Liberty Flames and Lady Flames
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The Liberty Flames and Lady Flames are the athletics teams of Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia, United States. They are a member of the NCAA Division I level in 20 sports. LU is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference for most sports. Two sports that are not sponsored by the Big South are housed elsewhere. Women's swimming competes in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association. The field hockey team was a member of the Northern Pacific Field Hockey Conference before that league's demise after the 2014 season. After playing the 2015 season as an independent, the team joined the Big East Conference in 2016. In football, Liberty participates in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision as an independent. The mascot, Sparky, is frequently seen at events. Liberty University is the second youngest school in NCAA Division I, founded in 1971 (the youngest, Florida Gulf Coast University, was founded in 1991).[n 1] As a member of the Big South Conference, Liberty regularly competed for the Sasser Cup, which is the trophy for the university which has the best sports program among the member institutions. Liberty won the Sasser Cup 10 times, the most in Big South Conference history.
|Liberty Flames and Lady Flames|
|Conference||Atlantic Sun Conference|
|NCAA||Division I FBS|
|Athletic director||Ian McCaw|
|Football stadium||Williams Stadium|
|Basketball arena||Vines Center|
|Baseball stadium||Liberty Baseball Stadium|
|Softball stadium||Kamphuis Field at Liberty Softball Stadium|
|Soccer stadium||Osborne Stadium|
|Other arenas||LaHaye Ice Center|
|Nickname||Flames (men) |
Lady Flames (women)
|Fight song||Fan the Flames!|
|Colors||Blue, White, and Red|
On February 16, 2017, the NCAA approved Liberty's football program move to the FBS for the 2018 season. Liberty will initially participate as an FBS independent. On May 17, 2018, it was announced that the Flames would move from the Big South to the ASUN Conference starting in 2018.
The baseball program began in 1974 and has seen four alumni enter Major League Baseball, including Doug Brady, Sid Bream, Lee Guetterman, and Randy Tomlin. Liberty Baseball has appeared in three NAIA Baseball World Series, finishing fifth in 1980, 1981, and 1982. The Flames made their first appearance in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Tournament in 1993, after the university moved athletics to NCAA Division I in 1989. The program has since appeared in the tournament in 1998 and 2000. The program made it to the regional tournament finals in 2013 for the first time before falling to tournament host South Carolina.
The Liberty Flames men's basketball program began in 1972 under head coach Dan Manley. The Flames finished 13-14 in the inaugural season. As of the 2009–10 season, the Flames have had 8 different head coaches of their men's team (Dan Manley (1972–77), Harley Swift (1977–78), Dale Gibson (1978–81), Jeff Meyer (1981–97), Randy Dunton (1997–98 and 2003–07), Mel Hankinson (1998–03), Ritchie McKay (2007–09 and 2015–present) and Dale Layer (2009–2015)). As of the end of the 2008–09 season, the Flames had an overall record of 524–555 (48.6%).
Liberty has reached the postseason three times in its NCAA Division I history. The Flames fell to UNC (71–51) in the first round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament after winning the Big South tournament. Liberty lost to St. Joseph's (82–63) in the 2004 NCAA tournament after defeating High Point (89–44) to claim its second Big South Conference Tournament Championship. Upon falling in the semi-finals of the Big South Conference tournament in the 2008–09 season, the Flames were invited to the inaugural CIT Tournament. Liberty defeated Rider in the first round before falling to the JMU in the quarterfinals. Liberty won the 1980 NCCAA National Championship against Point Loma College (68–65). The 2012–13 squad saw Liberty win the Big South championship with a 15-20 (6-10 Big South) record, only the second time in NCAA history a 20-loss team played in the NCAA Division I tournament.
2007 Big South Conference ChampionsEdit
The Liberty Flames captured their first Big South Conference football championship with a 31-0 victory over Gardner–Webb University. The Flames capped off their second year under head coach Danny Rocco with an 8-3 record and a 4-0 Big South record to claim the title. The same week, The Liberty University men's soccer team beat Radford University, 2-1, to capture the Big South Conference soccer title and its first appearance in the national tournament. Also that same week, the Liberty Women's Volleyball team shutout Winthrop in the finals of the Big South Volleyball tournament. it was the first conference championship for the volleyball team since 2001. The Liberty Men's and Women's cross country teams also won the Big South Championship with Josh McDougal, Jordan McDougal and Jarvis Jelen sweeping the top 3 positions in the men's race for the third straight year.
2008 Big South Conference ChampionsEdit
Topping its 2007 performance, Liberty ran its unbeaten Big South streak to 11-straight games, finishing back-to-back conference championship seasons with a 30-10 victory over Gardner–Webb. The Flames finished with a 10-2 record on the year and finished the conference slate unbeaten at 5-0. Liberty's victory allowed the Flames to become the first team in Big South history to win five conference games in a season and to join Gardner–Webb as the only two teams to post consecutive unbeaten seasons. Liberty finished ranked 15th in the FCS Coaches Poll and 14th in the Sports Network Poll.
