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Liberty Coach Hugh Freeze Hospitalized, Recovering From Life-Threatening Staph Infection

A closeup of Hugh Freeze wearing an Ole Miss visor.

OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 01: Head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels reacts during the second half of a game against the Memphis Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Just weeks before his return to coaching, Liberty's Hugh Freeze nearly found himself fighting for his life. The former Ole Miss coach was hospitalized with severe back pain, and wound up battling a staph infection.

Freeze, who says he's been plagued by back pain, called an ambulance once it got so bad that he couldn't walk up stairs. He has a herniated disk, but that was only the beginning of his issues.

Doctors discovered that Freeze had a strain of staph infection in his bloodstream, which was about a day from becoming a seriously life-threatening situation. He remains hospitalized, two weeks before the Flames' season opener.

He spoke to ESPN's Chris Low about the experience:

"The doctors told me if it had been another 24 hours, that strand of bacteria could have gotten to my heart and that I would have been fighting for my life," Freeze told ESPN. "It's the way God works because there's no doubt that bacteria would have killed me if President Falwell wasn't so quick to make sure we got the right people involved."

Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty's president, contacted Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate and current U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development. Carson, a famous neurosurgeon, contacted Liberty professor Anthony Nobles, and the team elected to move Freeze to UVA Medical Center.

Dr. Dilan Ellegala, an esteemed neurosurgeon was flown in from Arizona to conduct the operation, and now Freeze is on the mend. He may have to coach from a cart once he returns to practice, and per the article, will likely coach from the booth when the Flames host No. 22 Syracuse on Saturday, August 31. For now, he remains hospitalized to underdog additional tests.

Hugh Freeze enters his first year at Liberty after a two-year hiatus from coaching. He was one of the top coaches in the SEC, with multiple wins over Nick Saban and Alabama while at Ole Miss, but resigned when it was discovered that he had been calling a phone number linked to a Florida escort service while on recruiting trips. Ole Miss was being investigated for separate violations by the NCAA at the time, which resulted in sanctions, probation, and a two season bowl ban in 2017.

In separate circumstances, his hiring would have been viewed as a coup for a rising, new FBS program like Liberty. Instead, it brought serious criticism, given Freeze's background and the controversy surrounding Falwell and the university, as well as athletic director Ian McCaw, who took over the department after being ousted by Baylor over the Bears football program's sexual assault scandal.