WP: At Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr. bets on big-time football, with a disgraced coach

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Lauren Wood, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal via AP

Hugh Freeze speaks to Ole Miss alumni gathered during the Rebel Roadshow as Chancellor Jeff Vitter, left, and Athletic Director Ross Bjork, right, sit nearby, April 26, 2017, in Tupelo,

As head coach at Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze defeated giants – knocking off Alabama twice – and led the football team to its first Sugar Bowl in 46 years. Then, in the midst of an NCAA investigation in 2017 Freeze resigned, but as sports columnist Rick Cleveland reported, the offensive minded coach made it clear that he wanted to coach college football again.

Now that he’s getting that opportunity at Liberty University, Kent Babb of the Washington Post offers a look at the university’s bet on Freeze and football:

 — On occasion Liberty University will invite members of out-of-state churches to speak at its convocation, and in January 2018, a man from Mississippi stood and stepped forward.

“I’m humbled,” he said early in remarks to a packed arena that held more than 8,000 students, staffers and administrators, “and certainly unworthy.”

… Freeze was as damaged as he was accomplished, perfect for a place expanding as rapidly as Liberty, where resources outpace need. The Flames didn’t need a football coach at the time, but the controversial university president increasingly saw opportunity in flawed but dynamic personalities — especially when they helped advance his expansive vision for the school. …

… If Jerry Falwell Sr., the evangelist who founded the school, once said he wanted to play Notre Dame, his industrialist and provocateur son wants Liberty to be Notre Dame. Not Central Florida or Boise State, outposts that punch above their weights in college football, but a bona fide heavyweight on the level of Alabama and Southern Cal.

Read the Washington Post’s complete article here.