It doesn’t take a college football analyst’s input to notice the obvious contrast in playing style between Liberty and Army football.
In fact, it’s difficult to find more than a handful of teams with an offense remotely similar to Army’s triple-option flexbone. The flexbone; which was made popular by Army, Navy, and Air Force; relies on a strong running game and a series of confusing formations that have a history of propelling undersized teams to unprecedented success. Last year, Army won ten games en route to an Armed Forces Bowl victory over West Coast stalwart San Diego State.
Liberty’s up-tempo, pass-heavy air assault isn’t remotely similar to the ground scheme utilized by the Black Knights. Off the football field, however, Liberty and Army have more in common than most think.
It would be a mistake to say West Point isn’t a football school. It’s essentially common knowledge, however, that the United States Military Academy’s chief priority is not building a football powerhouse. West Point’s mission statement is, “To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.”
It’s also common knowledge that Liberty University is not a military school. Outside of ROTC; students do not march in formation, chant cadences, or don mandatory crew cuts. There is a dress code; but absent wearing jeans or khakis to class, a strict curfew, and convocations; Liberty students are (for the most part) able to spend their free time as they please.
Liberty University, however, goes above and beyond most schools when it comes to enrolling, employing, and serving the US Military. In addition to an annual Military Emphasis Week and a faculty stocked with service members, the University provides handsome accommodations to active and retired members of the Armed Forces: such as scholarships, a veterans center, and counselors for military students.
In 2016, Liberty became Virginia’s first Purple Heart University. The classification is given by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to recognize a city, town, or school’s dedication to honoring military veterans. Purple Heart signs can be spotted throughout campus, as can Purple Heart Parking spaces: appropriately painted areas available to Purple Heart recipients.
“After all the veterans have sacrificed for our country, we’re just so honored that they would express their gratitude to us in return,” University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said upon the University’s 2016 designation. Falwell also noted that service members compose over 30% of Liberty’s student body, which is equivalent to roughly 30,000 students.
The late Jerry Falwell Sr.’s University is not a military school, and it certainly isn’t West Point. Army and LU’s football teams don’t have much in common, and Flames Quarterback Stephen Calvert’s beard would be a no-go if he led Army’s offense. The name of the University formerly known as Lynchburg Baptist College, however, is fitting for an institution that prides itself in an unwavering support for the Armed Forces.