If Liberty U Football Coach Hugh Freeze is Changed, Why Doesn’t His Story Check Out?

By Julie Roys
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Two years ago, Hugh Freeze resigned in disgrace. The outspoken, Christian football coach at Ole Miss had reportedly used his work phone to call escort services and his career seemed over.

For the next 6 months, Freeze went dark.

But on January 24, 2018, Freeze re-emerged as the featured speaker at a convocation at Liberty University—a college currently under fire because of alleged strongarm tactics and self-dealing by its president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

After alluding cryptically to “a private sin” that Freeze claimed he had confessed privately to his wife and others before it became public, Freeze said he was sorry and asked for forgiveness.

The student body responded audibly, “We forgive you.” And Falwell said how proud he was of the students, who were unlike many “so-called Christians” who are “judgmental” and “unforgiving.”

Then on Dec. 7, 2018—at about the earliest opportunity Freeze could be hired and avoid a NCAA suspension—Liberty hired Freeze as its new football coach.

Yet is this man as changed as he claims to be? If so, why when pressed for details of his past, does he offer a narrative that conflicts with both the facts and the testimony of those who investigated his actions at Ole Miss?

Yet is this man as changed as he claims to be? If so, why when pressed for details of his past, does he offer a narrative that conflicts with both the facts and the testimony of those who investigated his actions at Ole Miss?

Two days ago, I tweeted my surprise that a man with Freeze’s sordid past had been hired by Liberty. (I normally don’t follow college football, so I completely missed this news when it first happened.) About 30 minutes later, Freeze initiated a Direct Message conversation with me. And the statements he made in that conversation are deeply problematic.

Freeze’s Description of Indiscretions Contradict Evidence

When news first emerged that Freeze had called an escort service on January 19, 2016, Freeze told an ESPN reporter that the call most likely was a wrong number. So, I asked him why, if he had already privately owned his wrongdoing, he responded by claiming he misdialed.

Freeze messaged back:

When first asked about it. I said, it must have been a misdial or wrong number because I have never called an escort service. Which was the truth in my mind. And then went to my administration and told them what had occurred in my private life almost 1 year and a half earlier to which I had already told my wife and we had already walked thru it.

Freeze also claimed that “the call was to a massage place.” And when I continued to press him on why he said he had misdialed, Freeze said, “Old Miss never said there were calls to escort services,” and “I’m pretty sure you can figure out who I made/thought the call too (sic).” He added that “when you google search a topic and get a number to a place. That same number when plugged in on a search might have many different options.”

On Thursday, I called Steve Robertson, the reporter who first uncovered Freeze’s phone call to an escort service. Robertson called Freeze’s claim that he never called an escort service “a 100-percent lie.” Robertson said he googled the number Freeze called in January 2016 and found an escort website with pictures of nude women and resumés for call girls.

Robertson said he subsequently reviewed Freeze’s phone records going back several years from 2017 and found 14 calls to escort services.

I also reached out to Ross Bjork, the athletic director at Ole Miss at the time of Freeze’s resignation. Bjork said that when the initial call to the escort service first surfaced, he met with Freeze. And instead of divulging the truth, Freeze insisted that the call must have been a misdial.

Bjork said he and other officials at Ole Miss initially believed Freeze. But after reviewing five years of phone records, they uncovered a troubling pattern of calls to similar sex-oriented businesses. 

According to Bjork, some of the calls occurred in the late fall 2016—just six to seven months before the calls became public, rather than a year and a half earlier as Freeze claimed. Bjork’s account agrees with an article by Sports Illustrated, which reported that Freeze used his mobile phone to call a number associated with a Houston massage company in December 2016. According to another report in Sports Illustrated, Freeze’s calls often coincided with recruiting trips Freeze took out of state.

Bjork said he and other Ole Miss officials then met with Freeze again. And it was only after being confronted with overwhelming evidence that Freeze confessed.

Freeze Denies Knowing Boosters Who Gave Payouts

In my direct message conversation with Freeze, I also asked about recruiting violations for which both he and Ole Miss were sanctioned by the NCAA. Specifically, I asked about payouts that the NCAA alleged that Ole Miss boosters had paid to linebacker Leo Lewis.

Freeze responded:

Leo went to another school but in the ncaa case, they found a booster from our school guilty of trying to entice Leo to our school with money. I have never met that booster.

However, the NCAA accused two boosters from Ole Miss of paying Lewis. One, Allen Smith, reportedly gave Lewis more than $10,000 in “impermissible payments.” There’s no solid evidence that Freeze knew Allen. However, Robertson noted that the NCAA report said that Ole Miss boosters regularly hung out on campus and at football games with recruits and coaches.

