The Auburn Creed consists of 179 words written by an alumnus who founded the university’s football program. George Petrie’s 1943 writing, embraced by the university as a sacred doctrine, touches on such virtues as hard work, lawfulness and truthfulness.
With apology to Petrie, a revision is in order.
Auburn’s creed can be succinctly restated in three words, as the Tigers enter the Hugh Freeze era:
Just win, baby.
Auburn now employs a football coach, Freeze, who resigned from his last SEC job while embroiled in scandals, and a basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, who was fired from his previous job following NCAA investigation and served a three-year show-cause penalty for lying to investigators about improper recruiting tactics.
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What’s all this about truthfulness?
Just win, baby.
Pearl wins. Freeze wins. Each found a home in Auburn.
As a football coach, as a recruiter, as a personality, I believe Freeze will be a hit at Auburn, and I’ve believed that since the day this job opened.
Freeze is everything Bryan Harsin isn’t. He’s a proven winner inside and outside the SEC. He’s armed with Southern charm. He’ll recruit his tail off, he’ll upgrade the roster and he’ll cozy up to boosters who fund NIL collectives.
I will not defend Freeze’s moral character. That’s for Freeze and the people who hired him to do.
Auburn athletics director John Cohen described this search as “well-vetted.” It better have been, because Freeze will arrive with enough baggage to fill a church van.
Freeze took Ole Miss on a shooting-star ride of success before he resigned in 2017 while juggling a professional scandal in one hand and a personal one in the other.
Freeze will tell you he’s a humbled man who learned from his mistakes. I do not know whether that is true.
I do know he’s a successful coach, and successful coaches usually find a home in the SEC, where the first rule resembles Auburn’s new creed: Just. Win. More.
Freeze beat Nick Saban twice at Ole Miss, and he coached the Rebels to consecutive New Year’s Six bowl appearances. His innovative offense made the Rebels so disruptive in the SEC West that he inspired Saban to modernize Alabama’s approach.
Freeze’s conduct off the field became his downfall. He failed to monitor an Ole Miss staff that flouted NCAA rules, resulting in a two-year bowl ban, and he called escorts with his university-provided cell phone.
Following his resignation, a 2017 USA TODAY report quoted women who said that, while they were students at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, where Freeze worked in the 1990s and early 2000s, Freeze’s behavior while carrying out disciplinary action made them feel uncomfortable.
Freeze denied those allegations and described his behavior at Briarcrest as professional.
Freeze is a loose cannon on Twitter, joining Pearl in that regard.
Earlier this year, Liberty reportedly settled a Title IX lawsuit that alleged the university mishandled sexual assault cases. The lawsuit did not involve Freeze. But after one of the plaintiffs tweeted criticism of Liberty’s employment of Freeze and athletics director Ian McCaw, who resigned from Baylor amid its own university sexual assault scandal, Freeze sent the woman a message defending McCaw.
Freeze is allowed to support his boss, but messaging the woman points to his reputation for being thin-skinned. Freeze refuted Sports Illustrated’s anonymously sourced report that he would surrender control of his social media as Auburn’s coach, but he joked that ‘there may be wisdom’ in such an idea. Indeed. A smarter move would be deleting his Twitter account.
If your moral compass tells you Auburn should not do business with Freeze, I won’t argue, but I have not seen enough evidence to consider him unhireable within an industry that is not known for restricting its hires to individuals of impeccable moral fiber.
As Auburn legend Charles Barkley once declared, not everyone in athletics should be your role model.
Freeze’s Ole Miss conduct earned him a timeout. He spent two seasons out of coaching, then the last four seasons at Liberty.
I do not believe calling escort services should mandate a lifetime ban from the SEC. As for Ole Miss’ NCAA misconduct under Freeze, we’re now in era in which players are openly compensated by booster-funded collectives.
Considering Ole Miss’ recruiting transgressions an irreparable black eye for Freeze in this free-wheeling NIL frontier would be akin to thinking a coach who runs the wing-T is suited for modern-day college football.
Plus, shall I remind you once more that Auburn also employs Pearl? When you live in Auburn’s glass house, you don’t get to throw stones.
Do not confuse this as a hall pass for Freeze’s future conduct.
Freeze will be under a more powerful microscope at Auburn than he was at either Ole Miss or Liberty.
At Auburn, Freeze must win, and he must not get caught with his pants down.
And he must win some more.
Auburn’s revised creed demands it.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.