As reported by FBS Schedules, the Liberty Flames and the Virginia Cavaliers have extended their scheduling agreement. A three game series was previously announced, two at Virginia and one at Liberty. This piggybacks off the extended series with Virginia Tech and Old Dominion that were revealed earlier this week.
I think it is safe to say that Liberty’s unprecedented move to FBS has the rest of the football world watching with anticipation. Some are curious to see if Liberty can schedule the big boys to travel to Lynchburg, Virginia. Others are cheering for Liberty to succeed in order to open the door for other schools. Then there are those who want to see a train wreck in all its glory.
So how are the Flames handling this? In my opinion, it is going very well. The first goal of an emerging team should be to get exposure in the home state and market. As evidenced by Liberty’s recent news, they are getting all the fellow FBS Virginia schools to play the Flames a combined 15 times between now and 2030. It doesn’t stop there, either. LU has 12 games against schools from Power 5 conferences plus two against BYU within the first five seasons of FBS. If Liberty were in one of the Group of 5 conferences, it would be unlikely they’d get an average of over two P5 schools a season (not that Liberty is opposed to joining a G5 conference).
However, it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies in Lynchburg. Athletic Director Ian McCaw had a very short window to get an FBS independent schedule ready for 2018 and there are some hiccups such as two FCS opponents, fellow Virginia school Norfolk State and Idaho State, along with a home and home agreement with New Mexico state to play a round-robin in both 2018 and 2019. Liberty could struggle to schedule late October and November games, especially those at home. It is just the nature of being an FBS independent. In addition, Liberty isn’t immune to buy-games such as upcoming one-offs with Auburn and Rutgers, in addition to getting two-for-ones with Power 5 schools instead of home-and-home agreements.
The school was dealt a tough hand but is making the most of it. I expect New Mexico State, Massachusetts, BYU, and Army to be future fixtures on the schedule as they are fellow independents looking for late-season dates while conferences play amongst themselves. Liberty doesn’t have much of a rival yet in FBS, though Coastal Carolina became a heated rival for a time as Big South Conference opponents. They have yet to schedule a series as FBS schools and it could help both to see a familiar face on the schedule, though I understand if they each want to establish themselves as FBS schools before revisiting an FCS rivalry.
Liberty has much to prove on the gridiron if they want to earn the respect and accolades that come with being FBS. They have taken a strong first step to not only get the exposure that comes with playing fellow local schools, but also from playing Power schools. Being independent also has the benefit of playing schools from many different conferences and parts of the nation, which will help Liberty gain more needed exposure. It is now up to the Flames to capitalize on the opportunity before them.