Dr. Jerry Falwell (Founder/Former Chancellor: 1971-2007)
Dr. Jerry Falwell will long be remembered as Liberty’s No. 1 fan, as the sports fanatic had a vision of Liberty Athletics competing alongside the nation’s best from the day he opened the doors at then-Lynchburg Baptist College.
Falwell’s presence at athletics events often spurred Liberty student-athletes to victory over the years, as the founder rarely ever missed a home event, while he traveled the country cheering Liberty’s best until he passed away. At his home-going celebration, 10 Liberty student-athletes served as honorary pallbearers, exhibiting Falwell’s passion for athletics.
Arthur L. Williams (Athletics Financial Supporter)
Arthur L. Williams, the founder of Primerica Financial Services, has long been one of Liberty Athletics’ strongest supporters since he was first introduced to the program by Dr. Jerry Falwell during the mid-1970s.
Williams’ financial generosity over the years helped a small NCCAA program quickly transition to the NCAA Division I level. Several athletics facilities around the campus still bear his name, including Williams Stadium and the Williams Football Operations Center, home to Liberty’s two-time defending Big South championship football program.
Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds (Women’s Basketball:1997-2000)
Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds helped turn a fledgling women’s basketball program into one of the Big South Conference’s longest-running dynasties. During her magnificent four-year career, the Moscow, Russia, native led the Lady Flames to four-straight league titles and the first four of 10-straight NCAA Tournament berths.
The two-time Big South Player of the Year still lays claim to 12 program records, including the career mark for points scored (2,154) and minutes played (3,860). During the 1997-98 season, Bengds helped the Lady Flames enter the 1998 NCAA Tournament with an unblemished 28-0 record, where they faced eventual national champion Tennessee in the only NCAA Tournament matchup of two unbeaten programs in women’s basketball history.
Bob Bonheim (Wrestling/Football Coach: 1973-86)
Bob Bonheim orchestrated the first true national powerhouse at Liberty, guiding the Flames wrestling program to five straight NCCAA national championships (1977-1981). The two-time NCCAA National Coach of the Year (1976 and 1981) finished his days roaming the mats with a 118-31 dual meet record, winning at an impressive 79.2 percent clip.
A 2003 inductee into the Central Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, Bonheim coached 35 All-Americans, including eight at the NCAA level. Twenty-one of his grapplers went on to win NCCAA national titles. Bonheim, who also served four years as a defensive line coach for the football program, helped wrestling move from NCCAA to NCAA Division II, finishing fifth nationally during his final season as head coach in the Flames third year at the new level.
Sid Bream (Baseball: 1979-81)
Sid Bream was one of Liberty’s first true athletic stars, earning NAIA and NABC All-America honors during his time at first base for the baseball program. He still holds seven different baseball program records, including the career mark for both batting average (.435) and slugging percentage (.830).
Bream was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1981 MLB Draft. The 12-year major leaguer and the 1990 Hutch Award winner, Bream helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to the National League Championship Series in 1990 and the Atlanta Braves to back-to-back World Series appearances in 1991 and 1992.
Kelvin Edwards (Football: 1982-85)
Kelvin Edwards helped the athletics department’s flagship program make the move to the NCAA ranks, as the wide receiver shined for the football program during a star-studded four-year career. A 1985 Associated Press Little All-America first-team honoree and Blue-Gray Football Game participant, Edwards still holds the program records for career receiving yards (2,546) and career receiving touchdowns (24).
Upon graduating from Liberty, Edwards became Liberty’s second-highest NFL draft pick, when he was selected in the fourth round of the 1984 draft by the New Orleans Saints. His three-year professional football career was spotlighted when he was a starting wide-out for the Dallas Cowboys.
Karl Hess (Men’s Basketball: 1977-80)
Along with Sid Bream, Karl Hess helped put Liberty Athletics on the national scene. He became the men’s basketball program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,373 points and dazzled fans on the hardwood. Hess capped off his four-year career at Liberty by leading the Flames to a 28-11 and an NCCAA national championship in 1980, earning tournament MVP honors during the event.
The CoSIDA Academic All-America first-team honoree still holds 12 program records, including six career standards. Still active in the game, Hess is now considered to be one of the nation’s top referee’s, primarily officiating ACC, BIG EAST and SEC men’s basketball games. In 2007, he served as the crew chief for the national championship game between Florida and Ohio State.