Hugh Freeze Goes Full Jimmy Swaggart Mode At Auburn Introductory Press Conference

Evangelical football coach Hugh Freeze, who fell from grace amid a prostitution scandal as Ole Miss' coach several years ago like Evangelical television star preacher Jimmy Swaggart in the 1980s, returned to Power Five conference football at a press conference pulpit Tuesday morning.

He cried. He repented. He preached.


Wayward but resource-heavy Auburn introduced Freeze as its new coach after hiring him on Monday to a contract worth $39 million over six years. He had just agreed in October to a contract extension to eight years at $5 million a year at Liberty, a Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late televangelist star Jerry Falwell. Freeze had been head coach there since 2019.

"I let some people down, a lot of people down," Freeze said of his last big time coaching stint at Ole Miss from 2012 until his firing in 2017.

"I have sinned against you. And I beg your forgiveness," Swaggart said in tears after his transgressions went public in 1988 as he looked directly at his wife Frances.

Hugh Freeze Choked Up When Discussing His Family

Freeze, 53, also wept Tuesday early in the press conference as he looked at his wife Jill and his daughters Ragan, Jordan and Madison.

"To my family, you are the rock stars," he said with voice cracking. "You are. And I'm not going to get emotional today. I'm not because this is a great day. It's something we fought like heck to get to. And I want to say Jill is the most amazing woman that God ever created."

Freeze went on to discuss his football philosophy and newfound love for Auburn eloquently, and at times sounded like a televangelist himself.

"I'm so blessed. We are a family of faith," he said. "And God's faithfulness is so incredibly good to us. I don't know if I can put it enough words of how gracious and good and faithful He has been to us."

Hugh Freeze Retains Interim Coach Carnell Williams

Freeze met with the Auburn team early Tuesday morning and also announced that former interim coach Carnell "Cadillac" Williams would be retained as assistant head coach and running backs coach. Williams went 2-2 after replacing fired coach Bryan Harsin.

"I shared with them how we're going to turn this ship and get out of the wilderness here," Freeze said, and soon his voice was rising like a preacher's "We need the same voices in the locker room, and that's when you start getting something that's going to be positive for change. You have to believe in something bigger than yourself to be a great football team, or a great university, or a great family."

Freeze praised Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

"I'm going to be just like Bruce Pearl, if I can, except I'm not taking my shirt off because I don't look as good as he does," he said. Then he dropped some historical knowledge of Auburn football, mentioning former coach Pat Dye, Heisman great Bo Jackson and the "kick six" win over Alabama on a missed field goal in 2013.

"There's no other place I want to be. I love it," he said. "War Eagle!"

Sins And Sanctions At Ole Miss

Freeze left Ole Miss after it was discovered he was contacting escort services on a university-issued cellular phone. This was amid an NCAA investigation that found his program guilty of major NCAA recruiting violations such as car loans and cash to players.

The NCAA stripped away 28 wins on the field by Freeze's Ole Miss team that Auburn nevertheless counted and highlighted on the screen during a video of the press conference.

The NCAA also slapped Ole Miss with three years of probation, a two-year postseason ban and four-year ban on some scholarships. Freeze resurfaced two years later as Liberty's coach. And he won as he did at every other stop - Lambuth, Arkansas State and Ole Miss.

New Auburn Coach Paid His Redemption Dues At Liberty

"We fought to earn this," he said. "It's been rocky at times. "If everybody's life was as documented as mine, it would probably be uncomfortable for a lot of people."

Auburn fans and national media met Freeze's hiring with backlash.

"Please just give me a chance ot earn your trust," he said. "Give me some time. That's all you can ask for, man, give us a chance. And I think you'll like the end result."

Freeze was asked about a report that said Auburn will not allow Freeze to have any social media accounts. He was involved in a controversial social media episode while at Liberty.

"No, that's not accurate," he said. "How could you in this day and time? There is some wisdom in it, though."

Laughter broke out after that comment.

Hugh Freeze Challenges Ole Miss?

Freeze was asked how long it would take to return Auburn to its winning ways.

"I wish I could say," he said. "I think we can turn it fairly fast with the new world that we're in (with the NCAA transfer portal)."

Auburn is coming off two straight losing seasons and has had just one double-digit win season since 2013 when the Tigers reached the BCS national championship game. Auburn has never made the College Football Playoff that began in 2014.

Ole Miss fans may be circling Oct. 21 on their 2023 schedule after one Freeze comment. The Rebels play Auburn that day.

"No offense to another school or anything, but I feel like I’ve leapfrogged where I was at that time by being in this family and in this culture here," Freeze said. "And I loved my time there (at Ole Miss), but I see this as one of the top 10 football programs in the nation. I believe that."

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin did not see Auburn that way. He turned down the Auburn job last week before the Freeze hiring.

And Bring On Alabama?

Freeze is also ready for the other program in Alabama.

"You don't take this job if you're not built for that," he said of playing Alabama and coach Nick Saban. "I want that. I really, really enjoy that type of game."

Freeze is the only current SEC coach with two wins over Saban, and he is the last coach anywhere to beat Saban back-to-back. That happened at Ole Miss in 2014 and '15.

"He and Miss Terry (Saban) have been really good friends to us, too," Freeze said. "But I hope they're a little bit nervous today."

Written by
Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests. A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention. Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.