A winning tradition at the highest level of NCAA collegiate football was brought to Liberty Mountain when Hugh Freeze was introduced as the ninth head coach in football program history on Dec. 7, 2018.
Just like the other stops along his storied coaching career, Freeze has quickly elevated Liberty’s program to unprecedented success during his short time with the Flames.
Freeze has experienced similar success at each of his head coaching stops: Lambuth University (2008-09), Arkansas State (2011) and Ole Miss (2012-16) and Liberty (2019-20).
Liberty is the second team in NCAA history to win a bowl game during its first two full seasons at the FBS level (2019 and 2020), both coming under Freeze’s leadership.
Additionally, Freeze guided the Flames through one of the most unique seasons in NCAA college football history in 2020 where Liberty finished the year ranked No. 17 in the country and tied a program record with a 10-1 overall record.
After leading the Flames to an 8-5 record in 2019 and a 10-1 mark in 2020, Freeze has posted a combined 60-38 mark in nine seasons as a head coach (See ^ note below for more information about career coaching record).
Freeze’s renowned high-powered offense allowed two of the program’s best offensive standouts to cement their names in Liberty’s record books with numbers that may last for quite some time during his first seasons at Liberty.
Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden finished his career as the program’s all-time career leader in receiving yards (3,814), receptions (240) and touchdowns. Gandy-Golden was a semifinalist for the 2019 Biletnikoff Award and was named to the Phil Steele All-America team.
Quarterback Stephen Calvert completed his days in a Liberty uniform passing for a program record 12,025 career passing yards, 93 career touchdowns and 896 career competitions.
As a team, Liberty finished the 2019 season ranked No. 21 in the country in passing offense (288.9 yards per game) and No. 32 in total offense (439.4 yards per game). Liberty posted an 8-5 record, the most wins for a Flames football team since 2014.
The Flames capped their first season under Freeze with a 23-16 victory over Sun Belt Conference member Georgia Southern in the 2019 FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl on Dec. 21, 2019, at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
Under Freeze’s direction, Liberty had a season of "firsts" in 2020, including the team's first-ever national ranking, first win over an ACC opponent, the best start in school history (8-0 to start 2020), first-ever win over a top-25 FBS program and back-to-back bowl game wins.
Liberty defeated a pair of ACC foes in Syracuse and in-state opponent Virginia Tech. The two wins made Liberty the first non-Power 5 team to post a pair of wins over ACC schools in the same season since Houston in 2015.
The Flames finished the season with a 10-1 record, tying the program's record for wins in a season (Liberty finished the 2008 season with a 10-2 record).
Liberty made a return trip the Cure Bowl in 2020, upsetting No. 9/11 Coastal Carolina, 37-34, on Dec. 26 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. The game was widely viewed as the one of the most exciting bowl games of the 2020 Bowl Season and was the most watched bowl game involving “Group of Five” teams since the 2017 Armed Forces Bowl with 2.62 million viewers on ESPN.
The Flames set a school record for rushing yards in a season in 2020 (2,776) and ranked No. 9 in the country in rushing offense.
Liberty also ranked No. 15 in the country in total offense (482.7 yards per game) and No. 11 in total defense (317.7 yards per game). The Flames were one of three teams in the country to rank in the top 20 in both total offense and total defense in 2020, joining Clemson and BYU.
Spearheading Liberty’s outstanding offense in 2020 was quarterback Malik Willis. The Auburn quarterback burst onto the national season by leading the nation in rushing yards (944) and touchdowns (14) by a FBS quarterback.
Willis, along with defensive end Durrell Johnson, earned All-America honors and were one of 16 Flames named to the Phil Steele Postseason All-Independent Team. Willis, who started to draw attention for the Heisman Trophy award during the season, was named to the Davey O’Brien Award Quarterback Class of 2020 listing was on the 2020 Maxwell Award watch list.
Freeze’s efforts to quickly lift Liberty to national prominence did not go unnoticed in 2020. Freeze was one of six finalists the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award.
The half dozen standout coaches named as finalist for the award include Tom Allen (Indiana), Ryan Day (Ohio State), Jamey Chadwell (Coastal Carolina), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Hugh Freeze (Liberty) and Nick Saban (Alabama).
When hired at Liberty on Dec. 7, 2018, Freeze brought over 25 years of continued coaching success, including head coaching experience that has led to conference titles, nationally ranked recruiting classes and bowl appearances at multiple stops during his highly decorated career.
Prior to his current coaching position at Liberty, the native of Oxford, Miss., returned to his hometown school and led it back to championship form during his five seasons as head coach at Ole Miss (2012-16).
