AUBURN, Ala.(EETV)- John Cohen has officially filled the football head coach vacancy with Hugh Freeze, but with this hire comes baggage. Freeze has been involved in scandals the entirety of his career and Auburn fans are skeptical if this hire was the right move.
Prior to his position at Liberty, Freeze led a successful Ole Miss football program from 2012-2016. In his final year, Ole Miss was charged with numerous recruiting violations by the NCAA, four of which were Level 1 violations. According to the NCAA, a level 1 violation signifies a serious threat to the integrity of the sport and includes paying recruits and booster involvement in recruiting with member knowledge.
The investigation into Freeze's staff was opened following a statement from offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil who admitted to taking money from one of Freeze's assistants. In a Bleacher Report article from 2016, Freeze stated that these violations were not intentional and only one involved a staff member, however, it was viewed that he failed to monitor his assistants.
In 2017, Freeze's predecessor Houston Nutt sued Ole Miss for defamation, as the university and Freeze were placing the violation blames on him. During this investigation, Nutt's attorney discovered that Freeze had made a call to a number associated with a female escort service, but Freeze claimed that it was a misdialed number.
Given the ultimatum: resign or be fired for violating the morals clause of his contract, Freeze swiftly resigned for a "pattern of personal misconduct." The Rebels football program in turn was punished with a two-year postseason ban, three years of probation, a four-year ban on some scholarships, and the NCAA forced Ole Miss to vacate 33 wins from 2010 to 2016.
Freeze has also been accused of engaging in sexual misconduct.
Early in his career, he served as head coach for Briarcrest Christian High School in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2017, AL.com reported that Katie Dalmasso, a former female student, stepped forward regarding Freeze's inappropriate behavior.
"Coach Freeze pulled me in his office and told me that my shirt represented drugs,'' Dalmasso told USA Today. "I said, 'I'll go change in the bathroom,' and when I said that he said, 'No, you're going to change in here so I get the (Grateful Dead) shirt and you can't have it back. He didn't do anything sexual. But I stood in the corner and faced the wall when I did it and I changed out of my shirt. No privacy.''
A second female from Briarcrest said he was very hyper-focused on the length of girls' skirts and even paddled her with no female present, making her feel extremely uncomfortable.
Freeze has previously, through his lawyer, denied both of the allegations.
In 2019, Freeze was hired as the head coach of the Liberty University football team. He was hired by Ian McCaw, who had formerly resigned from Baylor due to involvement in a sexual assault scandal.
This past summer, Chelsea Andrews, a high-profile sexual assault victim at Liberty received a direct message from Freeze on Twitter in which he defended Ian McCaw, saying that he is, "The most Jesus like leader..." Many on Twitter were very disturbed by his attempt to intimidate a rape victim.
According to USA Today, in an investigation across numerous universities to discover Title IX violations, Auburn University was one of the six schools refusing to disclose any information.
It is clear that Hugh Freeze has a controversial past, and has become a polarizing subject for the orange and blue faithful, but only time will tell if he will carry this baggage with him as he embarks on this journey as Auburn's head coach.