Hugh Freeze didn't so much return to college football's biggest stage Monday as big-time college football came around to Hugh Freeze.
After five years away from the Power Five, the best to ever to coach a game in person from a hospital bed is back in the SEC at a familiar, highly resourced landing spot known for doing whatever it takes to win. This one just happens to be named Auburn.
It could have been any number of schools that brought Freeze back in this age of NIL rights and the transfer portal.
Most of what led to NCAA rules violations during Freeze's time at Ole Miss are now easily worked around either through regulations the NCAA has implemented or practices it is unwilling to prosecute.
Freeze's Ole Miss program was put on probation in 2017 and received a two-year bowl ban in the process. At the time, the NCAA said Ole Miss "fostered an unconstrained culture of booster involvement."
Well, that will win you a national championship these days.
While that's not to diminish the fact that NCAA rules existed and Freeze blatantly broke them -- creating a major scandal in the process -- it does show how far college football has shifted in the time since he's been away from the SEC.
In taking over Auburn, it starts with the Tigers' NIL war chest. Auburn collective On to Victory has reportedly raised $13 million in first few months of operation to help compensate players. That makes it one of the strongest in the nation. It's all legal until the NCAA or Congress says it is not.