The second booster who allegedly paid Lewis is Lee Harris. According to the USA Today, Freeze and Harris called each other at least 200 times between January 2015 and Freeze’s resignation. When I confronted Freeze with this information, he said:

That’s not the booster that paid a player. That’s one of my good friends. Another sensational headline. This booster was accused of giving pizza to a player. Blessings.

Three minutes later, Freeze added:

He also was accused of giving a kid 100 dollars. Which he denies.

According to the NCAA, Lewis accused Harris of giving him “two or three cash payments of between $100 and $200 during visits to Funky’s (a restaurant/bar Harris owned).” Harris also allegedly gave Lewis and his family free food and drinks.

The NCAA never accused Freeze of being culpable in the impermissible payments from Harris. Yet, as Robertson questions, “Why is Hugh Freeze’s best friend hosting recruits at his establishment and providing them with free meals and entertainment? . . . It just doesn’t make sense. (Freeze) is trying to give this squeaky-clean image: ‘Uh, we were just friends.’ Well then, why is your friend involved with illegally contacting recruits? The whole thing is just ridiculous.”  

Religious Hypocrisy?

According to Steven Godfrey, a senior reporter with SB Nation, Hugh Freeze was hated among fellow college head coaches—not because he called escort services or violated NCAA rules. Freeze committed the “same kind of cuts and cheats” that “real college football powerhouses make consistently,” Godfrey wrote.

The difference was that Freeze “sold the absolute sh-t out of holy rolling—as a recruiting tool, an ethos, and as a marketing tool for his great Rebels campaign.” To rival head coaches and programs, “Freeze was a loathsome archetype: Christian celebrity in public, arrogant cheater in private.”

Robertson agrees. “The bigger sin in all of this is not so much the fact that (Freeze) turned a blind eye to some of this recruiting violations,” Robertson said. “It’s just the fraud that he tried to perpetuate on the people of college football in the state of Mississippi. He comes out and thumps the Bible and tells everybody that he is a certain way and he’s not.”

“The bigger sin in all of this is not so much the fact that (Freeze) turned a blind eye to some of this recruiting violations . . . He comes out and thumps the Bible and tells everybody that he is a certain way and he’s not.”

Robertson added that there were some days that Freeze would tweet out Scripture in the morning and then call escorts in the evening. (Robertson said he couldn’t retrieve those tweets because Freeze has deleted tweets prior to August 2018.)

Yet interestingly, when Freeze spoke at Liberty’s convocation, he expounded on the importance of integrity. “I have a new appreciation for integrity,” Freeze said. “You see, integrity is not always doing what’s right. If that’s the case, would anyone ever have integrity? But integrity is when something is not done right, it is owning it. It is being accountable for it. It is seeing it for what it is.”

Perhaps these are words Coach Freeze needs to take to heart himself.

Below is video of the Liberty convocation where Freeze spoke. Tomorrow, on my radio show, Dr. Wade Mullen—an expert in tactics Christian organizations use to minimize scandals—will analyze Freeze’s message and its packaging:

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31 thoughts on “If Liberty U Football Coach Hugh Freeze is Changed, Why Doesn’t His Story Check Out?”

  1. Did Freeze admit to his major sin privately? Yep. And when forced to do so publicly? Yes. Did he initially lie to keep from the public firestorm? Probably. Were the recruiting violations exaggerated by those associated with Ole Miss rivals (including reporters) in order to knee cap a program that was dominating them? Looks that way. Repentance? Only time will tell.

    It’s hard not to wonder what this writer’s acceptable outcome is. Unemployed? Penniless? Divorced? Alienated from daughters? Suicided?

    I’d like to see how you handle your darkest sin played out on a national stage endlessly, the shame projected in every social interaction, every article prepended with your sin, and thrown in your face constantly by the world and by “brothers and sisters in Christ”.

    If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, give the guy a break and encourage him.

    1. Sad,

      I don’t know who you are because you didn’t leave a name and you used an anonymous email that’s somewhat suspect ([email protected]). Normally, I delete anonymous comments like this. But I’m going to respond because this is so egregious and sadly and one of thereasons evangelicalism is rife with hypocrisy and corruption right now.

      When someone, like Freeze, has shown a pattern of religious hypocrisy and a myriad of character issues, he should not, within six months, be on stage at a Christian college instructing 13,000 students. He should not be put in a position of influence and prominence at a Christian college before he’s even had time to show that his character is reformed.

      The convocation where Freeze gave a vague and meaningless apology, and then had the audacity to instruct students on integrity, is one of the most spiritually manipulative things I’ve ever seen. I hope you listen to my radio program with Wade Mullen today, an expert in this kind of manipulation. He very meticulously explains the tactics both Liberty and Freeze employed, and how that convocation manipulated the Liberty community into forgiving and releasing a man from accountability who had not even publicly named his sin.

