Liberty coach Hugh Freeze will decide Saturday in consultation with his doctors whether he will be able to make the trip to Louisiana, but he told ESPN on Friday that Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. has already purchased a state-of-the-art examination chair and shipped it to the stadium in Lafayette.
“I won’t know until sometime tomorrow afternoon, and if I’m having those same [back] spasms, I won’t go and don’t need to go,” Freeze told ESPN. “But I want to do everything I can to be there for my team and for this university that’s been so good to me.”
Freeze coached Liberty’s season opener last week, a 28-0 loss to Syracuse, from a hospital bed that was crammed into a radio/TV booth in the press box at Liberty’s Arthur L. Williams Stadium.
“They’re setting the chair up as we speak [in the press box coaches’ booth at Louisiana’s Cajun Field], and it’s one of those examination chairs that you can tilt or raise any way you want,” Freeze said Friday morning. “I was able to sit with my staff for three hours [Thursday] and felt good. I was also able to walk some with my walker. After sitting for three hours, was my back a little tighter? Yes, but I haven’t had a single spasm for four days.”
The MediLuxe MD4-2000 Deluxe Treatment Chair that Falwell purchased weighs 600 pounds and retails for more than $5,000. Freeze said Liberty would bring the chair back on the equipment truck in case he needs to use it for future home games.
If Freeze is cleared to make the trip, he would fly by private plane to Lafayette, and the plan is to get him to the stadium about an hour before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“I’m ready to call this game, a lot more so than I was last week. I wasn’t much help [against Syracuse] and was trying to call it off of the TV monitor more than anything, and we just couldn’t block their defensive ends,” Freeze said. “I go back to everything Liberty has done for me, and I want to do everything I can to give back.”
Freeze, who has struggled with lower-back issues for years, underwent surgery Aug. 16 at the University of Virginia Medical Center after a potentially life-threatening strand of staph infection entered his bloodstream and complicated what was already severe pain he was experiencing from a herniated disc.
Initially, he was confined to a hospital bed in a hotel suite and watching practice via a web camera. He was able to move to a wheelchair a few days ago and was outside walking with a walker by Friday morning.
“I got to sleep at home [Thursday] night for the first time in 28 days, and that was a blessing,” Freeze said. “So I’m getting better, but still don’t want to do anything that will set me back. That’s why I will wait and make a call [Saturday].”
Freeze said Louisiana coach Billy Napier and UL school officials have been especially helpful.
“Billy called me and was awesome. They all deserve a lot of credit for trying to make this happen and have been very kind,” Freeze said.
Similar to what he said a week ago after photos of him coaching from a hospital bed went viral, Freeze understands that some have accused him of trying to draw attention to himself and have made jokes about the situation.
“It’s hard for all of us, but I’ve learned not to care about other people’s opinions,” Freeze said. “I just want to do right by Liberty University.”