Auburn football: Hugh Freeze and fellow first-year in-state coach case studies in leadership and decision-making

According to one analyst, Auburn football HC Hugh Freeze and a fellow first-year in-state coach make interesting case studies in leadership and decision-making.

Alabama v Auburn
Alabama v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

In 2024,'s Joseph Goodman believes that the actions of Auburn football head coach Hugh Freeze and UAB head coach Trent Dilfer, who both led their respective Division I Yellowhammer State programs to losing records in their first seasons this past fall, make for interesting case studies in leadership and decision-making; despite the vast differences in the pair's situations.

"The situations at Auburn and UAB present an interesting case study in leadership and decision making," Goodman prefaced before saying, "Hopefully it works out well for both programs, but the divergent paths couldn’t be more different. Auburn’s Freeze couldn’t afford another substandard season of offense, so he made a call. Dilfer is betting that stability will pay off."

In college football, it's never easy to keep a staff together. Particularly so if you're winning. Neither one did in 2023, but it was Freeze who decided to cut the cord on his offensive coordinator, Philip Montgomery, before the frustration at OC started to bleed over into frustration from the fanbase with the head coach's decision-making. Dilfer's Blazers did very little to convince other schools' brain trusts to poach from them, but there's something to be said for the development of the players from last season who will have familiarity on their side this fall as well.

Auburn football in much better position to rebound in 2024 than UAB

Not to tear the hearts out of the Blazers fanbase, but UAB doesn't have the same road to redemption in 2024 that Freeze's Tigers do; even if Auburn faces a perennial uphill climb in an improved SEC and did so anyway in the SEC West for the past decade.

UAB has a No. 106 recruiting class that, granted, won't get much burn anyway out of the gate, and a transfer class that saw more than triple the number of players leave (17) than join (5) as of this writing. They also have non-conference affairs with Arkansas and Army and conference road games at Memphis and USF that make nearly the rest of the AAC schedule must-win.

Auburn has a No. 7 class that should step in right away and contribute. They won't solve every problem, but the amount of talent the Tigers are bringing in could have them upsetting teams they shouldn't be (Oklahoma? Texas A&M?) at home.

Things should be brighter on the Plains moving forward, but it may get tougher in Birmingham before it gets better.