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BYU’s Next Opponent Liberty Strives To One Day Be Like The Cougars

PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 26: Stephen Calvert #12 of the Liberty Flames prays with his team after the game SHI Stadium on October 26, 2019 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Rutgers defeated Liberty 44-34. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – When BYU announced their two-game series with the Liberty Flames two years ago, it was met by Cougar fans with one question, who?

Liberty University was founded in 1971. Just one year before BYU’s legendary LaVell Edwards became the head coach in Provo. Back then Liberty was known as Lynchburg Baptist College.

Liberty’s first school president and founder, the late Jerry Falwell, wanted Liberty to be for Evangelical Christians what BYU is for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both academically and athletically.

It’s quickly becoming that as Liberty continues to field a successful football program, one that hasn’t had a losing season since 2004. Liberty is 6-3 this year in only its second season as a Football Bowl Subdivision program. The previous 20 years Liberty was playing in the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA).

BYU fans might be looking at this game as just another underwhelming in the month of November. But for the Flames, this is a matchup they’ve dreamed of playing when they were formed their football program 46 years ago.

“It’s a huge opportunity and one that we’ve talked about and will embrace it,” said Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze.

Liberty’s current school president, Jerry Falwell Jr., has publicly expressed he wants the Liberty football program to be like Notre Dame and BYU someday as the Flames continue on the path of the FBS Independents.

Honor Code at both schools

Saturday’s game in Provo might be one of the rare times BYU lines up against a program that has as strict of an honor code as the Cougars. Just a decade ago, Liberty required it’s students as part of their honor code to wear polos and slacks.

Students at both BYU and Liberty are prohibited from premarital sex, alcohol, and tobacco usage. So it makes for a unique matchup in terms of the backgrounds for both schools.

“I think there’s a lot of similarities. I know that they have an honor code as well. It’s going to be a fun game,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “I know they’re new to the Independent stage and this division. They’ve played some really tough teams. I think they played Syracuse and Rutgers right away … I think we’re going to have to be ready for this and our guys have to keep improving.”

The football series

BYU and Liberty are scheduled to play a two-game series starting on Saturday in Provo and then in 2022 at Liberty’s Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The Cougars have always shown a willingness to schedule Independent programs as they know the challenges that come with putting together Independent schedules.

Liberty is looking to become bowl eligible with one more win. BYU is needing two more victories to secure bowl eligibility.

“Not only does Liberty get a chance to expand its brand and put its name out there for Evangelical Christians but it also has an opportunity to become bowl eligible and get a chance to go to a bowl game for the first time in program history,” said Liberty beat writer Damien Sordelett of The News & Advance on KSL’s Cougar Tracks Podcast.

BYU vs. Liberty

Kickoff: 5:30 pm (MST)

TV: ESPNU

Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM/KSL Newsradio App

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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