Liberty University Embarks on a New Journey as a Member of Conference USA

A new chapter dawns for Liberty University as it enters into a partnership with Conference USA, marking a significant milestone for the institution’s athletic department. The official commencement of this alliance on July 1 aligns with the impending 2023-24 athletic season, heralding a fresh era of sporting challenges and opportunities for the Flames.

Liberty will be one of four fresh faces in the now nine-member league, integrating alongside fellow FBS Independent New Mexico State, and transitioning FCS teams Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State, all set to be formally welcomed into the league on July 1.

These four additions will join current CUSA members Western Kentucky, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, and UTEP. Dallas Baptist, a renowned baseball powerhouse, resides as an affiliate member in that sport. Looking ahead, Kennesaw State will defect from the ASUN and FCS to join CUSA as the 10th all-sports member commencing with the 2024-25 athletic season.

The path to Conference USA has been an arduous one for the Flames. For an extended period, Liberty sought a conference at the FBS level to call home. Despite numerous attempts, the university was repeatedly overlooked in favor of other institutions in the pursuit to partake in football at the highest level.

Following multiple endeavors to court CUSA, the Sun Belt, and other FBS leagues, Liberty remained in the FCS, competing within the Big South. It wasn’t until February 2017 that the NCAA granted a waiver allowing Liberty to transition to the FBS without a conference invitation.

Over the past four football seasons, Liberty has navigated a successful transition to the FBS as an Independent entity. The Flames have notched appearances in four consecutive bowl games, clinching victories in three of them, and on two separate occasions secured rankings in the top 25 polls. Throughout this period, Liberty clinched at least 8 football victories each year.

Under the stewardship of new head football coach Jamey Chadwell, the Flames are preparing to make a significant impact upon entering Conference USA, aspiring to leave an indelible mark within the new league and on a national scale.

Liberty Athletic Director Ian McCaw spoke of his high expectations for the Flames in their new conference home, emphasizing a commitment to compete for championships across all programs, setting lofty goals for football, including vying for a conference championship and aiming to position the team as the highest-ranked Group of Five entry with access to the College Football Playoff come 2024.

Transitioning to Conference USA represents a significant leap for several sports departing from the ASUN. Despite the magnitude of this move, the Flames have diligently prepared for this transition, ensuring that all sports are well-positioned to flourish within the new league.

McCaw highlighted, “Over the past year, we have conducted Conference USA preparedness sessions with all our sports to effectively acclimate and cover all facets, from recruiting and travel to competitive strategies. I firmly believe we are well-prepared for this transition. It signifies a heightened level of competition, and we are eagerly poised for this new chapter.”

Conference USA will facilitate unparalleled exposure for Liberty, an opportunity that the institution has never experienced. The league recently announced a comprehensive, multi-year partnership with CBS Sports and ESPN, with CBS Sports Network having Tier One selection status for 18 CUSA football games and 18 CUSA men’s basketball games annually, further televising the football championship, men’s basketball semifinal and championship, the women’s basketball championship, and baseball and softball championship games.

Moreover, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU will also broadcast several football and men’s basketball games during this collaboration.

McCaw expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “The television exposure is momentous, unlike anything we have encountered before, with eight televised football games. Our television partners, ESPN and CBS Sports, will provide exposure of an unprecedented scale for our programs. We are eagerly anticipating this. It presents a genuine opportunity to elevate the Liberty brand on a national stage. I believe these developments are incredibly exciting, and we look forward to July 1st.”

Liberty will inaugurate its football journey within CUSA during the second week of the upcoming 2023 season, welcoming New Mexico State to Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia on September 9. The Flames will also engage in four midweek games throughout October against CUSA teams, including two home fixtures – October 5 versus Sam Houston and October 17 versus Middle Tennessee.

The football calendar comprises eight conference games this year, with the arrival of Kennesaw State for the 2024 season maintaining the eight-game league schedule, leaving one CUSA team off the Flames’ roster each season.

Aside from the athletic prospects, the move to Conference USA is anticipated to foster the establishment of enduring rivalries for Liberty and allow the program to solidify its presence at the FBS level.

McCaw noted, “Our teams are eagerly anticipating the development of rivalries within Conference USA and exploring new destinations. This presents an opportunity to penetrate markets and states that were previously beyond our reach. Venturing into Texas is particularly appealing for us.”

July 1 signifies the genesis of a new era for Liberty Athletics, propelling the program into uncharted territories, full of opportunities for advancement.

McCaw expressed his confidence, saying, “We possess a strong mission-focused culture, receive unwavering support from the University, boast exceptional personnel, facilities, and resources, and consistently excel in developing our student-athletes. When you amalgamate these strengths, as is the case with us, it sets the stage for considerable success. I firmly believe our future is exceptionally promising. Our best years are undoubtedly ahead of us.”

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