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New Auburn Coach Apologizes for Social Media Activity

December 1, 2022

The freshly hired Auburn University football coach is mere days into his job, but he’s already issued an apology amid outrage over his previous Twitter use at Liberty University.

While employed at Liberty, Hugh Freeze messaged former student Chelsea Andrews on three different occasions while she was actively engaged in litigation against the university for what she said was a failure to appropriately address issues of sexual assault. Liberty would later settle with multiple women who brought claims against the university related to how it had handled sexual assault cases. (The Department of Education has since opened a related investigation into Liberty University.)

Freeze on Twitter defended Ian McCaw, the athletic director at Liberty who resigned from Baylor University in 2016 in the wake of a major sexual assault scandal related to the football team. Freeze defended McCaw in direct messages to Andrews, who was critical of the athletic director. Freeze’s interaction with Andrews drew little attention at the time but prompted questions and criticism when Auburn announced his hiring this week.

“I learned from this situation that I should totally understand other people’s circumstances first before communicating or commenting on someone’s situation. It was an inadvertent misstep with no ill intent, and I am sorry,” Freeze told ESPN.

Freeze was hired at Liberty in 2019 after resigning from the University of Mississippi in 2017 amid a scandal that involved academic and recruiting violations. Freeze had also used his university-provided cellphone to call escort services, which was uncovered in a lawsuit when Ole Miss was sued for blaming violations under his leadership on his predecessor.

Auburn has stated that Freeze was thoroughly vetted before he was hired. The university told Inside Higher Ed that it is unwilling to discuss Freeze’s use of social media and has denied initial reports that he was required to relinquish his Twitter account as a condition of employment. Beyond his contact with Andrews, Freeze has been known to randomly message online critics throughout his career.

“The university is not going to address any individual’s social media posts or communications with the media. Athletics Director John Cohen and his staff fully vetted Coach Freeze’s personal and professional history to ensure that they were making this decision based on facts. Their diligence involved a detailed review of documents and probing conversations with dozens of men and women who have actual and direct knowledge of Coach Freeze’s past and were able to add incredible value to this decision,” an Auburn spokesperson said in a statement.

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