Liberty University has begun an earnest search for its next head football coach after Hugh Freeze left to become the head coach at Auburn. Freeze leaves after four very successful seasons with the Flames as the program made the transition from the FCS to FBS.
“Let me start by just expressing our gratitude to Coach Freeze for all that he did for Liberty football and the university over the past 4 years,” Liberty AD Ian McCaw said during a Tuesday morning press conference. “He and his staff moved this program so far forward, it is really hard to measure the contributions they made both on the field and off the field, the spiritual influence they had have been unparalleled. We are really grateful for Hugh. We wish him, Jill, and their daughters the very best as they embark on a new journey.”
With the transfer portal opening December 5th and the early signing period of December 21st both approaching, McCaw and Liberty will move quickly to fulfill this search. This will be the second time McCaw has led a search for a new head coach as he hired Hugh Freeze following Turner Gill’s retirement. That search process lasted only four days. McCaw says that he has known the last few weeks that Coach Freeze and Auburn have been in discussions and has been preparing himself for this transition.
“We have already launched the search for our next head coach,” McCaw stated. “We are looking forward to moving through that process very rapidly. My hope is that we will be able to complete that very quickly and have a new head coach in place by next week.”
Having the new head coach in place prior to the transfer portal opening next Monday is very important. This will allow the current Liberty players to have an opportunity to meet their new head coach before deciding whether or not they want to enter the portal.
“When you have a coach as outstanding as Hugh Freeze you always want to have a short list ready because he is one of the best coaches in college football,” McCaw said. “You have to anticipate that at some point he could have an opportunity like this. We were well prepared for that.”
McCaw has been putting together a list of prospective candidates over the past few weeks. Liberty has also hired a search firm to work with the school in screening candidates. McCaw has already had conversations with several candidates. With Liberty being one of the best resourced Group of Five resourced programs in the country, it has attracted very strong candidates. The resources the program has from facilities, salaries, budgets, and more, makes it one of the most attractive jobs at this level.
“We have had tremendous expression of interest in this job,” McCaw stated. “That’s a credit to Coach Freeze, our staff, our players. This job is so much different than it was four years ago. We’re getting tremendous interest from around the country from very qualified coaches. The key differentiator for us is we have to have someone who really fits Liberty.”
McCaw laid out his criteria for the next head coach. He’s looking for someone who will be a strong mission fit at Liberty to help train Champions for Christ. He’s also looking for a CEO type leader that can continue to help build the culture of the program. Another quality McCaw says he is looking for in the next head coach is a skilled tactician and a strong recruiter.”
“We are getting tremendous interest,” he said. “We’ve had interest from Power Five head coaches, Group of Five head coaches, assistants at the Power Five level, assistants at the Group of Five level. It’s a wide range of individuals that have expressed interest. We’re trying to vet that group as quickly as possible and really hone in on our top candidates.”
McCaw is getting some assistance on the search with the search firm as well as other administrators within the athletic department. When they have narrowed in on their candidate, McCaw will make a recommendation to Interim Liberty University President Jerry Prevo who will take that recommendation for approval to the Board of Regents.
“We’re going to be diligent,” said McCaw. “We need to be thorough in our vetting process. We need to also be respectful of some of the programs that are playing this weekend, as well. There’s a lot of factors at play right now. Ultimately, if we can have a head coach in place by December 5th that would be a great outcome for Liberty.”