The University gained some media attention in the winter of 2005 when their women's basketball team, the Lady Flames led by Katie Feenstra, made the Sweet Sixteen of the 2005 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament, being labeled a "Cinderella" team. After defeating fourth-seeded Penn State and fifth-seeded DePaul, the Flames' winning streak was halted by top-seeded LSU. Feenstra was later drafted by the San Antonio Silver Stars (now San Antonio Stars) of the WNBA. Most recently, the Lady Flames competed for the Big South's 2012 regular season and tournament championships. In the regular season, the Lady Flames went 16-2 in conference play to clinch the Big South's regular season title. In addition, the Lady Flames won the Big South Conference Tournament, beating High Point University 81-73.
Track and FieldEdit
Sam Chelanga holds the NCAA record for the 10,000 meters run with a time of 27:08.49 set at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Palo Alto, California on May 1, 2010. Competing in cross country and the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, between 2009 and 2011, he won four NCAA Division I championship gold medals and three silvers. Josh McDougall won the cross country title in 2007, after finishing third the previous year. In 2016, Head Coach Brant Tolsma notched his 100th conference championship over a 31-year coaching career with the Flames. Tolsma received Women’s Coach of the Year honors, his 63rd Big South Coach of the Year Award. The Lady Flames cross country team won their first conference title since 2012. That year the Liberty’s men’s cross country squad finished runner-up behind Campbell University. The Flames were runner up three years in a row and have posted 14 consecutive top-two Big South finishes.
Men's ice hockeyEdit
Men's ice hockey finished the 2009–2010 season ranked 10th in the ACHA DI. LU went 23–3–3 and won a bid to the 2010 ACHA Division I Championships in Chicago, Illinois, The team lost 7–3 in the first round to Arizona State. In addition to the ACHA DI team the University also fields JV teams playing at the ACHA DII and DIII levels.
Women's ice hockeyEdit
The women's ice hockey team competes at the Division I level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association. The team plays at the LaHaye Ice Center. The team finished the 2009–2010 season ranked fifth and qualified for the 2010 Women's ACHA Division I National Championship Tournament, held in Blaine, Minnesota. LU l0–2 in Pool Play, losing 4–2 to Rhode Island and 1–0 to Penn State.
In 2011, Liberty announced that it would no longer sponsor a varsity wrestling team, citing Title IX concerns. The team had competed as an independent NCAA Division I program from 2006–2011 since the Big South Conference does not host a wrestling championship. Liberty University previously had wrestling teams from 1974 to 1994. The reinstatement of the wrestling program was aided by the support of the Liberty University Wrestling Foundation.
Williams Stadium is the football stadium located on the campus of Liberty University. The stadium was built in 1989 and plays host to the football team. The stadium originally seated 12,000 fans. The first phase of a planned renovation was completed October 2, 2010. Williams Stadium now has a five-story press tower. In addition, 7,200 more seats were installed by adding a second deck to the home side of the stadium and lengthening both the east and west stands of the stadium. The seating capacity is currently 25,000.
Vines Center is an 8,085-seat multi-purpose arena. It was built in 1990 and is home to the Flames and Lady Flames basketball teams, as well as men's wrestling and women's volleyball. It hosted the Big South Conference men's basketball tournament from 1995–98, and also all rounds of the tourney except for the first round in 2003 and 2004. In the fall of 2008 the Vines Center underwent a major renovation of all seating. New red-and-blue cushioned seats were installed and new blue plastic game seats were put in place. On August 28, 2009, university Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced that the University plans to upgrade seating in the Vines center from 8,000 to 11,000 for athletic contests and 12,000 for convocations.
LaHaye Ice CenterEdit
LaHaye Ice Center was built in 2005 and opened in 2006. The Ice Center has a 3,000-seat capacity and is the home of the Flames and Lady Flames hockey teams.
Liberty Baseball StadiumEdit
Liberty Baseball Stadium is a 2,500-seat baseball stadium opened in 2013. It is the home field of the Liberty Flames baseball team.
- Osborne Stadium is a 1,000-seat natural grass stadium and home to the men's and women's soccer teams, as well as women's lacrosse – one of the newest athletic programs at Liberty. Osborne was built in 2009 and is the newest athletic facility on campus.
- Tolsma Indoor Track Center is located in Liberty's Campus North building. The indoor track was constructed in 2006 and has a 1,000-seat capacity. Amenities include a flat 200-meter oval track with four lanes around the curves, eight-lane straightaways, a pair of long jump/triple jump runways, a pole vault runway, a high jump apron, and a throwing circle.
- Liberty Softball Field is a 500-seat natural grass outdoor softball stadium built in 1993. It is home to the Flames softball team.
- Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex is an outdoor track complex built in 1989 for the track teams. The complex seats 500 and includes an eight-lane, 400-meter track, four long jump/triple jump pits, three pole vault runways, a high jump apron, two javelin runways, two shot put rings, and a hammer/discus throwing area. The facility has hosted six of the 15 Big South Men's and Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
- LU Tennis Courts
- Another Division I member, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), was founded in 2013 and began operation in 2015. However, UTRGV inherited its athletic program from one of its predecessor institutions, the University of Texas–Pan American, a Division I member that traced its history to a junior college that opened in 1927.
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