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Liberty on the lookout for FBS opening
First-year Liberty University football coach Turner Gill on Tuesday expressed confidence that the Flames’ desired shift from FCS to FBS will be accomplished in the next four years. LU has declared itself FBS-ready, and awaits an invitation from an FBS league, a requirement for FBS membership.
Asked about his message to recruits regarding the Flames’ potential move to college football’s top tier, Gill’s response included, “If you decide to come here within the next four years, then we will be FBS.”
Liberty athletics director Jeff Barber said of his coach’s projection, “I think that’s very likely.”
In May, LU announced its goal of FBS status. The Flames already are Division I in all 20 of their sports, but their football program belongs to the FCS, and plays in the Big South Conference.
Barber said leagues he thinks would be good fits for Liberty at this stage are Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, and the Sun Belt Conference.
LU continues communication with those conferences, according to Barber. He said he believes some leagues are “just kind of stopping (membership changes) for right now and saying, ‘OK, let’s kind of catch our breath before we move forward.’?”
The school, located in Lynchburg, was founded in 1971 and lists a residential enrollment of 12,500, and an online enrollment of 80,000. The FBS scholarship limit is 85. At FCS, the ceiling is 63. The Flames play home games at 19,200-seat Williams Stadium, and have expansion plans that could increase capacity to 30,000 by 2015.
Gill, a former star quarterback at Nebraska, rebuilt the University of Buffalo’s Mid-American Conference program before moving to Kansas. His Jayhawks went 5-19 in two seasons. Barber said LU probably would not have attracted Gill if the Flames planned to remain FCS.
“We have done all the things on paperwork. (It) has been OK’d by NCAA, by our administration, and really by our board of regents and everybody that’s involved. It’s all full-throttle and ready to go,” said Gill, whose team opens Saturday at Wake Forest.
“Once we get a conference to give us that opportunity, we’re going to jump on it and move forward.”
At LU, Gill succeeded Danny Rocco, who resigned after six seasons (47-20) as Flames’ coach to become the University of Richmond coach.
On May 17, Old Dominion announced it was joining the FBS and Conference USA for all sports, effective July 1, 2013. The Monarchs restarted football in 2009, and competed as an FCS independent for two seasons before becoming a member of CAA Football last season.
By: JOHN O’CONNOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch