First year Liberty head football coach Hugh Freeze has had a storied coaching career, but he says leading the Flames to its first ever bowl game ranks with the best of his accomplishments.
“It’s hard for me to say it’s not at the top,” he said. “It’s right there if it’s not.”
Freeze won high school state championships at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee. He then led Lambuth to the NAIA playoffs and an 11-0 regular season before finishing as the 6th ranked team in the NAIA. In his only season as head coach at Arkansas State, he won 10 games and the 2005 Sun Belt conference title. In his first season at Ole Miss, the Rebels won the BBVA Compass Bowl. Ole Miss and Freeze then had the 5th ranked recruiting class in the country in 2013. Freeze won the 2014 Grant Teaff Coach of the Year award. The Rebels started the 2014 season 7-0 and were ranked #3 in the country. Freeze beat Nick Saban and Alabama twice. He’s been to the Peach Bowl and won the Sugar Bowl while finishing the 2015 season ranked in the top 10.
But taking Liberty to its first ever bowl game, the Cure Bowl against Georgia Southern this Saturday, is one of his top accomplishments, he says.
“The Sugar Bowl will always be a fond memory because of my dad and his relationship with Archie Manning,” Freeze said. “We were the first ones to go back there, having Archie and my dad there on the sidelines together before the game, it was pretty special.”
It’s understandable that Freeze will put this season and this bowl trip near the top of his accomplishments especially after all he’s gone through to get to the 5th bowl game he will coach in. After sitting out of the game for two years, he underwent a health scare with a staph infection in his back that required surgery. As we all know, it led to Freeze having to coach Liberty’s first two games from the press box, first in a hospital bed and then in a medical chair. It was the first time he’s ever coached from the press box.
“Being able to go through everything that I went through personally, not only being away from football, but also the health issue this year,” he explained. “For our team to stay together and be an incredible team to coach, I had a blast coaching them. We may not have been the most talented group all the time, but they were a fun group to coach. The coaching staff is incredibly tight. It ranks way up there.”
Making it to a bowl game in the program’s first ever season as a full FBS member, the first Liberty football team to ever reach a bowl game, is something Freeze set as a goal from the day he was hired. He mentioned it in his opening press conference and declared to the team it was a goal.
“The first day of fall camp we said we would love to be the first team in the history of Liberty football to go to a bowl game,” Freeze said. “To stand here today knowing that it’s a reality and we are achieving something that has never been done before, in our first year of FBS, is really, really special. I’m thankful to President Falwell, Ian (McCaw), and all of his administration.”