Sleeves Rolled Up

There were no collection buckets at the doors to the auditorium in the Ford Center Monday. Had there been a barrel at each one they might have been filled, given the enthusiasm new coach Hugh Freeze stirred among the masses.


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It was asked of Freeze, by the Spirit's Yancy Porter, his thoughts on the massive fund-raising effort that has been undertaken by the University of Mississippi for its athletics facilities. A $150 million project, to be exact.

Freeze said improving facilities is imperative in the Southeastern Conference.

"I think it is invaluable," he said "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."

A large portion of the $150 million will eventually go toward bowling in the football stadium with a north end zone expansion. That, however, is phase two.

Phase one will also have some football stadium renovations and upgrades. But the majority of phase one is to build a new arena.

Ole Miss officials, including the highest of administrators, were fund-raising Monday morning now that a new head football coach had been named. That obviously will continue full force from now on.

Then there's the addition of a new athletics director in the near future. How near? Chancellor Dan Jones, a man who apparently understands what athletics mean to Ole Miss and its future, responded.

"When I announced the search committee for the head coach, I also announced that Mike (Glenn) and Archie (Manning) would head the search committee for an athletic director as well," Jones said. " As we know, Pete (Boone) will be retiring sometime in the next calendar year. We will continue with that process sometime after the holidays."

They are catching their collective breaths before delving back into an AD search. That seems to be fine at the moment. The new head football coach has been hired, and many thought not having the new AD named would be a detriment to the process. For Freeze, that was obviously not the case at all.


Hugh Freeze
Associated Press

Pete Boone was not on the stage with others involved in Monday's proceedings. He was in the building. He is still AD, after all. But only until a new one is found.

Freeze said he and a limited staff will begin work on things, especially as it pertains to recruiting. He'll have a compete staff before long.

He also said the current players will finish up exams and have a good bit of holiday time with their families. Then it will be back to campus for offseason workouts and conditioning.

That should be interesting and an improvement. Few would admit Rebel football players were in as good a shape as their competition most recent Saturdays.

Jones was asked about Freeze's salary. Freeze doesn't appear to be a man about money. But he will be nicely compensated for the task at hand.

"We crafted what we think is a market based salary," Jones, in his third year as Ole Miss Chancellor, said. "Coach Freeze's base is in the $1.5 million range. It is a heavily performance based salary. There are a lot of opportunities 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," Jones continued. "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."

All in all, it was a happy day for Ole Miss athletics, something there hadn't been a whole lot of in a while. Football season 2011 was dreadful, and last season was almost just as bad.

Discipline had been a key problem. That was found in many facets of the football program, it seemed. The players just didn't respond as a whole to the previous regime's approach.

Freeze said he will make sure that area is also a point of emphasis for him and his staff.

"The discipline falls on my shoulders. Period," Freeze said. "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," he continued. "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 in that. 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 to 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."


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