Bill Bell’s legacy: Former Liberty men’s soccer coach lives a life with passion for Christ

Family, friends and the Flames soccer community mourn the loss of longtime Liberty men’s soccer coach Bill Bell, who died March 21 at the age of 85. 

Before making his way to the Mountain, Bell spent 22 years both playing and coaching professionally for multiple teams in the Premier League. The Renfrewshire, Scotland, native started his career as a left back with Queen’s Park before shifting to Leeds United. Bell played more than 200 league games for the Leeds United football club, leaving a lasting legacy on the club for his tenacity and courage on the pitch. 

Bell then moved on as a manager, leading both Birmingham City and Lincoln City before coming to the States and eventually invited by Ed Dobson, Liberty’s campus pastor and soccer coach, to become the Flames dedicated coach. 

Having coached professionally in the high ranks of European soccer, the expertise Bell brought to Liberty soccer helped guide the team to some of its most dominant seasons in program history, leaving a mark on the Flames that will stand the test of time. 

Head Coach of Men’s Soccer, Bill Bell, poses for a portrait on September 1, 1981. (Photo by Les Schofer)

Bell was at the helm of Liberty men’s soccer for 21 years as the head coach, leading the Flames to a 198-149-40 record over that span. In its 10 Big South seasons, Liberty managed to post winning records in eight of them and reach three Big South Men’s Soccer Championship games (1994, 1998 and 1999). 

“Coach Bell put Liberty Baptist College, as it was called at the time, on the map from a soccer standpoint in the early 1980s,” Jeff Alder, a former player under Bell at Liberty who also served as his assistant for nine seasons before taking the helm for 19 more, said on the Liberty News site.  “During his time, we had players from England, Ghana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. With Liberty’s profile as a global university, we were able to attract players who fit into our Christian environment and culture who wanted to get an education based on biblical principles — and also compete at an elite level.”

The Scotland native received numerous coaching accolades in his time at Liberty, being named the South Atlantic Coach of the Year in 1985 and the Big South Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1999. He played a major role in Liberty’s transition from the NCCAA to NCAA Division I in 1987. 

With all these accomplishments considered, Bell was inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. 

Men’s Soccer vs. Lincoln Memorial University on September 3, 1994. (Photo by Les Schofer)

In 2014, Bell wrote an autobiography entitled “The Light at the End of the Tunnel.”

“I played in exotic places, met many famous people, played for the most successful team of that era in Britain, but never found the elusive happiness I so desperately sought,” Bell wrote in his autobiography. “Not until I was 40 years of age did I find the peace and happiness I was so hungry to capture. That’s when I discovered what that light at the end of the tunnel really was.”

When his time at Liberty came to a close, he felt the calling to enter the prison ministry with his wife Mary in England. The two founded a ministry entitled Within the Walls, sharing the gospel with the imprisoned youth of the United Kingdom. From that ministry, they would eventually return to America, as Bell and his wife ministered to prisons in South Carolina before returning to Lynchburg to retire. 

While Bell’s impression on the pitch both in Lynchburg and nationwide will long be remembered, the passion for Christ he brought to the Mountain speaks volumes of the life he lived.  

Bell loved the sport of soccer and even coached a youth team on the day before his death.  

Cory is the sports editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter

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