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Liberty hires Gill and could move to FBS

The fallout from conference realignment has apparently reached the FCS level.

Big South power Liberty University introduced former Buffalo and Kansas coach Turner Gill as its new head coach on Thursday.

What was even bigger news was the university’s announcement that it will conduct a feasibility study to decide whether it should make the move up to the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.

“Given the unexpected turn of events, we believe the time is right for Liberty to conduct the FBS feasibility study, which is so important for our program to move to the level it was originally envisioned it would go,” said school Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.

Liberty has won at least a share of four of the last five Big South regular season titles. The Flames lost to Stony Brook, 41-31, in its Big South regular season finale.

Is Liberty equipped to make the move? On paper it would seem so. The Flames home field, Williams Stadium, expanded from 12,000 to the current capacity of 19,200 in 2010. According to the school website, there are future plans to expand the stadium capacity to 30,000 seats.

The team had set attendance marks in recent seasons, including drawing a then-school record of 16,112 fans for its home opener against North Carolina Central in 2009. But that was before the stadium expansion.

Liberty shattered that record in 2010 as it drew 19,314 fans for a game against Savannah State. Liberty drew 82,710 fans for five home dates in 2011 and averaged 16,542 fans per game.

Although a potential move to FBS would be at least several years away for Liberty, the question of how this effects Stony Brook must be addressed. The Seawolves have fared well since joining the Big South Conference. It paid off a big way in 2011 as the school won the regular season title and advanced to the FCS playoffs for the first time in program history.

While a Liberty move wouldn’t necessarily dissolve the Big South, it would certainly cause officials and administrators at rival conference schools to reassess their positions.

New York Sports