The Liberty Flames are the athletics teams of Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia, United States. The Liberty Flames and Lady Flames are a member of the NCAA Division I level in 20 sports. LU is a member of the Big South Conference for most sports, women's swimming (Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association), and field hockey (NorPac Conference). In football, Liberty participates in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of Division I, formerly known as Division I-AA. The mascot, Sparky, is frequently seen at events. Liberty University is the second youngest school in NCAA Division I, founded in 1971 (Florida Gulf Coast University founded in 1991). The University regularly competes for the Sasser Cup, which is the Big South's trophy for the university which has the best sports program among the member institutions. Liberty has won the Sasser Cup 10 times, the most in Big South Conference history.
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.
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.
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 Women's Division I 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 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.
The men's ice hockey team competes at the Division I level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). The team plays at the LaHaye Ice Center. LU is exploring options to transfer to NCAA Division I sometime in the future, however the amount of money needed for a successful Virginia based NCAA team was determined to be too much. 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 in the first round, 3-7, to Arizona State University. In addition to the ACHA DI team the University also fields JV teams playing at the ACHA DII and DIII levels.
In 2011, Liberty announced that it would no longer sponsor a varsitywrestling 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 19,200.
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.
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.