Stop platforming Liberty University
College athletic departments, schedule anybody else instead.
Hello, slightly updated intro. This post was originally published in 2020.
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I’m not going back to update this post’s text, though I’ll note Liberty’s handling of the Hugh Freeze era and its massive, $37.5 million student-safety scandal do not exactly make me wish to lessen any of my old arguments.
And now for something that has nothing to do with the Bible.
Liberty University, an accredited botnet designed to make the Falwell family feel good at real estate, has ambitions of becoming Venom Notre Dame. For decades, the school has regularly restated this ambition:
A recent New York Times article featuring Liberty University’s ‘football crusade’ has helped to advance Liberty’s mission as the school looks to achieve success on a national scale, in the likes of powerhouse Notre Dame.
‘We have received extremely positive comments from Liberty alumni, fans, and athletics administrators from all over the country,’ said Jeff Barber, Liberty’s director of athletics. ‘It gave them a deeper understanding of our mission and our accomplishments to date. Athletics will shine the light on the university's mission.’
Ever since Jerry Falwell, Sr., a man so homophobic that he was afraid of Teletubbies, founded the university while still a ferocious segregationist in 1971, gaining influence by way of football has been central to the mission.
“We feel that through athletics we can glorify Christ and capture the attention of America’s young people in a very significant way,” he said in 1985.
“A crucial part of Reverend Falwell’s vision for making Liberty a world-class institution was having a world-class football team,” said Donald Trump in 2017 while giving the university’s commencement.
All universities seek to gain attention, many by way of sports. All religious people seek to glorify that which they believe should be glorified. But exactly how has Liberty made use of the influence it’s accrued?
The money-changing university’s institutional homophobia and authoritarian hypocrisy are well-known, as are the lesser Jerry Falwell’s passionate bootlickery, conspiracy theories, and bizarre dealings.
The son’s racism is also back in the news, with his latest celebration of blackface humor contributing to “at least a half dozen” Black staffers leaving their jobs and 35 prominent Black alumni calling for him to step down.
Also leaving are three of the most promising athletes in school history, each of whom chalked their exits up to school leadership, rather than to coaches or teammates.
“Due to the racial insensitivities shown within the leadership and culture, it simply does not align with my moral compass,” said Atlantic Sun All-Freshman guard Asia Todd.
“I pray that I am able to be provided with a opportunity at a new school that respects my culture and provides a comfortable environment,” wrote cornerback Tayvion Land, the highest-rated football signee in school history. He cited the “racial insensitivity displayed by leadership at Liberty University.”
“Due to the cultural incompeten[ce] within multiple levels of leadership, it does not line up with my code of ethics,” wrote Tre Clark, a starting cornerback as a freshman.
At no other school has a team statement against racism …
… felt like such an act of defiance. (Not an exaggeration — the school’s Office of Equity and Inclusion tried to post a Black Lives Matter tweet backed up by scripture, but an admin deleted it.)
Falwell has long relied on a replacement-level Cornered Victim Of Haters/Losers gimmick, and it’s gotten him this far. So any motions toward enlightenment (Falwell shared that statement by the basketball team, fwiw) must be cloaked amid lack-of-virtue-signaling. Rest assured he intends to learn nothing.
To a man with such a bruised-dick temperament, a man fulfilled only by monetizing the most depressing parts of Leviticus, this exodus will be little more than another sign the fallen world is out to get him … as long as the school’s online enrollment continues to grow, increasing the girth of the camel he’ll one day have to ram through the eye of a needle, and as long as Liberty continues to raise recognition by associating with universities that reside in our physical reality.
Hey, other colleges with football and basketball programs, this is where you come in.
If Liberty wants to become Young Earth Notre Dame, it’s worth remembering what made Notre Dame Notre Dame in the first place: scheduling football games against anybody, anywhere.
