Liberty University extends contract of football coach Hugh Freeze through 2026

Hugh Freeze, who has steered Liberty's football team to the best start in program history this season, has agreed to a new deal through 2026, the school announced Wednesday.

Financial details were not announced, but sources told ESPN that the deal would place Freeze among the top 5 highest-paid non-Power 5 head coaches in college football -- which would mean his average salary would be $3 million-plus per year.

"All aspects of our program are on the rise under Hugh's leadership, and we are putting the infrastructure in place to make this one of the top Group of 5 programs in the country," Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw told ESPN on Wednesday.

This is Freeze's second season at Liberty, a private institution that has won nine straight games dating back to last season, most recently a 38-35 victory on the road against Virginia Tech on Saturday.

"That was without question the biggest win in the history of our school," said McCaw, who added that the two sides had been working on an extension for several weeks.

The Flames (7-0) are ranked No. 22 in the latest Associated Press poll in just their second full season at the FBS level after being a provisional program in 2018. They own two wins over ACC opponents after defeating Syracuse 38-21 on the road earlier in the year and face a third ACC foe on Nov. 21 when they travel to NC State.

Liberty closes out the regular season with a game at unbeaten and No. 15-ranked Coastal Carolina on Dec. 5.

Freeze, one of the top offensive minds in the college game, has also been mentioned in connection with the Southern Miss head-coaching vacancy. He talked to Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee about various coordinator/assistant roles two years ago before taking the Liberty job.

"I am thankful for the strong commitment and support from President [Jerry] Prevo and our leadership and look forward to continuing to build this program," Freeze said in a statement. "Our family along with the coaching staff, support personnel and players are grateful to have the opportunity to represent this University."

Liberty is tied for 19th nationally in scoring offense this season and averaging 39 points per game. Quarterback Malik Willis, in his first season after transferring from Auburn, is ranked 14th nationally in total offense. He's averaging 323.7 yards per game and has accounted for 19 touchdowns.

Freeze was also given a contract extension by Liberty last December. At the time, he expressed his gratitude to the Liberty fans, players and administration after crippling back problems kept him away from preseason practice. He coached the first few games from a hospital bed and then a dental examination chair in the press box.

In August of last year, Freeze underwent surgery after a potentially life-threatening strand of staph infection entered his bloodstream and complicated severe pain he was already experiencing from a herniated disk in his back.

Freeze, 51, was out of coaching for two years after resigning at Ole Miss before the 2017 season when school officials found what they called a pattern of improper calls on Freeze's university-issued cellphone. Freeze won nine games in 2014 and 10 games in 2015 at Ole Miss and beat Alabama both seasons. The Rebels won the Sugar Bowl to cap the 2015 season, but Ole Miss was hit with severe NCAA sanctions, including a two-year bowl ban, that occurred on Freeze's watch. Freeze was cited by the NCAA for failure to monitor his staff.