Coach Hugh Freeze has been unapologetic when it comes to his faith in God. He is able to navigate his Christianity through the world of college football and his fans are grateful.
The life of a college football coach is one of intense pressure and scrutiny. For this reason, most tend to allow the public to only see them in the singularity of being a coach only. Few open up the way Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has. Coach Freeze has on many occasions displayed his religious faith to the public.
Some universities and their fan base would be uncomfortable with the face of their university being so bold about his beliefs. It seems as if the Ole Miss Rebel fans not only support his boldness, but are pleased that he is willing to proclaim it.
Many fans from other schools use Coach Freeze’s religiosity and his willingness to share his belief that salvation is through Jesus Christ, as a punchline to jokes and fodder for memes. There are those who use his willing to quote scripture as an opportunity to call him a hypocrite whenever something happens in the program that isn’t positive.
Juggling the competitive nature of a coach with the spiritual nature of a Christian is what Coach Freeze goes through every day. It’s that dichotomy that is easily misunderstood among those who look from the outside. There are some who believe that those two things can’t coexist in one person. But Coach Freeze has been able to remain fiery and competitive while not losing who he is as a man of faith.
This is what the Ole Miss fans love about him. Tiffany Wheeler, a 2009 Ole Miss graduate stated, “Hugh Freeze is a great coach. I don’t care what anybody says! He brought God back to that team.” “The difference between him and another coach (not saying any names) is that Hugh Freeze always gives honor to God! Always!”
When talking to other fans the same theme seems to ring through. Christian Robinson is a recent Ole Miss graduate in Pharmaceutical Science. He appreciates Freeze’s faith. “I love that he is a man of faith and is not afraid of showing his love for God.” Robinson also likes the atmosphere he has infused in the locker room. “I love how he focuses on our football team playing for love of each other instead of hatred for someone else.”
The Ole Miss fan base stands behind Coach Freeze’s declarations of his faith. Many recognize that he does not push his beliefs on anyone. Jill Hamrick describes herself as a Rebel since birth. This is how she feels about Hugh Freeze’s message of faith. “I don’t think he’s pushing religion on anyone. I think his message is more about opening our own hearts, having love and respect for one another. I think he’s a wonderful role model for kids. And not just our players. I’ve taken my own children to hear him speak several times.”
Local fans have often been accused of being blinded by their loyalty to their school. There are those who believe that the Rebel fan base have enjoyed the “new normal” of winning and therefore are fooled by Coach Freeze’s hypocrisy. But there are those among the rival fan base that do respect the job the he does.
Since most people only know him by his Twitter handle, TJ LSU DAD wanted to us to just refer to him as that. But this LSU fan wants everyone to know exactly what he thinks about Hugh Freeze. “I respect Coach Freeze. Not just as a serious competitor. I think he’s a great strategist. Anybody who can beat Alabama back to back is worthy of my respect.”
Then he went on to say, “But I respect him for the type of man he is. Whenever you hear parents of players talk about how genuinely nice he is, that says something” says TJ, “I feel that if his faith is that important to him, he should be allowed to express it and I don’t think he goes to far. I don’t think he forces it on anyone.”
When asked whether the NCAA investigation tarnished his feelings on Freeze, TJ had this to say, “These programs have a lot of moving part. And these coaches have to micromanage so much. Do not celebrate whenever you hear that another program is under investigation. It’s their program today and could be our program tomorrow. I never ever said that this is something Coach Freeze is doing deliberately. He is of the highest integrity.”
Coach Freeze has earned the respect of not only his fans but other coaches on the Ole Miss campus. And these coaches don’t seem to be bothered by his expressions of his beliefs. Ole Miss softball coach Mike Smith is coming off the most successful year in the history of Ole Miss. He shared his views on Coach Freeze.
“Coach Freeze is a man of God and a man of integrity. He is a great husband, father, coach, mentor and my friend. What I love about him is when you have a conversation with him, whether you are a student-athlete or colleague, he will inspire, motivate, mentor, build, train and coach every time. He is exactly what Ole Miss is all about!”
What can’t be argued is that Coach Hugh Freeze has created a new atmosphere around the Ole Miss football program. Contrary to what his rivals believe, he has never claimed to be perfect. He has stated on more than one occasion. “If you are going to be the person of faith that I say am, it’s doesn’t mean I’m perfect. That’s why I need it.”