Oct 16, 2007

Contributions to Liberty Athletics reach $1 million

by Mitchell Malcheff

    Liberty Athletics hit a major milestone in mid-September when contributions reached the $1 million mark for the first time. The $1 million total is a result of record giving from both the Flames Club, which contributed nearly $300,000, and capital giving, which amounted to over $700,000.
    Money received from the Flames Club helps support the day-to-day team needs that are beyond what the university budget provides. Flames Club members are afforded many benefits, including game-day perks such as improved parking, priority seating and pre-game meals. Bob Good, Liberty’s Director of Athletic Development, said that Flames Club members give for more reasons than just those extra benefits.
    “People give to the Flames Club for three reasons: they want to help us, because of business and because of the benefits they will receive,” he said.
    Capital giving, which is used to improve existing facilities or construct new ones, jumped from just $75,000 in 2006 to $718,000 this year. Capital gifts allow the athletics program to build facilities such as the Football Operations Center, which in turn boosts interest in the program and aids in recruiting. Good cited the excitement that recent coaching hires have produced as one of the reasons for the increased giving.
    He said, “It’s a number of factors – just excitement and enthusiasm over the direction of the athletics. Jeff (Barber) has really begun to execute the vision that Dr. Falwell began.”
    The direction that the athletics program has taken is remarkable if one considers the state of Liberty athletics as recently as 2004.     The football team was wrapping up a 1-10 season and the basketball team was limping to a 7-23 record. Just three years later the football team has a strong shot to finish with a winning record and a possible Big South title and excitement is high for basketball as     Ritchie McKay takes over the reins. In addition, the Flames track and field team is projected to have another great season, led again by All-American Josh McDougal, while the women’s basketball team is looking to start a new streak of Big South conference titles.
    Although excitement is high, Good said that the program is still not where they want it to be. He remarked that for a program to continue to grow stronger, it takes an increased amount of sacrifice for the program and its fans alike.
    “Our short-term goal is to reach $500,000 in Flames Club annual fund giving and then work our way to over $1 million in contributions, apart from capital gifts. The best in (the Football Championship Subdivision) are raising $2-3 million in annual fund donations and we have to compete with them in that arena as we also compete with them on the field,” Good said in a press release.
    The increased emphasis on athletics is a necessity for Liberty to continue growing. Athletics has often been described as a university’s “front porch.” Football, basketball and a host of other sports allow everyone to get a glimpse of what a university is all about. As Good said, the program is still not where it wants to be, but he thinks the future is bright.
    Good went on to say, “Athletics is the image of your school.”

Contact Mitchell Malcheff at mjmalcheff@liberty.edu

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