Liberty moving to ASUN Conference for 2018-19 season
Liberty announced a new direction for its athletics department earlier today, as conference membership for 17 of its programs will move to the ASUN Conference, starting with the 2018-19 athletics season.
Eight of Liberty’s nine men’s programs will move to the ASUN (baseball, men’s basketball, men’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s soccer, men’s tennis and men’s indoor and outdoor track & field), along with nine of Liberty’s 11 women’s programs (women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, softball, women’s tennis, women’s indoor and outdoor track & field and volleyball).
The only programs not making the conference move will be Liberty’s football program, who will play its first season as an FBS independent in 2018, along with field hockey (BIG EAST Conference) and women’s swimming and diving (CCSA).
The announcement was made during an afternoon press conference held on the Club Pavilion of the Williams Stadium Tower. During the press conference, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Director of Athletics Ian McCaw and ASUN Conference Commissioner Ted Gumbart discussed the exciting new future for Liberty Athletics in front of the gathered members of Flames Nation and numerous local media outlets.
“On behalf of our coaches, staff and student-athletes, we are excited and honored to join the ASUN as our all-sports conference,” Falwell said. “Moreover, we are deeply appreciative to Commissioner Ted Gumbart, the ASUN leadership and member institutions for this opportunity. The ASUN footprint will allow Liberty to further extend our brand into New Jersey, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. These states are fertile for recruiting students and student-athletes alike who fit Liberty’s mission.”
“On behalf of Liberty University, we gratefully accept the invitation to join the ASUN conference on July 1, 2018,” McCaw said. “I want to thank the ASUN presidents and Commissioner Ted Gumbart for their support and warm welcome. The ASUN is a progressive conference made up of high quality academic institutions and highly competitive athletics programs that will elevate Liberty’s national profile.”
“This is a very proud day for the ASUN as we begin a partnership with the entire Liberty University community,” Gumbart said. “Together, we play a role in higher education and providing a lifelong learning experience to university students. We call it Building Winners for Life. As we celebrate this new relationship, we salute the alumni, the faculty, the donors, the parents, the coaches, all the teammates who contribute to the athletic, academic, and ultimately, the lifelong success of our graduates.”
The ASUN Conference, headquartered in Macon, Ga., is an NCAA Division I league committed to Building Winners for Life. The ASUN meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete.
With the addition of Liberty, the ASUN expands its footprint into the state of Virginia for the first time in conference history. With Liberty joining the ASUN, the league resides in six states and features eight of the top-80 media markets in the nation.
The ASUN includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Florida Gulf Coast University (Fort Myers, Fla.), Jacksonville University (Jacksonville, Fla.), Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Ga.), Lipscomb University (Nashville, Tenn.), New Jersey Institute of Technology (Newark, N.J.), University of North Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.).
Along with Liberty, the University of North Alabama (Florence, Ala.) will join the league for the 2018-19 season bringing the membership total to nine.
The announcement brings to a close a storied 27-year membership with the Big South Conference. After moving up to the NCAA Division I level on July 1, 1988, the Big South Conference was the first conference to provide Liberty’s athletics programs Division I conference membership, starting with the 1991-92 athletics season.
During its 27-year membership in the Big South Conference, the Flames claimed a conference-record 13 Big South Sasser Cup trophies, an annual award given to the conference’s most successful athletics program (1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2015-16, 2016-17).
Liberty has also claimed eight Big South Women’s All-Sports Awards (2007-08, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17) and seven Big South Men’s All-Sports Awards (2003-04, 2004-05, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2011-12, 2015-16, 2016-17).
Since joining the league for the 1991-92 athletics season, Liberty’s programs have claimed 146 Big South championships (in descending order): Men’s Outdoor Track & Field (23), Men’s Indoor Track & Field (21), Women’s Basketball (17), Women’s Outdoor Track & Field (17), Men’s Cross Country (15), Women’s Indoor Track & Field (13), Women’s Cross Country (9), Football (8), Women’s Soccer (6), Men’s Golf (5), Baseball (4), Men’s Basketball (3), Softball (3) and Men’s Soccer (2).
Additionally, all six of Liberty’s NCAA Division I individual national championships have been claimed while the student-athletes competed as Big South members: Heather Sagan (2002 Women’s Indoor Mile), Josh McDougal (2007 Men’s Cross Country), Sam Chelanga (2009 Men’s Cross Country, 2010 Men’s Cross Country, 2010 Men’s Outdoor 10,000 meters, 2011 Men’s Outdoor 5,000 meters).
“The Big South Conference and Liberty University have had a mutually beneficial partnership for 27 years. Today Liberty has announced that the partnership will be ending,” Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle Kallander said.
“We wish nothing but the best for Liberty University and its fine student-athletes in the future,” Kallander said.
The Big South Conference will expand to 11 full-time member institutions in 2018-19 with the additions of Hampton University and USC Upstate joining Campbell University, Charleston Southern University, Gardner-Webb University, High Point University, Longwood University, Presbyterian College, Radford University, UNC Asheville and Winthrop University.
The Big South also has two associate football members – Kennesaw State University and Monmouth University, with the University of North Alabama joining in 2019.