      To your point about what I would consider an acceptable outcome… Someone with Freeze’s background needs to come clean and name his sin, not whitewash it. And, he needs to walk through a restoration process under the close spiritual direction of mature believers. Only after completing a process like this should he even be considered for a position of influence like being a head coach at a prominent evangelical school.

      Lastly, if Freeze didn’t want to be exposed to public scrutiny, he shouldn’t have preached to 13,000 students and taken the head coaching job at Liberty. There are plenty of other jobs Freeze could have taken where he would not have been in a leadership position. But he (and Falwell) put Freeze back on a national stage. And it’s not only appropriate, but necessary, that Christians ask questions about whether Freeze should be where he is and call him out when his words don’t match the facts.

      1. The local church has been appointed and equipped by Christ to deal with the sin of believers and to nurse them back to spiritual health and integrity, if and when they manifest repentance. Christian colleges and para-church organizations cannot be the church neither can they do what the church has been designed to do.

        For the sake of his soul, the spiritual well-being of his family, the impact of his sin upon others and most of all the testimony of Christ and the Gospel Freeze should humbly place himself under the over-sight of Biblically qualified and Scripturally faithful pastors. He should sincerely, patiently heed their counsel for the mortification of his sin, for the healing of his family and for the orderly restoration of his good name. None of that is quick work. Forgiveness is immediate where genuine repentance occurs; but the restoration of testimony, trust and influence require time and a process that is guided by spiritual overseers. It is legitimately debatable whether Freeze should ever again be entrusted with leadership responsibilities over young lives. If so, it should not happen quickly. Neither should it happen apart from the endorsement of a spiritually mature and faithful church.

      2. And Julie, this is the very focus of your ministry so to speak. The arrogance of the “Christian celebrities” that think they are above God and above the law is being exposed. They cast off all accountability. They hide the truth, intimidate those who refuse perpetual, blind loyalty and then attempt to destroy anyone who questions them in any public format. Mars Hill, Willow Creek, Harvest Bible Chapel, Liberty. Believers need to step back and look at what God is sovereignly allowing to be brought into the light. More is coming. Jesus warned us and so did the apostle Paul about people like this.

        If the sin is public and the person unrepentant, then there is good reason to go public. 1. You want the person to come to their senses and come back to God and 2. You need to warn and protect others. In fact, to not warn others is putting them harm’s way, and if it were possible, God’s name to be mocked.

        The one thing I have found coming up against this phenomenon is I am never going to convince the “Christian celebrity” otherwise. Jesus was murdered for confronting the white-washed tombed religious leaders who loved to be worshiped. But the church belong to Jesus. Wait and see.

    2. Sad, you are incorrect to place blame on Julie Roy’s investigating report. 1. What Hugh Freeze (HF) is habitual with 14 calls within a 5 year span. 2. Ironic that a secular university allowed HF to resign yet a “Christian” school hired him without reservation. 3. What an example and testimony he sets as a husband and father to his wife and three daughters. 4. Now as head coach representing the football team and university. 5. Appropriate name change should be Liberal University as then dilute the gospel of Christ. Football must increase and Jesus must decrease.

  2. Julie, Steve Robertson is about as discredited as they come among “journalists” in Mississippi. To the extent your summary of what Freeze did or didn’t do relies upon Robertson, it is inaccurate and biased. Robertson covers/promotes the athletic program of the in state rival of Ole Miss, the university where Freeze coached.

    Freeze undoubtedly made mistakes in his personal life. Robertson has tried repeatedly to twist facts to attack an entire university (Ole Miss). I presume you are not aware of his history.

    Whether Liberty U (LU) should have hired Freeze when it did may be debatable. However, as a supposed Christian university, LU has made much more hypocritical mistakes which are not debatable, most notably not firing Jerry Falwell Jr., who publicly said that a person doesn’t count if he/she has not run a business or made payroll. By Jerry’s hypocritical and judgmental definition of who matters, Jesus should be disregarded. Jerry has made many additional well documented mistakes. He is undoubtedly an arrogant, judgmental man. I can’t believe people pay money for their children to go to LU for a “Christian” education.

    1. I’m aware Steve Robertson works for Ole Miss’ rival. He was very open about that. He also gave me a lot of information, which he supported with numerous links and even emails. He didn’t really expound about Ole Miss itself, but simply Freeze, and all of Robertson’s information checked out.

      For example, Robertson said he had heard that Freeze didn’t confess at first to Ole Miss’ administration, but only after the administration scoured more phone records and discovered a pattern. That’s precisely what Bjork said, and Bjork had first-hand knowledge. Robertson also told me that he found 14 calls to escorts in Freeze’s phone records. Though Bjork didn’t give an exact number, he said they found a big pattern reaching back several years.

      So there’s nothing factual that Robertson provided that wasn’t corroborated by someone else.

      As for Falwell, I agree that his behavior is very troubling.

