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Behind Nick Saban, SEC disagreement on Hugh Freeze to Alabama

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

He is so use to winning that it’s awkward when Nick Saban does not get his way. 

Before arriving at Tuscaloosa in 2007 as head football coach for the University of Alabama, he had one other moment where he was blocked from getting what he wanted. During his two years in the National Football League with the Miami Dolphins, Saban targeted Drew Brees to be his quarterback but one team doctor vetoed the move – forcing Brees to sign with New Orleans. 

Twelve years and five national championships later, people are still making it difficult for the greatest college football coach of this era to have complete access. Though he finalized his coaching staff for next season in March, there was one person in particular he wanted to hire. 

While Alabama fans could care less about Hugh Freeze, especially after the off-field incident that led to his dismissal from Ole Miss, Saban saw value in the offensive mind. According to an article from AL.com’s Matt Zenitz and John Talty, the Southeastern Conference was not comfortable with having the former Rebels head coach back in the league under Saban. 

Saban, who recently signed an $11.125 million extension through 2024, was informed via SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey that he could not make the hire. Going back to the report, Sankey told both Freeze and Alabama on the backlash the league would get if the move was made. 

Seeing how Freeze resigned in July of 2017, the SEC wanted him to go under the radar for a while before one of its schools took interest in him. Per bylaw 19.8.1.2 of the SEC, a school must consult with Sankey before hiring a coach “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.” 

Freeze stands as one of few guys that’s defeated a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team twice, joining former LSU head coach Les Miles and current Auburn head coach Guz Malzahn.

Ole Miss got the better of the Tide in 2014 and 2015 and almost pulled a three-peat over Saban in 2016, if not for a huge 48-43 comeback at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.

Despite wanting Freeze in January, Saban settled on pulling Josh Gattis away from Penn State as the co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach and promoted Michael Locksley to offensive coordinator. He also poached Dan Enos from Michigan to serve as quarterbacks coach for the Crimson Tide. Enos was an offensive coordinator at Arkansas from 2015-17, prior to Alabama. 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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