Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze hired at Liberty

Yahoo Sports
Hugh Freeze has not coached in college football since he resigned from Ole Miss. (AP)
Hugh Freeze has not coached in college football since he resigned from Ole Miss. (AP)

Hugh Freeze is back in college football.

The former Ole Miss coach who resigned after he made a call to an escort service from a school-issued phone was announced as Liberty’s new coach on Friday afternoon. Freeze has been out of coaching since his resignation in the summer of 2017 and was set to be a coordinator in the new Alliance of American Football this spring.

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Liberty, the school founded by the Falwell family, is a devoutly Christian school, and Freeze has been an outspoken Christian throughout his career. Former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw runs the athletic department. He was hired at Liberty less than six months after he resigned from Baylor in the aftermath of the sexual assault scandal surrounding the school. He’s now joined in the athletic department by Freeze, who was also involved in an NCAA investigation in his time at Ole Miss.

Freeze’s faith was touted explicitly during the introductory press conference.

“That success has certainly been on the football field but what has really impressed us the most with him is he’s a man of great faith,” McCaw said. “He’s a great family man and he’s someone who really pours into his student athletes. And that’s what really stood out as we had a chance to visit with him on Wednesday.”

Freeze said that Jesus was the only person who could handle his “junk.”

“Our program is going to be about certain core values,” Freeze said. “Number one is faith. Faith for me is believing in the son of God Jesus Christ and he is the only one I’ve met that can handle my junk.”

The NCAA said after investingating Freeze’s program that Ole Miss “lacked institutional control and fostered an unconstrained culture of booster involvement in football recruiting, according to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel. Six football staff members and 12 boosters were involved in the violations, which included the provision of approximately $37,000 to prospects through cash payments, the use of automobiles, lodging, transportation, meals and apparel. Two staff members also helped arrange fraudulent standardized test scores for three prospects.”

The school got a bowl ban for the 2018 season after self-imposing a bowl ban for 2017 and also had fewer scholarships to use over the last two seasons. Freeze didn’t escape unscathed either. He was given a two-game suspension effective in 2018 if he were hired as a head coach anywhere in college football.

Revisiting Freeze’s departure from Ole Miss

The revelation of the call to the escort service came as part of a lawsuit against the school. Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was suing the school for breach of contract and said that Freeze had been badmouthing Nutt.

Nutt’s lawyer got Freeze’s phone records and found a phone call from Freeze’s phone that went to a number for a Florida escort service. After Ole Miss was notified of the call, the school said it found a “pattern of conduct” and Freeze resigned in July 2017.

Freeze told Yahoo Sports that he wasn’t trying to hide anything with his phone records and there was “no story” to that call.

“If I was trying to hide something, I would have,” Freeze told Yahoo over a year ago. “That call shows up nowhere else on my records. There is no story to that one.”

Freeze was 39-25 at Ole Miss

Freeze had success on the field at Ole Miss and recruited well at the school. Fans of other SEC teams will point to that NCAA investigation as proof that the school wasn’t doing everything above board to get top recruits to come to the Rebels.

His best season with the school came in 2015 as Ole Miss went 10-3 and won the Sugar Bowl. That was just Ole Miss’ second 10-win season since 1971. Months later, text messages from former Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil were published that showed Tunsil asking Ole Miss staff for money to pay rent and bills. 

Freeze came to Ole Miss after a season as Arkansas State’s head coach. He’s regarded as a bright offensive mind and, as he’s shown throughout his six-year head-coaching career, can win games. That’s the important part here. If Freeze hadn’t been successful on the field at Ole Miss he’s probably not set to be Liberty’s new head coach. But his teams were good, just like Baylor’s football teams were under McCaw’s watch. Winning covers up a lot of misdeeds.

Freeze was a candidate for a Power Five OC job

Had Freeze not reportedly agreed to coach Liberty he might have shown up on a Power Five team’s offensive coaching staff. Freeze had met with Tennessee and Auburn and was also reportedly being considered to be Florida State’s offensive coordinator in 2019.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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