We’re approaching New Year’s and everyone is putting together their best of lists to recap 2021. We’re going to do this a little bit differently this year as we look back at the year that was in Flames Athletics based upon some of our favorite and top stories from the prior 12 months. We’ll do this month by month so we can relive these moments as they happened.
Following the conclusion of the 2020 collegiate football season in January, the best in Liberty’s history, the Flames finished the year ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. It’s the only time Liberty has finished the year ranked in the final FBS top 25 poll, and, obviously, the highest ranking in program history.
Amid the COVID pandemic, the NCAA ruled that the 2020 football season would not count against players’ eligibility. It had college teams around the country waiting to see if their seniors would elect to return for an additional year of eligibility. We followed the news with our Liberty football attrition tracker and ultimately found out that 16 super seniors would return for the Flames in 2021.
We got our first sniff of what would be a crazy year in conference realignment in January when the news of Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, and Jacksonville State joining the ASUN broke.
With COVID continuing to be an issue, the ASUN elected to have its entire conference tournament held in Jacksonville at North Florida and Jacksonville
Liberty wide receiver CJ Yarbrough opted out of spring practice and would eventually decide not to play in the 2021 season.
Liberty won its third consecutive ASUN Conference Tournament championship, as well as winning the regular season for a third straight season. Darius McGhee won the ASUN Player of the Year, Elijah Cuffee was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Ritchie McKay was the Coach of the Year.
With a very strong football and men’s basketball season, Liberty was ranked among the nation’s best in the annual Hoops & Helmets ranking.
Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw discussed possible Williams Stadium expansion. Meanwhile, Bruce Feldman wrote an article for the Athletic on Malik Willis that really set the hype for the Liberty quarterback in motion.
Liberty picked up a late commitment for the 2021 season in Prairie View A&M grad transfer Storey Jackson.
The 2022 football class got heated up with a number of commitments in June to open the class.
August was a fairly quiet month for Liberty as the Flames prepared for the 2021 football season to begin.
The football season begins. The Flames would open the season with a few wins before dropping a heartbreaker at Syracuse.
Following a tough start to the year, Liberty kicker Alex Barbir left the team.
The Flames picked up a big win over UAB to spoil the Blazers’ new stadium opening.
George Washington III takes an official visit to Liberty, one of the highest rated recruits to ever visit the program with him rated top 25 nationally. He would ultimately commit to Ohio State.
Liberty field hockey made a run to the NCAA National Championship, the first Liberty athletic team to reach a final four or national championship game. The Lady Flames would fall to Northwestern in the title game.
Liberty picks up a commitment from Utah and Baylor transfer quarterback Charlie Brewer. His commitment, as well as the addition of Hawaii transfer RB Dae Dae Hunter, launch the Flames into the early football signing period.
The Flames win a third straight bowl game, dismantling Eastern Michigan to win the 2021 Lending Tree Bowl.
Darius McGhee is named the Diamond Head Classic MVP. He scored over 20 points in all three games, highlighted by his 41 points against Stanford, tied for the most points by a Liberty player at the Division I era.