Does the fall of Freeze mark the end of 'Christian coaches'?
The response was obvious. Calls of hypocrisy. Constant references to his frequent Bible citations and holier than thou persona.
When a public figure known as an outspoken Christian has a public scandal that leads to his fall, the public response is not surprising.
For example, from Dennis Dodd’s piece:
On that note, scores of coaches across the country smiled. They were sick of Freeze’s self-righteous Bible-thumping. They were also sick of his recruiting methods.
Our editorial team had an internal debate on how central the faith of the coach was to the story about his misconduct and resignation. Opinions differed.
I leaned toward making it less of a focal point of the story. But those with the other opinion aren’t wrong. Dennis Dodd isn’t wrong for including that anecdote in his story.
Freeze made his faith very much a part of his public persona. It’s been some time since Freeze went from a Christian man who coaches football to simply a Christian coach. And that’s perhaps the problem.
Coaching football isn’t a Christian endeavor or a non-Christian endeavor. It’s an occupation.
One’s faith shapes and guides the character of the man behind the occupation whether it’s a constant element in press conferences and recruiting pitches or not.
Does a man’s faith overlap into his occupation? Into his coaching? Of course. Just as a man’s character will be revealed in many areas of one’s life. How does a coach treat people when the cameras are on and the cameras are off? How does he handle success and failure? And no, yelling at players doesn’t make the coach ineligible for the Christian club.
But when a man’s faith is more central to his publicly crafted image or marketing approach than his core being, it can be dangerous territory.
I don’t know Hugh Freeze, so it’s ridiculous for me to say with any certainty whether Freeze’s Christianity was all marketing or if he is just very open about his very real faith that guides him. But I can say that public figures who are very publicly Christian should be the ones exercising the most caution, the most discipline and the most awareness regarding the public’s response to any lapse in judgement. Especially ones involving escort services.
Freeze hasn’t been the only outspoken Christian in college football coaching. Mark Richt and Dabo Swinney are not shy about speaking about their faith.
And of course when sports fans think of outspoken Christians in sports, Tim Tebow is often the first name mentioned. I’m a big fan of Tebow. I think he’s an incredible athlete, and his regular service and charitable acts to various communities and groups are obviously admirable.
But Tebow’s public persona, like Freeze’s, is certainly tightly integrated with his very public faith. That’s not a criticism of Tebow. If anything, it’s a call to Tebow to wisdom and caution.
Like those in the media and on social media ready to pounce on Freeze’s hypocrisy, many are rooting for a similar fall from Tebow.
To fans and media, I’d encourage resisting the need to pile on when it comes to Freeze’s hypocrisy. Of course he’s a hypocrite. Frankly, we all are. Freeze is just a very public one.
He’s also a man. A man who made some mistakes like many people do. Fortunately for most of us, our mistakes don’t get broadcasted to the world and mocked via memes on social media.
Rather than pile on, consider taking the route of empathy. Freeze is a man who is suffering the consequences of his actions. His tenure at Ole Miss has ended, and rightfully so. Empathy doesn’t replace consequences.
He’s lost his dream job, and he’s likely battling for his family. I hope that if Freeze’s faith is central and core to his life that it will serve him well during this time.