When former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw scheduled Liberty several years ago for the 2017 football season opener, he certainly didn’t expect to be traveling to Waco for the game.
Saturday’s date at McLane Stadium will be McCaw’s first football game as Liberty’s athletic director after serving as Baylor’s athletic director for 13 years.
“We typically played one FCS game every year, and Liberty fit a hole in our schedule,” McCaw said. “The only mistake is that I should have given Liberty a larger guarantee.”
McCaw resigned from Baylor in May 2016 after the Pepper Hamilton report revealed that Baylor officials had mishandled sexual assault issues, including numerous incidents involving football players.
McCaw was part of a sweep of high ranking Baylor officials who lost their jobs, including President Ken Starr and football coach Art Briles. Baylor sanctioned McCaw and placed him on probation before he resigned.
After watching McLane Stadium open in 2014, McCaw is excited to return for Saturday’s 6 p.m. game. Even if it is with the visiting team.
“I’ve heard from a lot of friends and colleagues in Waco who have been real encouraging,” McCaw said. “It will be a time for fellowship and reunion. But we’re also going to Waco with a purpose.”
McCaw had no comment on the sexual assaults by Baylor football players during his reign as athletic director, citing pending investigations and litigation. McCaw and Briles were recently dismissed from a lawsuit by sexual assault victim Jasmin Hernandez in her settlement of a Title IX lawsuit with Baylor.
During McCaw’s tenure at Baylor, the athletic program reached unprecedented heights on the field, punctuated by Big 12 football championships under Briles in 2013-14. Baylor’s athletic facilities lining the Brazos River boomed with McLane Stadium as its crown jewel.
“Obviously, it was exciting back in 2014 when we opened the stadium and had sellout crowds for all the games and won the Big 12 championship,” McCaw said. “Looking back at my time at Baylor, we had a tremendous amount of success on the field and the academic progress of the student-athletes was remarkable. Obviously, the donors were very generous. McLane is a landmark stadium and our other facility enhancements put Baylor in position to be successful and thrive.”
Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. received considerable criticism from the national media after he hired McCaw on Nov. 28, 2016, six months after he resigned at Baylor. Liberty’s announcement made no mention of the Baylor scandal but noted that McCaw guided the Bears’ athletic programs to great success.
“Ian’s success really speaks for itself,” Falwell said in his announcement. “You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure, and it fits perfectly with where we see our sports teams are going. This is an exciting time for us.”
Like Baylor, Liberty is a Baptist university. McCaw was drawn by the Lynchburg, Va., university’s Christian mission.
‘’My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America and garner the same type of appeal among the Christian community as Notre Dame achieves among the Catholic community and BYU garners from the Mormons,’’ McCaw said after he was hired at Liberty.
In the 2018 season, Liberty will make a major jump from a Football Championship Subdivision school to a Football Bowl Subdivision school. The Flames will compete as an FBS independent, and McCaw said the school has already scheduled games in upcoming seasons against schools like Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, BYU, Duke and Syracuse.
“The reclassification has been real exciting,” McCaw said. “We need 12 games each year and we’ve worked hard on that. We’re increasing our stadium capacity from 20,000 to 25,000 and we’ve got a new video board and other amenities. We also just opened a $29 million indoor practice facility that’s really spectacular. I haven’t seen one that’s better, and it will be a real good recruiting aspect for us.”
While scheduling as an FBS independent is difficult, McCaw said other independents like Massachusetts, Army and BYU can help fill out schedules. Liberty’s facility enhancement has helped in scheduling.
“We have incredible facilities and really great people here,” McCaw said. “Those are two things that really stand out. There’s no question I thought this would be a really good fit for me to serve at a Christian university and one that’s in the building process. It fits my skill set well.”
Liberty will be a major underdog against Baylor in Saturday’s opener. But McCaw believes it will be a strong building block for the Flames’ last season as an FCS school.
“The Baylor game is an exciting opportunity for our student-athletes and coaches to compete in one of best facilities in the nation against a program that’s only a few years removed from winning the Big 12 championship and being a top 5 team,” McCaw said.