The NCAA has approved Liberty University's request to enter the Football Bowl Subdivision beginning with the 2017-18 academic year.
Liberty will move into FBS as an independent. President Jerry Falwell Jr. said at a news conference that Liberty plans to remain a member of the Big South in all other sports for the "foreseeable future."
"While logistics of such a move are still to be determined, Big South football remains in great health with the addition of Campbell University in 2018 and the University of North Alabama in 2019," Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander said in a statement. "Big South Football has shown tremendous growth and success in its short history, and we look forward to even brighter days ahead."
Coastal Carolina was a member of the conference until July 2016 when it moved to the Sun Belt Conference, also FBS level. The Big South is FCS.
The NCAA academic and membership affairs staff approved Liberty's request after seeking feedback from the NCAA Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee, the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and the NCAA office of legal affairs.
Falwell said Liberty decided to request the NCAA waiver after the Big 12 Conference decided against expansion. "We don't see realignment on the horizon," Falwell added. "We think the conferences are pretty well set. We'll continue to seek opportunities to join a conference in football."
The NCAA waiver approval was based on Liberty providing substantial information demonstrating its readiness to begin the reclassification process, Liberty’s ability to follow current FBS institutions who have demonstrated viability without a conference affiliation and the university’s ability to satisfy FBS requirements.
The Flames will compete as an independent starting the 2018 season and will have three FBS home games. They will be bowl eligible starting with the 2019 season and will be required to play at least five home FBS opponents.
“Today is truly historic for Liberty University. This university aspired to compete at the highest levels of NCAA competition and began working toward that dream and vision from the day of its founding in 1971," said President Jerry Falwell Jr.
"We are deeply grateful to NCAA leadership and staff for considering this request and for acknowledging Liberty’s readiness and the appropriateness of Liberty now moving to FBS football status as an independent."