwise is revisionist history considering recent circumstances that have cast Freeze in a poor light nationally.
Correction: The initial version of this story referred to a report from this week; the report was actually published last week.