I remember the first time I thought I had “made it”. My friends and I were musicians, had just graduated from Liberty, and we had signed a record deal with a fairly big record label. I also remember the conversation with the record executive on the phone that day. “The hard work is just beginning” he said. “You have to get out there and bust your tails now to make this all happen.” He was right. I hadn’t made it. I had just made it to the next step. I wouldn’t ever really “make it”, but that was just me.
Liberty athletics, and more specifically Liberty football took that next step yesterday. Realizing a vision more than forty years in the making is no small feat, especially in these circumstances. Winning the right from the NCAA to move LU to the Football Bowl Subdivision is a historic moment for Liberty University, and Dr. Falwell would absolutely be proud. However, this is just the beginning of a very long road. A road many of us will feel we are lost on at times. Stop. Have vision beyond a few years. Have faith. This HAD to happen for this program to go where we all want it to.
The waves of conference realignment were exciting and frustrating. Hopeful and hopeless. When it became obvious last spring that a conference invitation just wasn’t coming, Liberty had one option, and one option only, to move this program forward. The reasons that invitation never came can be debated. I have written about that before, and my view really hasn’t changed. A combination of religious and political bigotry stood in our path. Still, our leadership charted forward. Whatever your views on that leadership, the folks that run our university should be both thanked and commended for getting Liberty University across the barrier to FBS.
The move to FBS Independent status will bring a new level of football to Williams Stadium. It will also position Liberty in the best possible place when the inevitable shifting of conference realignment starts again down the road. What looks better to a league like the American Athletic Conference or Conference USA? An FCS move-up program, or a school that has a track record of competing in FBS, on their own for several years?
There will no doubt be growing pains and struggles along the way. But since when has anything been easy for this school? It’s been an uphill battle, against the odds, since the day Doc opened the doors. Kids were going to class in tents. People have told us we couldn’t make it since day one. Look at what that faith and vision has created. Look at what it IS creating. It is an exciting time to be a Liberty fan, but we haven’t made it yet. This is just another step, but an enormous one. If you see Jerry Falwell Jr. around, if you see Ian McCaw around, tell them thank you for betting on Liberty and rolling the dice. There’s a lot of hard work ahead, and we as fans are all a part of it.