Ever since moving to the FBS as an Independent beginning with the 2020 season, Liberty has seen tremendous success and has even garnered some national attention for that success. During that time, the Flames have won at least 8 games in each season and advanced to a bowl game each year.

Of course, all of that success in the prior four years happened under head coach Hugh Freeze who is now at Auburn. However, Liberty nabbed former Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell to lead the program into Conference USA and the program’s expectations have not relinquished.

“We are thankful for Liberty and them making the decision for wanting to be a part of this conference,” Chadwell said during CUSA Media Day on Tuesday. “We hope through our time that we can be a very productive team in this conference. Our goal and expectations are to compete for the championship every year and have a chance to be in the College Football Playoff.”

Despite having nearly 50% roster turnover since the end of the 2022 season, Liberty was picked by the media to finish second in the CUSA preseason media poll, only trailing Western Kentucky and the only team other than the Hilltoppers to receive a first place vote. Those expectations are credited to the success the Liberty football program has built as well as the Chadwell’s track record.

“When you add a Liberty and Jamey Chadwell, one of the hottest head coaches in all of Group of Five over the last 3-5 years, and now he’s the head coach at Liberty, a great football program,” Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie said.

Chadwell was 31-6 over the last three years at Coastal Carolina, helping the Chanticleers to be one of the best teams not only in the Sun Belt but at the G5 level. Chadwell and Coastal advanced to three straight bowl games and twice won the East Division of the Sun Belt and won the league title in 2020. Following the 2020 season, Chadwell was named the 2020 AP College Coach of the Year and they finished the season ranked No. 14 in the final AP and Coaches top 25 polls.

“It gives you some experience, obviously, to know what conference play is like and the grind of that,” Chadwell said of how that experience at Coastal can help him compete in the CUSA at Liberty. “I’ve shared with our team, multiple times, that being in a conference, everybody is playing for that opportunity there at the end. Every game is important and there’s no off-weeks.”

Chadwell has built a winner everywhere he’s been. Prior to his time at Coastal, he led Charleston Southern to two 10-win seasons in four years as a head coach, two Big South titles and two FCS Playoff appearances. Chadwell also went 20-6 over his final two seasons at North Greenville, advancing to the postseason in Division II in both seasons.

Now, he’s aiming to do that at Liberty, with plans to compete for a conference championship this fall.

“It’s very exciting,” Liberty offensive lineman X’Zauvea Gadlin said of competing for a championship. “It’s one of those things we get to talk about all the time. It was one of Coach Chadwell’s first points when he got here, was just the opportunity to play for a conference championship and what that means. Before it was like let’s get 6 wins and go to a bowl game so that can be our championship. Now, it just means a little bit more when you are fighting for a conference championship, especially in the position we are in – first year being in an FBS conference. That is big for school history, that is big for our legacy as a team, as a players. The understanding of that opportunity makes it that much more valuable and makes it mean that much more.”

Liberty’s quest for a CUSA title begins on September 2 when the Flames open the 2023 season at home against Bowling Green in a non-conference contest. The following week, on September 9, Liberty plays in its first ever CUSA game against New Mexico State. The Flames travel to Bowling Green, Kentucky to take on the preseason favorite Western Kentucky on October 24. The top two teams in CUSA at the end of the regular season will meet in the conference title game played on the home field of the first place team.

Coach Chadwell has preached to his team since he was hired in December the importance of being prepared to play each and every week during the season as every game is as important as the next, especially in the eight conference games. That is something Chadwell and his staff will continue to reference throughout the season, as well.

Next year, the College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams with the six highest ranked conference champions getting an automatic bid. Liberty and Chadwell hope that the Flames are able to be one of those teams in the coming years. To do that, both Liberty and Conference USA must continue to build to become players on the national landscape.

“I do believe this conference, the teams, the coaches, the players in this league, I think this conference is on the cusp of something extraordinary,” said Chadwell. “We have added some really, really good teams with some good coaches. We are excited about being a part of that and helping to build the legacy of Conference USA going forward.”