Freeze gets sec­ond chance, be­comes Lib­erty coach

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - Blake Topp­meyer Knoxville News Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Hugh Freeze, the for­mer Mis­sis­sippi coach who led the Rebels to great heights be­fore see­ing his ten­ure end amid NCAA scan­dal and calls to es­corts, is get­ting a sec­ond chance in col­lege foot­ball. It comes cour­tesy of Lib­erty. With that, scratch an­other name off Ten­nessee's list of pos­si­ble can­di­dates to fill its of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor va­cancy. Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt met with Freeze last week, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple re­ports. Freeze also was linked to OC open­ings at Auburn and Florida State.

“I was on this whirl­wind tour to other col­leges look­ing at be­com­ing an of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at dif­fer­ent places. I had three straight days of travel, travel, travel," Freeze said Fri­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at Lib­erty.

He wound up as a head coach at a pro­gram pre­par­ing for its sec­ond sea­son in the FBS.

Lib­erty, lo­cated in Lynch­burg, Va., an­nounced the hire of Freeze on Fri­day.

"In hir­ing Coach Freeze," Lib­erty ath­letic di­rec­tor Ian McCaw said, "we’re bring­ing in some­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced suc­cess ev­ery­where he’s been. … That suc­cess cer­tainly has been on the foot­ball field, but what re­ally has im­pressed us the most with him is, he’s a man of great faith. He’s a great fam­ily man, and he’s some­body that re­ally pours into his stu­dent-ath­letes.”

Ear­lier this week, Kansas filled its of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tion with Auburn's Chip Lind­sey, an­other per­son on Pruitt's radar.

The fo­cus in UT's search has shifted to Hous­ton of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ken­dal Briles, who will in­ter­view for the job, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple re­ports.

This is Freeze’s first col­lege job since he re­signed in shame prior to the 2017 sea­son af­ter a pat­tern of in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­duct was re­vealed.

Had Freeze not re­signed, Ole Miss would have fired him “for moral turpi­tude,” Rebels ath­letic di­rec­tor Ross Bjork said at the time, af­ter the univer­sity found “a pat­tern” of con­duct on Freeze’s univer­sity-is­sued cell phone that “was trou­bling.”

Later that year, Ole Miss got hit with NCAA sanc­tions for vi­o­la­tions tied to a years-long re­cruit­ing scan­dal, the ma­jor­ity of which oc­curred un­der Freeze's watch.

The univer­sity had stood by Freeze through­out the NCAA in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but the rev­e­la­tions of il­licit phone calls did him in.

“I’ve made de­ci­sions that hurt a lot of peo­ple," Freeze said Fri­day. "I don’t ever want to ex­pe­ri­ence that again.”

On the field, Freeze made the Rebels a force in the SEC.

Ole Miss was ranked as high as No. 3 in the AP poll in 2014 and again in the fol­low­ing sea­son. The Rebels made New Year’s Six bowls in each of those sea­sons, cul­mi­nat­ing the 2015 sea­son with a Su­gar Bowl vic­tory that gave them a 10-3 record.

It marked the pro­gram’s first 10-win sea­son since 2003. No­tably, Freeze’s Rebels beat Nick Sa­ban’s Alabama squads in 2014 and in ’15.

Ole Miss made bowl games in four of five sea­sons un­der Freeze. He com­piled a 39-25 record at Ole Miss af­ter go­ing 10-2 in a sin­gle sea­son at Arkansas State.

Lib­erty's job opened Mon­day af­ter Turner Gill an­nounced his re­tire­ment.

CHRISTO­PHER HANEWINCKEL, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

For­mer Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.

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