In his first public appearance since his abrupt resignation in July, former Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze made his first public appearance Wednesday, at which he asked forgiveness for his wrongdoing.
“I had to say to people that I loved, ‘I am sorry. Please forgive me,’” he said. “And today is really the first day I can tell the faith family, ‘I am sorry. Please forgive me.’”
Speaking during a convocation at Liberty University in Virginia, Freeze told the audience his “world got rocked in 2017” after news broke that he made calls to a female escort service using a university cell phone that contributed to what Chancellor Jeff Vitter called a “pattern of personal misconduct” and ultimately led to his resignation.
“All the walls came crumbling down when what I thought was a private sin that I had struggled with and confessed to my wife and to two of my friends in 2016 … It became public knowledge in July of 2017,” Freeze said. “My world crumbled, and the question started being asked: ‘Man, is his faith real? Is his faith genuine?’”
In his address, Freeze did not speak on the NCAA violations or what led to the discovery of his phone records, the penalties imposed on his former school, or his future career, and focused solely on his own mistakes. When they became public, he said he questioned why but found that his experience of “true brokenness,” and how the aftermath proved his Christian faith was “a solid rock, solid foundation.”
“I cannot control what people say, what people think, nor can you,” Freeze said. “But I can make up my mind. And my mind is set. It is settled. My eyes are clear. My heart is full. My feet are pointed forward, and I am looking forward with thanksgiving to what God has for me and my family next, because of his great love and his great forgiveness.”
Freeze’s coaching acumen comes with few questions, but whichever program gives him a second chance will certainly take a PR hit regarding his prior missteps. However, history shows that college football coaches often get a second chance following improper behavior, and his wife, Jill, is among those who believe her husband will someday return to coaching.
“I could look at him and I could automatically see in the beginning that he was believing the lies of Satan – that he’s not worthy, that he’s blown it, that we can’t get past this,” Jill said about her husband. “And immediately, God just shored me up, like: ‘Oh no, we’re getting through this. You are a good man. You are a godly man. This isn’t over. We have a glorious unfolding that’s coming.’”
Speaking toward the end of the convocation, Jill vouched for the troubled coach, ensuring that she forgave her husband because she knew “his heart” and said she knows “he is going to do whatever it takes to get right with God.”
“For that, it was easy in that moment (to say) ‘I forgive you’ immediately,” she said. “That was the beginning of my healing. It was instant forgiveness for him.”
As she spoke, her husband was visibly overcome with emotion and tears were seen rolling down his face.
“Jill and I just came today to share our story with you and to encourage you that by God’s grace and by God’s power, we can finish well,” Freeze added in conclusion.