Freeze guided Ole Miss to bowl games during three of his five years with the Rebels, including victories in the Music City bowl (2013 season) and the Sugar Bowl (2015 season).
Freeze’s time in Oxford was highlighted by a 10-3 campaign in 2015, the program’s first 10-win season since 2003. The Rebels won their first four games of the 2015 season, including a 43-37 road victory over No. 2 Alabama, Ole Miss’ first win in Tuscaloosa, Ala., since 1988. Freeze's Head Coaching Career By the Numbers Liberty (2019) 1 – Led the program to its first ever bowl game appearance and bowl game victory 8 – Total wins during his first season at Liberty, the program's highest win total since 2014 11 – Players named to the Phil Steele FBS Independent All-Conference teams 21 – Nationally ranked passing offense (288.9 yards per game) 32 – Nationally ranked total offense (439.4 yards per game)
Ole Miss (2012-16) 1 – Top ranked scoring defense in the country in 2014 (16.0 points allowed per game) 2 – Alabama's national ranking when Ole Miss defeated the Crimson Tide, 43-37, in Tuscaloosa, Fla., on Sept. 19, 2015 marking the Rebel's first road win in the series since 1988 3 – Bowl game appearances (2013 season: Music City Bowl; 2014 season: Peach Bowl; 2015 season: Sugar Bowl) 4 – Top 15 ranked recruiting classes, including top-five classes in 2013 and 2016 5 – Wins over nationally ranked teams during a 10-win 2015 season 7 – All-Americans coached during his time at Ole Miss 11 – Ole Miss players selected in the NFL Draft during Freeze's coaching tenure, including three first-round selections in the 2016 NFL Draft 18 – Number of times Ole Miss scored 40 or more points in a game during Freeze's coaching career with the Rebels, including six games with 50 or more points scored 19 – Players who participated in mission trips to Panama and Haiti during Freeze's five years 20 – Players who earned All-SEC honors during his five-year coaching tenure at Ole Miss 27 – Consecutive weeks ranked in the national top-25 polls, the program's most consecutive weeks in the national rankings since the 1950s 40.8 – Points per game scored by Ole Miss in 2015, which ranked No. 8 in the country in scoring offense 45 – Total weeks ranked in the national top-25 polls during his time in Oxford, Miss. 48 – Third most points scored by a team in the history of the Sugar Bowl when Ole Miss defeated No. 21 Oklahoma State on Jan. 1, 2016 (Won, 48-20) 121 – Players who earned their degrees during Freeze's time as head coach 459.5 – Yards per game the Rebels averaged during Freeze's five seasons at Ole Miss 2013 – Grant Teaff Coach of the Year award winner 2014 – Finalist for the Bear Bryant Award and the Dobb Trophy
Arkansas State (2011) 1 – First 10-win season in the Arkansas State's time as an FBS program 3 – Number of times a team has finished a season undefeated in conference play in the Sun Belt Conference, including Freeze's 8-0 mark in 2011 9 – Consecutive wins during the Red Wolves 10-3 season 13 – Players who earned All-Sun Belt Conference honors, including both the league's Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year
Lambuth (2008-09) 8 – National ranking in scoring offense in 2009, averaging 38.1 points per game 10 – Weeks ranked in the national top-10 NAIA rankings in 2009, including a final season ranking of No. 6 11 – Regular season wins during the 2009 season, marking the first undefeated regular season in school history 16 – Combined weeks ranked in the top-25 national polls during the 2008 and 2009 seasons 446.6 – Yards per game the Lambuth in 2009, which ranked No. 10 in the country
Freeze at a Glance Coaching Experience: 2019-Present – Liberty (Head Coach) 2018 – Arizona Hotshots (Offensive Coordinator/Oct. 2018 – Dec. 2018) 2012-16 – Ole Miss (Head Coach) 2011 – Arkansas State (Head Coach) 2010 – Arkansas State (Offensive Coordinator) 2010 – San Jose State (Offensive Coordinator/Dec. 2009 – Feb. 2010) 2008-09 – Lambuth (Head Coach) 2006-07 – Ole Miss (Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator) 2005 – Ole Miss (Assistant AD for Football External Affairs) 1995-04 – Briarcrest High School/Tenn. (High Coach) 1992-94 – Briarcrest High School/Tenn. (Offensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs)
Education: B.S., Mathematics (Southern Miss, '92) Hometown: Oxford, Miss. Wife: Jill Children: Ragan, Jordan and Madison
Career Coaching Honors: 2013 Grant Teaff FCA Coach of the Year 2011 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year 2009 AFCA Southeast Region Coach of the Year 2009 Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year 5-Time Region 8-AA Coach of the Year 4-Time Associated Press High School Coach of the Year
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