Saturday the Flames will begin an unusual season in an unusual situation. Liberty begins its two season FBS transition with a no man’s land type of 2017. Not only will LU be ineligible for the FCS Playoffs, they will be ineligible for the oft shared Big South title this season as well. Coach Gill’s program will have more scholarship players than their FCS opponents, yet not as many as their opening week Power 5 opponent in Baylor.
That briefly covers this unusual season, and brings us to the unusual situation. The Baylor Bears are an inevitable comparison point for Liberty athletics, and Liberty University as a whole. The nation’s largest Baptist institution has seen strong growth in recent years, and a rapid rise in athletic success under then Athletic Director Ian McCaw. On the surface, it would appear that Baylor is everything Liberty University hopes to become. However, the school has been rocked by numerous sexual assault scandals (including multiple incidents of gang rape), and has become somewhat of a cautionary tale in how athletic ambition can go wrong. Fast forward to 2017, and Ian McCaw is now Liberty University’s Athletic Director. The Flames are transitioning to FBS, have a planned stadium expansion, and the University continues to see rapid growth.
The fact that Liberty and Baylor are squaring off on the football field to begin the season may be coincidental, but don’t expect the irony to be lost on the national media this weekend.
While the McCaw hire brought, and continues to bring, plenty of criticism from the overwhelmingly leftist sports media, he has done everything right in Lynchburg thus far. His name was recently removed from one of the Baylor law suits, and by all accounts is an exemplary leader for Liberty’s growing athletic department. Still, it is important that Liberty chart a new path forward, and not follow Baylor’s example of how to succeed in big-time college athletics.
A university, whether Christian or secular, should be about standards. The faculty should meet a standard. The coaching staffs should meet a standard. The student body should meet a standard. Students should meet an academic standard, as well as a standard of moral character. By all accounts, the student athletes at Baylor over the past decade have not been held to the standard that the rest of the student body is held to. Young men that have no place on the campus of any academic institution, let alone a Christian one, were given a place of privilege in Waco that led to tragedy.
If fielding a top-25 program requires bringing in violent criminals with zero respect for our Christian values and culture, we would be better off going 0-12 every season. It is the responsibility of every coach and administrator at a school to ensure that the student athletes brought to campus do not threaten the safety of other students. That really should be a pretty low bar, especially at a Christian institution.
With that, I beg of Chancellor Falwell, Athletic Director McCaw, Coach Gill, and every Coach at Liberty University: do not follow Baylor’s path. Winning cannot come at the expense of our daughters’ safety and our University’s integrity. The late Doctor Falwell once told students to burn his school to the ground if it ever turns away from its mission. Even if the Flames never win another football game, let’s have a team of young Champions for Christ that we all can be proud of. It can, and I believe will be done. Liberty is not another Baylor. Liberty must chart a new path forward, one that honors Christ’s standard.