Before 1913, the Irish were nothing special, beating up Kirksville Osteopath, the Illinois Cycling Club, Chicago Dental Infirmary, and various high schools. But as Notre Dame tells it:
The first item on [new head coach and AD Jesse Harper’s] docket was upgrading the football schedule -- provided it came with sound business practice to complement it.
Because it was getting blackballed by the other Midwest powers, the Notre Dame football schedules become extremely unattractive and, hence, unprofitable.
One of Harper’s first moves was to write to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY., for a game. Army originally offered Notre Dame $600 for travel expenses, but Harper was able to haggle for $1,000.
With penny-pinching practices such as taking 14 cleats for the 18-man Notre Dame team on the railroad trip, plus packing their own meals from the student-dining hall, the trip ended up costing $917 -- an $83 profit.
In a span of 27 days in November, Notre Dame pulled watershed road upsets against Army (35-13), Penn State (14-7), Christian Brothers in St. Louis (20-7) and Texas in Austin (on Thanksgiving Day) for a remarkable 7-0-debut campaign. As a coach, Harper proved to be an innovator with a passing attack at Army that awed the eastern media and aided Notre Dame’s place on the football map.
The coup: swooping in to replace Yale on Army’s schedule, long among the toughest in football. The Irish won after a 24-hour railroad trip.
Notre Dame-Army was played at West Point until 1923, when it moved about 50 miles from Army’s campus. The Cadets wouldn’t travel to Notre Dame until their 34th meeting.
By that time, the Irish had claimed five national titles and — full circle — become the team the up-and-comers dreamed of scheduling. Add some enthusiastic self-mythologizing, and voila: Notre Dame had become Notre Dame.
Now Liberty is explicitly following the Notre Dame plan as closely as it can. Gross!
Normal University X, do you wanna keep enabling Liberty’s branding?
The following FBS* universities have agreed to lend credibility to the Falwell lineage in the form of football games over the next decade, via fbschedules.com:
Appalachian State x2
Ball State x2
Bowling Green x2
Coastal Carolina x2
Eastern Michigan x2
Florida International x2
Georgia Southern x2
Miami (Ohio) x2
Middle Tennessee x2
New Mexico State x7
North Carolina x3
Old Dominion x3
Southern Miss x2
Virginia Tech x6
Wake Forest x3
Western Kentucky x2
Do you feel good about letting your school boost Falwell’s profile?
Unless they’re paying you very many pieces of silver, it’s not even gonna be some windfall. Liberty’s enrollees are 90% online, and their home attendance was only 18,272 per game in their best season ever, a shade below UNLV, which has won one bowl game since 1994. Your stadium won’t be any fuller, you won’t gain any particular attention for beating a newbie independent, and you’re probably not a rival of theirs anyway (New Mexico State, you are the exception — no one need cancel the Las Cruces-Lost Crosses Bi-Monthly Big Melee).
Oh, and Liberty employs Football Jimmy Swaggart at head coach. And that coach’s boss was the guy in charge at Baylor during The Baylor Scandal. And that guy’s boss is one of the worst Jerry Falwells of all time, which is saying a lot.
Remember: institutions can only become powerful if people let them.
By scheduling Liberty, you’re sullying yourselves to benefit the grift prince’s fake-it-’til-you-make-it trollfarm. For what?
Would it feel better to just schedule NC A&T or Old Dominion instead, perhaps the Methodist Terriers of Wofford, even the Presbyterian Golden Hurricane of Tulsa? I bet it would.
* Schools from the lower level of Division I, take Liberty’s money and then beat them — the Deist ancestors are counting on you, JMU.
Also, I misspoke. The story of Joseph has a little to do with Liberty.
For one thing, it depicts women as liars, temptresses, and people whose suffering exists to inspire more suffering. There’s some theocratic prosperity gospel going on, too.
But the story of Joseph is about a group of 12 individuals who learn to value each other, something akin to an FBS conference. There are none of those that value Liberty.
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