Liberty U football coach who led team to 4 bowl games leaves for Auburn

Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Liberty Flames reacts during the first half of the LendingTree Bowl against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Hancock Whitney Stadium on December 18, 2021, in Mobile, Alabama.
Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Liberty Flames reacts during the first half of the LendingTree Bowl against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Hancock Whitney Stadium on December 18, 2021, in Mobile, Alabama. | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Liberty University football coach Hugh Freeze has left to take the head coaching job at Auburn University, again becoming a head coach in NCAA's powerhouse Southeastern Conference. 

The 53-year-old Freeze, who has over 12 years of experience coaching at the collegiate level, was named the 31st head coach of the Auburn Tigers football team on Monday by Athletics Director John Cohen. His six-year contract is reportedly worth about $6.5 million per year. 

Freeze spent four seasons at Liberty University, overseeing the football program's rise to the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision. He led the flames to a 34-15 record during his tenure, making bowl games each of the four seasons he coached at the Virginia-based Evangelical higher education institution. 

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Under his leadership, Liberty was one of just five FBS teams to win a bowl game in each of the last three seasons and became the second team in NCAA history to win a bowl game during its first three full seasons at the FBS level. Freeze's signing with Auburn comes weeks after he signed an 8-year contract extension at Liberty, averaging roughly $5 million per year. 

"After a thoughtful, thorough, and well-vetted search, we ended where we started, with Hugh Freeze," Cohen said in a statement. "Of all the candidates we considered, Hugh was the best fit. Fit has several meanings, but the most important factors were student-athlete development, football strategy, recruiting and SEC experience."

Freeze called Auburn, which last one a national championship in 2010, "one of the preeminent programs in college football" and said he is appreciative of the opportunity. 

"I've been fortunate to witness firsthand how special Auburn is during my time as a head coach in the SEC and while visiting my daughter Jordan who attended Auburn and currently lives in the community," Freeze said in a statement. "I can't wait to work with our student-athletes and the Auburn family to bring championships back to the Plains."

Before joining Liberty, Freeze faced 21 academic, booster and recruiting violations during his time as head coach of the University of Mississippi. This led to the program being banned from postseason play for two years. He resigned from Ole Miss in 2017 after being accused of using a school phone to call escort services while on recruiting trips. 

The coach previously admitted in a press conference when he was hired at Liberty in 2018 that he has made "decisions that have hurt a lot of people."

"I don't want to experience that again," Freeze said, adding that he "inconvenienced" his wife, Jill, "many times" throughout their marriage.

Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, who resigned in 2020, told ABC13 that it is bitter-sweet to see Freeze leave Liberty. 

"I'm so proud that Liberty University is a school that gave him a second chance," Fallwell said. "And I think what we've seen over the last few years at Liberty, and what happened today is proof of what somebody can accomplish if they're just shown a little grace. So, I wish the best to the Freeze family and to the LU football program going forward."

Since his departure in August 2020, Falwell says he has stayed in close contact with Freeze. 

"And I texted him today to tell him I hated to see him leave Liberty University; that I was so happy for him, his family, his career to be moving up to a top national football program like Auburn," Falwell said. 

During his introductory press conference on Tuesday, Freeze preached the importance of faith. 

"Faith in the essence of you have to believe in something bigger than yourself to be a great football team or to be a great university or to be a great family," he said. "It's really not about you. You can't run fast enough. You're not strong enough to do it alone, so you have to have faith in someone bigger than yourself."

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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