Hugh Freeze has enjoyed the highs of football, such as winning the Sugar Bowl and beating mighty Alabama. He has also known embarrassment and shame following a personal scandal that cost him his job at Ole Miss.
Freeze, 49, believes those experiences will serve him well as the head coach at Liberty, where he has been given a second chance.
“I believe in teaching young men on our team all of the lessons of when I got it right and when I got it wrong and what the consequences are,” Freeze said.
He was introduced as Liberty’s football coach on campus Friday, calling the opportunity an “unbelievable day for me and my family.” He was emotional at times during a news conference, thanking his family and calling them his heroes.
“I’ve made decisions that have hurt a lot of people,” Freeze said. “I don’t ever want to experience that again.”
Freeze will replace Turner Gill, who resigned after his seventh season to spend more time with his ailing wife. The Flames finished 6-6 this season, their first competing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, and were 47-35 under Gill.
Liberty will have full status for FBS bowl eligibility in 2019. The Flames are not part of a conference and are playing as an independent.
Freeze spent five years at Ole Miss and led the Rebels to a 39-25 record and four bowl games. He resigned in the summer of 2017 amid a scandal in which school officials discovered a “pattern of personal misconduct” starting with a call to an escort service from a university-issued cellphone.
Ole Miss was also mired in an NCAA rules investigation during much of his tenure that eventually resulted in a two-year postseason ban.
Ole Miss enjoyed a quick rise under Freeze, who came to the school before the 2012 season and immediately started recruiting at a high level. The Rebels quickly developed into a Southeastern Conference contender, beating Alabama two seasons in a row and reaching an apex when they won the Sugar Bowl over Oklahoma State following the 2015 season.
But an NCAA investigation found 21 violations of academic, booster and recruiting misconduct. Most of the 21 charges happened during Freeze’s tenure.
The Rebels were eventually hit with the postseason ban, probation and recruiting restrictions.
Freeze would have been suspended two conference games in 2018 if he had been a head coach, but he did not take a job last year. The NCAA’s ruling said Freeze promoted an atmosphere of rules compliance, but he failed to monitor his staff.
SOURCE: The Associated Press