Personally, I’m not a big believer in handing out raises and extensions after a coach’s first season on the job. Oh, if you have to fend off other schools, I see the logic in fighting to keep your guy. But one year could be just that… one year. Who’s to say Coach X is going to ever have a season like his first? And if he doesn’t and his school has given him a raise, then the ol’ buyout’s probably going to be larger than it should be.
In this instance, Coach X is Hugh Freeze and the school is Mississippi. He’s getting a half-million dollar pay raise and will make $2 million next year. His deal was also extended to last the state-maximum of four years once again. Ole Miss is also going to increase Freeze’s cash for assistant coaches by 10% and it’s renovating its indoor practice facility.
The list of SEC coaches who had a better season than Freeze — relative to their rosters — is awfully short. The Rebels were expected to be the worst team in the West Division and maybe the worst in the league.
Instead, UM finished 6-6 overall, 3-5 in conference play, whipped Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl (snapping a three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs), and are going bowling against Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Freeze’s up-tempo offense also finished fifth best in the SEC.
There’s reason for optimism in Oxford and Freeze is that reason. And in this day and age — and with Jimmy Sexton as his agent — it’s no surprise that Ole Miss gave it’s coach a raise and extension. But his first year isn’t even over yet and he could still finish with a losing record.
I believe it might have been smarter business to just guarantee the coach $500,000 in further improvements to his program’s facilities. That would reward the coach with a bonus — though not a cash one for his wallet — and yet the upgrade would be an investment in the overall Ole Miss football program. If Freeze were to have another good year in his second season, then give him a nice raise and extension.
But as it stands, if Freeze stumbles and it turns out that his first season remains his best season, Ole Miss will likely have thrown extra cash down the drain rather than into its program.
This is no knock on Freeze, mind you, or on the Rebels’ willingness to support their coach. I’ve praised Freeze’s work all year. He and Johnny Manziel were the biggest surprises in the SEC this year. But handing him a raise and extension after a single season? UM had better hope he’s not the next Derek Dooley or Joker Phillips, two coaches whose best seasons were their first, who never returned to a bowl after their first season, and who were fired after their third seasons.
Yep, that’s why I’m against the one-year-on-the-job raise/extension.