Liberty University, the nation's largest Christian school, wants an invitation to move up to the highest level of college football.
University administrators have spent millions of dollars building a football program intended to compete within the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A. The school hopes to imitatethe bump Catholics have enjoyed from Notre Dame, which will play in this year's national championship game on Jan. 7.
Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor and president of Liberty, says he has a responsibility to donors and alumni to build a top-notch football program. The Liberty Flames have won five Big South titles in the past six years. They joined the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, in 2002. To join the Football Bowl Subdivision, schools must commit to fund 85 sports scholarships — a jump from the 63 required by the Football Championship Subdivision — and average home attendance of 15,000 for two years. They must also increase travel and recruitment budgets. After that, an individual conference, such as the Big 10 or PAC-12, must invite a school to join. Games at the Football Bowl level bring in significantly more money for their teams than games at the Football Championship level.
"This investment will pay dividends for generations because it will shine a light on our core mission to train champions for Christ like nothing else can," Falwell said. "We see top-tier college athletics as a mission field."
Pursuit of a national-level football team, which would give the school greater visibility to spread its faith-based message and mission, is just part of Liberty's pursuit of growth and name recognition, Falwell said. ...