In his first public appearance since resigning as Ole Miss' football coach in July, Hugh Freeze showed remorse and asked for forgiveness while speaking at Liberty University on Wednesday.
"I had to say to people that I loved, 'I am sorry, please forgive me," Freeze said during the school's chapel service, which streamed live on Liberty's Facebook page. "And today is really the first day I can tell the faith family, 'I am sorry, please forgive me.'"
Freeze resigned in July after Ole Miss officials found a pattern that included phone calls to a number associated with a female escort service. Freeze was also the subject of a multiyear NCAA investigation that led to a 2018 postseason ban after the school self-imposed one in 2017 as well as additional scholarship reductions to the ones the school also previously imposed in 2017.
Freeze, who was accompanied by his wife, Jill, and their pastor, Chip Henderson, spoke for about 20 minutes but did not go into detail about the calls he placed. He addressed them as mistakes and said he thought his transgressions would remain private and in the past. He also questioned why they became public in July and added that he thinks that happened because he had to "experience true brokenness."
"I have a total new appreciation for integrity," Freeze said. "Jill and I have a new appreciation for grace. We have a new appreciation for mercy. We have a new appreciation for compassion."
Freeze also did not address the NCAA investigation or the possibility of coaching again, choosing instead to discuss how he and his family have tried to overcome his mistakes. While Freeze did not receive a show-cause after the NCAA concluded its investigation, he received a two-game conference suspension from the NCAA for failure to monitor his staff. The suspension applies only to head-coaching positions; there would be no restrictions if Freeze were to take a job as a coordinator or assistant.
Freeze opened by comparing his tumultuous year to University of California offensive lineman Roy Riegels and his infamous play in the 1929 Rose Bowl. Riegels became known as "Wrong Way Riegels" after he picked up a Georgia Tech fumble and ran 65 yards to his own goal line before being pulled down by a teammate. The play set up a Cal safety that helped Georgia Tech win 8-7.
"When I look back on my 2017, I see Roy Riegels in me," Freeze said.
Jill Freeze and Henderson both spoke, with Jill Freeze saying that the forgiveness she gave her husband was the first step to her own healing for what he did.
"I've lived with him for 25 years," Jill Freeze said. "This man is the godliest man I have ever known. I am who I am in Christ because of this man and the impact and influence he has had on me. I know this man, and I know his heart. I know he loves God, and I know he's going to do what it takes to get right with God."
Freeze said that during his time away from coaching, he's received forgiveness from family and friends but has also been affected by what he considers negative publicity in the media and on social media.
"I cannot control what people say, what people think, nor can you," he 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."