Coach Hugh Freeze’s Fall from Evangelical Grace

Coach Hugh Freeze’s fall from grace seemed to come out of nowhere for many in the South. The quasi-minister head football coach at Ole Miss was revered as something close to a saint, as happens in the SEC quite often.

During his early coaching years at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee, Freeze was not only a coach, but also a Bible teacher and sometimes preacher during school convocations. He was the epitome of the “talk the talk, walk the walk” Christian teacher and coach. Freeze held himself out to players and students as the consummate Southern Baptist Gentleman, wooing players and their families with his faith.

Eventually he was depicted in The Blind Side as the head coach of Michael Oher, whom he followed to Ole Miss. While there, he maintained his persona as the Christian Coach, giving speeches and interviews about the importance of his faith. He used Twitter and other social media to solidify his image. But as Lars Anderson reports for The Bleacher Report, there were always signs that something was amiss:

There was the ongoing investigation by the NCAA into the Ole Miss program, which Freeze had built from the ashes by hauling in one 5-star player after the next. There was the Laremy Tunsil draft-day escapade last spring, which featured one of those elite recruits (Tunsil) confessing that he had been paid by Ole Miss’ assistant athletic director.

And just last week there was the defamation lawsuit filed by Houston Nutt, Freeze’s predecessor at Ole Miss, claiming that Freeze and the school had orchestrated a “long-running … smear campaign” against him. I know Nutt well—we spoke repeatedly when I covered college football for a decade for Sports Illustrated—and he never once misled me.
It was the Houston Nutt lawsuit that resulted in the end for Freeze’s tenure at Ole Miss. A Freedom of Information lawsuit led to the discovery of a pattern of calls to prostitutes made from Freeze’s university issued cellphone since the beginning of his tenure at Ole Miss, and the college gave him the option of resigning or being fired for violating the morals clause of his contract.
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Freeze is certainly a shining example of that sentiment. The louder he proclaimed his faith, the harder we should have been listening for whatever he was trying to hide. I feel horribly for his wife and children, who must endure this in the national spotlight. The university has had numerous issues and certainly does not need this added to them. And the families and students who looked up to him will be hurt as well. The one person I do not pity is Hugh Freeze, who spent his entire career as a hypocrite; he told everyone else how to live, but he did not do it himself.
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