If you’ve paid attention to what the Liberty administration and coaching staffs have been saying over the past year, particularly since the announced move to FBS as an Independent, you have repeatedly heard references to building the Liberty brand. We’ve heard it when discussing football scheduling. We’ve heard it when referring to the Baylor win. We’ve heard it when coaches have discussed recruiting philosophies. Switching from the Big South to the ASUN in all sports except football will allow the Liberty brand to continue to strengthen.
“Having year-round brand identity, particularly in Florida and Georgia, certainly will help all of our coaches,” Liberty Athletic Director Ian McCaw said of the move. “That’s one of the things I know (our coaches) are very excited about, having the opportunity to have a consistent presence there. I think it’s really going to help our recruiting efforts both athletically as well as institutionally.”
Liberty’s new home resides in six states and features eight of the top-80 media markets in the nation. “The fact that we’re in the Atlanta market, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Nashville, Stetson splits Daytona Beach and Orlando, and Florida is such a growing, wealthy area for whatever you’re looking for,” ASUN Conference Commissioner Ted Gumbart said. “We’ve got those assets that our universities want to capitalize on. If you want to stay close to home, then the ASUN, that’s not what we bring. But if you want to expand your programs, recruit broader, and advertise your brand broader, then we have a lot to bring.”
Going from the Big South, which is a compact league in just 3 mid-Atlantic states, to the ASUN, which covers most of the Southeast and even the New York City market, will help expand the Liberty brand exponentially. In the move, Liberty will bring 17 sports to the ASUN, with swimming & diving and field hockey remaining in their respective conferences as the ASUN doesn’t offer them. Obviously, football will also remain an FBS Independent, but this move should also enhance Liberty’s football brand, as well. Under Coach Gill, Liberty has made recruiting Florida and Georgia a focus, and this move should help make the Flames more of a household name in those markets.
“If anyone thinks Liberty can’t survive as an Independent just watch them, it’s going to work,” Gumbart stated. “Don’t underestimate Liberty. We’re able to be a supporter of their Independent nature in football, and we think it’s an asset. Too bad we couldn’t brag on that Baylor win and say, ‘hey, that’s our ASUN team.'”
Liberty has large alumni bases in each of the ASUN markets, including 14,000 in Atlanta and approximately 12,000 in the Newark, New Jersey market. As we mentioned Thursday, Liberty has always aspired to be a national brand, this move will help deliver that brand to more and larger markets.
“We’ve got a geographic arm that stretches a little bit longer than some because of our mission,” men’s basketball coach Ritchie McKay said when discussing the impact of the conference switch.
Florida International, Central Florida, Florida Atlantic, and Troy are all former ASUN members who have jumped directly from the ASUN to an FBS conference home. Georgia Southern, Georgia State, and UTSA are also former ASUN members that found their way to FBS conferences as well.
“(This move) is beneficial for our student athletes,” McCaw said. “They’re going to get to travel to some really exciting places. The timing was right for us, as we’re moving into FBS football, to align that move with the transition to the ASUN, and, really, it’s all about elevating our athletic program. We think this move is going to improve the quality of our athletic teams across the board.”