(STATS) – Let there be Liberty on the FBS level.
Liberty received notification from the NCAA on Thursday that its football program has been approved for reclassification to the FBS, beginning with the 2017-18 academic year.
The Flames will play their final FCS season as a Big South Conference member this year, but won’t be eligible for the championship or a FCS playoff berth. It will then compete as a FBS independent in 2018 and be bowl eligible in 2019.
Although it had yet to receive an invitation to join a FBS conference, the private, nonprofit Christian university located in Lynchburg, Virginia, submitted a waiver to the NCAA last month requesting relief to enter in the two-year FBS reclassification process. An NCAA academic and membership affairs staff determined Liberty was ready for the move following feedback from the NCAA Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee, the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and the NCAA office of legal affairs.
“Today is truly historic for Liberty University,” school president Jerry Falwell said. “This university aspired to compete at the highest levels of NCAA competition and began working toward that dream and vision from the day of its founding in 1971. We are deeply grateful to NCAA leadership and staff for considering this request and for acknowledging Liberty’s readiness and the appropriateness of Liberty now moving to FBS football status as an independent.”
Liberty has won eight Big South championships in the last 10 seasons, including a share of the 2016 title under coach Turner Gill. The Flames appeared in the FCS playoffs for the first time in 2014 and advanced to the second round.
Liberty’s departure will have the Big South restructuring again. It will remain at six members when Campbell joins Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, Kennesaw State, Monmouth and Presbyterian in 2018. North Alabama will reclassify from the Division II level and join in 2019.