Monday afternoon, it was reported that the Auburn Tigers had hired Liberty’s Hugh Freeze to be their next head football coach. This news came on the heels of reports that some alumni and fans had pushed back on the notion of hiring Freeze, who came with tons of baggage in the form of NCAA violations and extremely questionable behavior related to contacting a victim of sexual assault.
Auburn is finalizing a deal to hire Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, sources tell @SINow.
Freeze would return to the SEC, where in 2017 Ole Miss fired him amid NCAA and personal scandal. In 12 years as a college head coach, he’s had one losing season.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 28, 2022
In many ways, Freeze is a perfect example of the dichotomy that exists in college football, especially in the high-stakes world of SEC football.
On the field, Freeze has proven himself a winner. In five seasons at Ole Miss, he went 39-25* and led the Rebels to a 10-3 record and Sugar Bowl victory in 2015. When he took over at Liberty in 2019, he immediately turned the Flames into a perennial bowl program, winning eight games three times and going 10-1 in 2020.
Off the field, Freeze has more baggage than Delta Airlines’ lost and found. The NCAA charged Ole Miss with numerous recruiting violations for things that happened under Freeze’s watch, including players reportedly receiving money from assistant coaches. It was later revealed that Freeze had used a school-provided phone to call an escort service multiple times. Freeze resigned, 27 of his wins were stripped, and Ole Miss vacated 33 wins in total.
This past year, Freeze also made news when he allegedly sent unsolicited direct messages to a woman named Chelsea Andrews during and after her lawsuit against Liberty. Andrews describes herself in her Twitter bio as “LU ‘15 Sr. Class President & Jane Doe 7,” indicating that she was a sexual assault victim in the high-profile sexual assault case against the university. It would not be hard to see the messages as an attempt at intimidating Andrews.
Why is the head football coach at Liberty University DMing me during and after my lawsuit with LU?
At almost midnight.
When I didn’t tag him.
& I haven’t responded to the other DMs he’s sent over the months
Publicly naming so he can see that I don’t want direct contact w/ him pic.twitter.com/K3icZAuops
— Chelsea Andrews (@chelsandrews) July 10, 2022
Also, back in 2017, USA Today reported that three women who attended Memphis high school Briarcrest Christian, where Freeze was a coach, shared stories of inappropriate behavior on his part.
If you wanted to list out college football coaches who received second (and third and fourth) chances after doing some pretty dubious things, you’d probably be here all day. And the SEC is littered with head coaches who have missteps and off-field issues in their past. But there’s something about Freeze and his perceived lack of accountability, coupled with his holier-than-thou use of Christianity to deflect blame from himself and others, that really bothers a lot of people. And while Auburn is certainly allowed to hire him to coach their football team and he may very well find success there, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s “forgiven” or “deserves it.”
All of which is to say that when ESPN reporter Chris Low appeared to be carrying water for Freeze and his hiring, it struck a nerve with a lot of people around the college football world.
There will be a lot of talk about Hugh Freeze’s missteps at Ole Miss, but everyone has a past. He’s coached in the SEC, recruited in the SEC and won in the SEC. He’s also beaten Nick Saban in back-to-back seasons. In other words, he checks a lot of boxes for @AuburnFootball.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) November 28, 2022
“There will be a lot of talk about Hugh Freeze’s missteps at Ole Miss, but everyone has a past,” wrote Low. “He’s coached in the SEC, recruited in the SEC, and won in the SEC. He’s also beaten Nick Saban in back-to-back seasons. In other words, he checks a lot of boxes for [Auburn football].”
It was the “everyone has a past” line that really got people going, not to mention the way the tweet seems to say the quiet part loud, that you can be a pretty terrible human being and it doesn’t matter so long as you win football games.
I dunno, man, that's glossing over QUITE a bit to summarize it as "missteps." https://t.co/YapDdUj5JW
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) November 28, 2022
Why reporters feel compelled to justify the decisions they're covering will always be weird … and in this case, unseemly.
Nobody's criticizing you for hiring Hugh Freeze. https://t.co/025ZG6FuFh
— Danny O'Neil (@dannyoneil) November 28, 2022
— Holly Anderson ? (@HollyAnderson) November 28, 2022
Absolutely embarrassing how many people in my industry have chosen to do image rehab for Hugh Freeze. For free! https://t.co/W5Vbe8VwAA
— Matt Scalici (@MattScalici) November 28, 2022
This is a disappointing framing and is pretty close to what Freeze's agent Jimmy Sexton would write verbatim if he were a poster. We absolutely don't have to do this. You get to choose how you cover the coaching industry https://t.co/JYRgxB0nwk
— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) November 28, 2022
Everyone may have a past, but do you know what not most coaches have in their pasts?
What Hugh Freeze has done in his. Wild water carrying here. https://t.co/K0snco2eNe
— Curt Weiler (@CurtMWeiler) November 28, 2022
Y’all don’t have to do this. https://t.co/7kBUcrcgga
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) November 28, 2022
the "a past" being referred to here is that auburn chose to hire a coach who sent unsolicited dms to a sexual assault victim. in those messages, he defended the former baylor administrator who allegedly knew about sexual assault allegations and didn't do anything https://t.co/UTgWK5S1Ij
— Ali Breland (@alibreland) November 28, 2022
Congrats on the access. https://t.co/fQziqUOEEz
— Josh Newman (@Joshua_Newman) November 28, 2022
Why not say exactly what happened over sugar coating it.
Real Capital J journalism there.
— Jeremy Mauss (@JeremyMauss) November 28, 2022
Enablers gonna enable
— Lauren Brownlow (@lebrownlow) November 28, 2022
Despite the ratio, Low’s tweet remains up at the time of this writing.