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■ University Profile: LIBERTY UNIVERSITY


Editor’s Note: This is a continuing series profi ling Virginia’s colleges and universities.


at a glance Location


Lynchburg


Founded 1971


Campus: More than 7,000 acres


Over 6.6 million square feet of building space


385 buildings and structures 215 classrooms


Enrollment


Total enrollment more than 110,000


Military students more than 30,000


International students more than 900


housing and dining Tuition, fees,


$33,100 approximate annual undergraduate resident cost including tuition, mandatory fees, housing, and a meal plan (can be as high as $34,690 depending on the housing type and meal plan chosen)


95 percent of Liberty students receive some form of financial aid


Aiming high


Liberty University steps out onto the national stage to further its mission


by Heather B. Hayes W


hen it traveled to Texas in September to face the Baylor University Bears, Liberty


University’s football team was a 34-point underdog. Baylor has long pl ayed at the highest


level of college sports, making an appear- ance in the Cotton Bowl in 2015. The Liberty Flames, by contrast, have been longtime members of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) where it plays opponents such as Charleston South- ern, Gardner-Webb and Kennesaw State. That backstory, however, didn’t stop


the Flames from winning, 48-45. The upset is just one sign that Liberty believes it is ready to compete on the nation’s biggest stage. “It was a big moment to realize that we


can compete and win against an opponent of Baylor’s caliber because those are the types of teams that we’re going to be play- ing beginning next year,” says Ian McCaw, Baylor’s former athletic director who joined Liberty in the same position last year. Liberty has been preparing to take on


the likes of Baylor for some time. During the past decade, the university has been taking steps to move up to the elite Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), where teams like Ala- bama and Virginia Tech play before national television audiences. While waiting for NCAA approval,


On the Web www.liberty.edu


78 DECEMBER 2017


Liberty has moved forward as if FBS mem- bership was inevitable. In 2011, the school hired head coach Turner Gill, who previ-


ously led the Kansas Jayhawks, a member of the Big 12 Conference, Since 2007, Liberty also has spent


more than $200 million building and upgrading all of its athletic facilities, includ- ing a $29 million indoor football practice field and the 60,000-square-foot Liberty Athletics Center. Plans are gearing up to expand Williams Stadium from 19,200 seats to 25,000, while also adding new video boards, more restrooms, concession areas and better Wi-Fi for fans. “Football is really the economic engine


of an athletic program and such a big part of establishing a university’s brand,” McCaw says. “And being an FBS team just really elevates the profile of the football team, but also the entire university because it just makes us so much more visible in terms of national exposure.” In February, NCAA finally granted


Liberty’s request to compete as an FBS team, despite the fact that it has no confer- ence affiliation at that level. The team will play its first full season as an FBS indepen- dent in 2019. “This was not a new ambition for us,”


says Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty’s president who is the son of its founder, the late Jerry Falwell Sr. “It was all intended from the beginning.


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