It’s been exactly one year since Ian McCaw was hired as Liberty’s Athletic Director on November 28, 2016, and we spoke with him to recap his first year and look ahead to the athletic department’s future.
It’s been quite the year in Liberty Athletics since your hiring, from the FBS announcement to all the scheduling news and all the team and individual accomplishments, what are you most proud of that has been accomplished in the past 12 months?
Ian McCaw: We’ve had a number of team accomplishments over the past 12 months that have made Flames Nation proud including winning the Sasser Cup last spring. However, securing the NCAA waiver of the conference invitation requirement to move to FBS football was unprecedented and a game-changer for Liberty Athletics. This move will pay dividends for decades to come. With Mickey Guridy doing a terrific job in facilitating our future football scheduling, we are well on our way to making a successful transition to FBS.
What have you learned about Liberty University that you were unaware of when you took the job a year ago?
IM: Not every school receives the amount of student body support that we have at Liberty. I have been pleasantly surprised by the tremendous amount of passion that the students bring to our events. Building upon the level of student enthusiasm at football, basketball and all of our games will be vital to our future success.
What have you been most impressed with in regards to the Athletic Department at Liberty?
IM: We have a very capable and committed coaching, administrative and support staff who love the Lord and have a passion to positively influence our student-athletes.
Where are a couple of areas where you see the biggest room for improvement within the Athletic Department?
IM: We can get better in literally every area which is what excites me the most. We identified six objectives and over 140 action items in our strategic plan and have already made a lot of progress, but in so many ways, I feel as though we are just scratching the surface of our potential.
The football program had a lot of ups and downs in 2017 and is coming off its 3rd consecutive 6-5 season, what do we need to do to ensure a successful transition into FBS?
IM: The highlight of the 2017 season was our first ever win over an autonomy conference program at Baylor to start the season. This is a young football team that could return 18 of 22 starters and a number of key reserves, so that bodes well for the future. We have momentum heading into recruiting which is especially important this year with the new early signing period in December, and it is imperative that we put together the best class in program history as we build towards 85 scholarships. That being said, making the transition to FBS is a huge step and our entire staff needs to elevate their game.
Now that we have so many future football games and schedules announced, including all of 2018 and 2019, what is the plan to release future schedules going forward?
IM: We plan to announce the completed 2020 and 2021 schedules before the end of the year. We are getting close to completing 2022 and have many exciting games scheduled as far out as 2031.
Coach McKay is quietly building a very solid foundation for the men’s basketball program, what does that program need to focus on to become the next household name from the mid-major level like so many others have done (Gonzaga, VCU, Wichita State, George Mason, etc.)?
IM: Clearly, the program is on the rise and between the exhibition win at VCU and early season victory at Wake Forest there is a lot to be encouraged about. The successful mid-major basketball programs that you mentioned took some time to build and we are on a similar trajectory. The next critical steps for our program is to compete for conference championships and NCAA berths and continue to build the fan base to create a better home court advantage.
IM: As you know, our vision is to play FBS football as an independent, field hockey in the Big East, women’s swimming & diving in the CCSA and maintain the remaining 17 sports in the Big South. This will take us down a path similar to Notre Dame, BYU, and Army in football. Our remaining sports will be positioned to compete for conference championships and NCAA berths on a consistent basis. I am encouraged about the direction we are headed.
The athletic facilities on campus continue to go up left and right, how important are they to the continued development of the department?
IM: We are blessed with outstanding athletic facilities at Liberty and that commitment gives us an edge in the recruiting process. However, we still need to excel in developing our student-athletes academically, athletically, spiritually and socially to prepare them as young men and women. Most recently, the addition of the Liberty Athletics Center is a tremendous asset that will contribute in a powerful way toward this objective.
What is your message to Liberty fans, alumni, and supporters, that are so anxious for this Athletic Department to take the next leap?
IM: We are driven each and every day to improve Liberty Athletics and support the mission of this amazing university and President Falwell’s vision. Moreover, we are making progress every day. As we take the big step into FBS football, it is critical that everyone in Flames Nation rally behind the program and demonstrate to the college football community that this is a program that will become successful at the highest level. We were very pleased to have met the FBS attendance requirement of 15,000 fans per game this year despite playing a FCS schedule.