Amongst speculation and rumour linking him to multiple potential power five opportunities, Hugh Freeze and Liberty Football announced a contract extension through 2026 on Wednesday this week. Despite no financial figures being announced, the deal is thought to make Freeze one of the highest paid group of five head coaches. Money, however, is far from the motivating factor behind this chapter of one of the most romantic stories of the 2020 college football season.
“I’ve said it all along and I know people don’t believe it but I’ve told our players and our administration that it would take something very, very special for me to leave what we’re building here now. I’m very content and happy with that. I just love what we’re doing here. I love the program, I love the people, I love the mission.”
Liberty: A Special Place For Football
Special. The dictionary defines the word as “better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual”. It can also be used to describe something “belonging specifically to a particular person or place”.
In Lynchberg, Virginia during this 2020 College Football season, both definitions are particularly apt. In fact, there couldn’t be a better word to describe what is happening at Liberty University.
As the Liberty Flames prepare to take on West Carolina this afternoon, there can be no denying that this place, this program, this team, has been special this season.
Sitting at 7-0, unbeaten, ranked for the first time in program history, two wins over power five opposition in Virginia Tech and Syracuse on their resume, there’s no denying that they’ve been better or different from what is usual.
That’s tangible. It’s the cold hard stats. Facts.
It is, however, the belonging that really makes this Liberty Football journey one of the more romantic of this season. It is a group that finds themselves all together, in this place, at this time, and that special bond is one that Hugh Freeze is happy to hold on to.
Hugh Freeze On What Makes Liberty Special
“I said when I got here that I believed that in five years we would be one of the top group of five programs in the nation and I see nothing that makes me doubt that or change my mind. The commitment from the school is there. We can recruit players to this place because I do think it is special” he tells me when I ask him what makes Liberty so special.
“I think it’s special in the fact that regardless of what your personal beliefs are, this faith based university is different. It’s something to me that separates us regardless of whether you decide that your faith is like Liberty’s is as a core value.”
“At some point in your life you are going to have to have faith in something bigger than yourself. Whether it’s a team or another person, you’re going to have to have something that you faith in that’s bigger than yourself to sustain all the gut punches of life, all the challenges that you’re going to face. I know of no other place that prepares you better for that than where I am right now.”
“I think it makes it special. Obviously, the culture and confidence that we create in our program with the messaging that we have from me, our assistant coaches and down to our players and the support we get from our administration is as good as any place. It’s as good as any place I’ve ever been at. I would venture to guess it’s probably better than some because we’re all on the same page, pulling the rope in the same direction.
Hugh Freeze Finds Redemption At Liberty
Not only has Hugh Freeze found something special at Liberty, he has also found a sense of redemption. America prides itself on being a nation built on second chances, and at this university that holds faith at the heart of everything that it does, the biblical notion of second chances seems somewhat fitting.
In his opening statement during his final media availability of game week, Freeze acknowledged his gratitude at the Liberty program offering him a chance for redemption following a chequered past at Ole Miss.
“I’m beyond grateful and thankful for Ian [McGraw], Doctor Prevo, and our board for believing in the way we’re doing things. Not only on the field but they recognise that the fruits off the field are good right now too. We’ve got a good thing going and are building something that is really special. We’re having one of those really magical runs right now. It’s very gratifying to be able to give back to a university that believed in you and supported you, particularly in my situation.”
Hugh Freeze is giving back to this Liberty program in the form of results, while the program offers him support and redemption. It is a special relationship, in a special place, that is having special results.
It may well be only the beginning of something truly special between now and 2026.
Oliver Hodgkinson is a College Football writer for The Touchdown. He also writes on the NFL for the Pro Football Network. You can hear his opinions on all things College Football as one third of the College Chaps Podcast.