NCAA accepts Liberty's FBS bid despite looming cloud of Baylor investigation
The Flames will be moving to college football's highest division with Ian McCaw as their athletic director
The NCAA seemingly had no concerns granting Liberty University’s request to move up to college football’s highest division despite its athletic director being the subject of at least one ongoing lawsuit at Baylor.
Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. was advised by some university officials not to hire former Baylor AD Ian McCaw in November, according to sources. That hiring was questioned by some at the time.
McCaw resigned from the same position May 30 at Baylor in the wake of the ongoing sexual assault scandal. In the lawsuit, McCaw is accused of “willfull indifference” by former Baylor student Jasmin Hernandez, who says she was raped by former player Tevin Elliott.
NCAA general counsel Donald Remy told CBS Sports that the decision to grant Liberty’s request “was made based upon the capability of the institution to meet the requirements of FBS membership, which don’t include evaluation of any past, present or future personnel.”
Liberty will move from FCS to FBS in 2018 and be bowl eligible in 2019, becoming what would now be the division’s 129th member.
The program does not have a “bonafide invitation” from an FBS conference required by NCAA bylaws, but Liberty will use the two-year transition phase to secure one. It’s next home is most likely the Sun Belt or Conference USA.
Liberty was founded in 1971 by famous evangelist Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church. Football has been a member of the Big South since 2002. The current coach is Turner Gill, who previously led Buffalo and Kansas. Gill just completed his fifth season.
Aside from other concerns, Liberty was considered a slam dunk for FBS in terms of budget, enrollment and facilities. The enrollment at the Lynchburg, Virginia, school exceeds 15,000. Its worldwide online enrollment exceeds 100,000. Liberty was one of the first schools to capitalize on profitability of online classes.
The FBS process was “90 percent” complete when McCaw was hired, according to a source.
When McCaw was brought on board, Falwell Jr. told a local newspaper: “I think [McCaw] was a good man in a place where bad things were going on and decided to remove himself from that atmosphere.”
Liberty’s press release in November stated: “Those in Waco who knew McCaw’s Baylor track record were quick to endorse the choice, even though they wished he had opted to stay at Baylor.”
Liberty said, in its Thursday press release, that the FBS waiver was approved after “feedback” from the NCAA Strategic Vision and Planning Committee, the NCAA Division Football Oversight Committee and the NCAA office of legal affairs.
“Football Oversight provided input, but it was not our decision,” oversight committee chair Bob Bowlsby told CBS Sports. “I don’t remember a concern arising during the meetings I was in.”
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