  3. Remember when it was expected that Christian leaders should model Holiness and proper conduct ? Remember when Christian leaders were expected to have sound doctrine and to live a life “worthy of the Calling you have received”? Remember, when Christian leaders were expected to keep an eye on their life and doctrine so that they may live a life “above reproach.” Nowadays…..people blame Julie for her investigative reporting because they refuse to admit that the boundary lines for so-called Christian leaders have been so watered down ……

  4. Some people are just trolls and jerks who do not give a damn about what is right and wrong. I find your comments offensive, mad at the whistle blower instead of the ones who do evil and lie. If you really knew Jesus Christ you would not be defending a liar. According to Jesus Christ “all liars” are the first to be thrown into the Lake of Fire in Rev. 20. This guy is obviously one of them along with those who call good evil and evil good, which is what you just did. The one who needs to repent is you SAD. At least you could do is comment under your own name and own your opinion! What a jerk…

  5. Julie, you are doing the work of a prophet. And I know that you’re not surprised when powerful people and their acolytes treat you that way.

  6. “According to another report in Sports Illustrated, Freeze’s calls often coincided with recruiting trips Freeze took out of state.”

    These escorts were for recruits, not for Freeze. He took the fall for Ole Miss on this one.

    1. Fishwater,
      That’s a strange assertion. Is there a source to which you can attribute your claim? And why do you say Freeze “took the fall” for Ole Miss? Perhaps Freeze was avoiding a much worse penalty. Do you know what the penalty is for arranging escorts for recruits?

  7. Steve Robertson is the most creditable sports writer in Mississippi. Every sports writer in Mississippi (except Robertson) ran interference for ole miss; refused to investigate or used the narrative spewed by Bjork and Freeze.

    1. Why didn’t Robertson publicly cover the 2019 MSU investigation that went on for several months? You know, the school he is actually paid to cover.

  8. How in the world have people NOT figured out that these escorts were for recruits and not Freeze? Freeze fell on the sword for Ole Miss here because admitting the escorts were for recruits who weren’t even of age yet would’ve absolutely destroyed Freeze and OM.

  9. Think about it. What do you think would’ve happened had the world found out Ole Miss was complicit with proving escorts for underage recruits? Freeze was cooked regardless, and OM negotiated things to protect themselves. It’s common sense. They didn’t get in trouble with the NCAA for singing too loud in church. The whole escorts for recruits issue was the one thing OM and Freeze COULD control in order to minimize the damage.

    1. Budfudlacker, you’re still simply making an assertion unless you can back it with either evidence or an argument.

        1. You blabber on and won’t give any evidence and when called on it, you call someone else naive. Evidence, my man, evidence.

    2. Fishwater and Budfudlacker, If Hugh Freeze is truly a Christian, how could he cause others to sin in providing escorts to recruits even if demanded by Ole Miss administration? Will he be like Lot and offer his daughters next time?

      1. A sin is a sin. If the man is willing to get escorts for himself, he’s willing to get them for his recruits, too. I’m amazed at the ignorance displayed here as far as college recruiting goes.

  10. Bobby, you have no facts to back up anything you just said about Steve robertson. He has more integrity in his pinky than most people have all together. Yes, Steve looks rough around the edges, Yes, Steve did drugs when he was younger and was locked up. He readily admits it and tries to help kids that are going down the wrong path. Steve is the most honest person I’ve ever known whether good or bad. When Steve is wrong he will admit it. Will you?

  11. So he was acting as a pimp for minors? I’m sorry but that’s even worse and if that is the case he needs to be legally prosecuted. If what you say is true why did he claim to confess his impropriety to his wife? So the scenarios here are he was a pimp supplying minors with escorts or he was hiring escorts for himself. Now you say that he was lying to protect his employer? I’m finding it impossible to see where this man’s following Jesus was evident in any of these actions. I personally would not want him anywhere near my children.

  12. Apparently football isn’t the only thing Ole Miss fans are delusional about. Surprised a mythical championship from the 1950s wasn’t brought up here. Sure Freeze “fell on the sword” for Ole Miss ?

  13. So, when I click on your name, it takes me to your Twitter that is filled with pro Mississippi State propaganda. You – a state fan – are literally still following any mention of Hugh Freeze four years later.
    The truth is that none of what you say has any iota of truth to it. You are accusing a man and 17 year old children of being involved in prostitution. That’s a serious claim and one that can be described as libel and slander. Maybe a lawyer should get involved to review your proof.

  14. Why would you call Steve Robertson to get an unbiased report on Hugh? This guy’s whole life was to take down Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze. He has zero credibility on this subject. I covered Freeze during his three years as an assistant at Ole Miss and five years as the head coach at Ole Miss. Reach out to some people who actually know the real Freeze and not some rival reporter who’s sole purpose in life was to slander Freeze.

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