Bill Oram: Liberty fans have spoken and I want to tell you the good word

Liberty celebrates the team's win over New Mexico State during the Conference USA championship NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Lynchburg, Virginia. (Paige Dingler/The News & Advance via AP)

Liberty celebrates the team's win over New Mexico State during the Conference USA championship NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Lynchburg, Virginia. (Paige Dingler/The News & Advance via AP)AP


I’ve heard a lot from Liberty fans this week and it’s been very educational.

For example, I learned Liberty has fans.

And that this is not the same Liberty that Sabrina Ionescu has been playing for since leaving Eugene.

Turns out, Liberty folks are very sensitive to the suggestion that people were unfamiliar with Liberty before the Flames earned a Fiesta Bowl pairing with Oregon.

This seems rather backwards to me.

I would think they’d prefer to keep it a secret, given the university’s views on gay people and its segregationist origins.

Guess that’s why they don’t call it Civil Liberty University.

I’m not saying Liberty is a conservative institution, but after seeing the Flames reach the Fiesta Bowl, The Heritage Foundation must have considered fielding a team of its own. Oregon is wrapping up its tenure in the Pac, but Liberty basically is a PAC.

The Flames’ next media rights deal might as well be with OAN. And while some teams go to Disneyland to celebrate an undefeated season, Liberty may go to Mar-A-Lago.

You think Eugene is a little granola? To Liberty fans, it’s Gomorrah.

I could go on, but I’d just be fanning the Flames fans’ flames.

Try saying that 10 times fast after a few beers — just not at Liberty.

Oregon’s most notable benefactor is Phil Knight. Liberty has the guy who wrote the Left Behind series.

No, those books aren’t about Oregon State and Washington State.

One reader sent me a photo of Liberty’s campus, including the 275-foot Freedom Tower. I’ll just say this: You do not want to get into a tower-measuring contest with the Ducks.

Have you seen the protuberance at the new Hayward Field? Height is overrated.

Liberty made the jump from the championship Football Championship Subdivision just five years ago and hired ex-Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze to usher in the new era. He won 34 games and went to four bowl games, which was apparently the threshold to overcome his multifarious NCAA recruiting violations and get him back to the SEC at Auburn.

It’s an incredible story, truly. George R.R. Martin should write it: “A Song of Freeze and Flames.”

We really must stop joking for a second and acknowledge that Liberty does have a terrific team under first-year head coach Jamey Chadwell. It’s remarkably difficult to win 13 games, no matter who’s on the schedule. In fact, as some readers noted, the Flames lead the nation in rushing yards per game and rank third, right behind Oregon, in total offensive — ahhh-fensive — output.

You have to be careful with that first syllable when talking about Liberty, lest it be confused to mean something people might find to be uhhh-fensive.

This game could feature so much scoring that Liberty administrators need to update the honor code to prohibit it.

The honor code at Liberty is called “The Liberty Way.” You would violate it on campus at the University of Oregon by breathing.

Liberty squeezed its way into the Fiesta Bowl when Tulane lost the American Athletic Conference’s championship game last weekend. Could one school’s postseason fate have depended on a university any more different from the other?

At Liberty, students are not allowed to expose their midriffs. Tulane cancels classes for Mardi Gras.

Ducks fans would have loved tailgating next to Tulane fans. They serve cocktails out of their pores.

As for the matchup we have instead, I should say that I’m not particularly aggrieved on Oregon’s behalf. The Ducks had their shot at a higher-pedigree opponent and couldn’t close against Washington.

I think it’s a good teaching moment. One of those life-comes-at-you fast deals.

One day you’re competing for a national championship, the next you’re playing Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl. Dan Lanning can use that next time a player says he can’t do an extra rep on the bench.

And I want you to know that I do believe Liberty can prevail ...

Oh, sorry. I was working on my stump speech for an upcoming run for federal office.

The football game? No, Liberty can’t win. Are you serious?

OK, fine. Liberty can win. But this will be the most significant test the Flames have faced since having to click past “Fifty Shades Freed” on HBO in the team hotel at last year’s Boca Raton Bowl.

It’s the bedrock of college sports that we get traditional powers playing upstarts. Ever see “Hoosiers” or any other sports movie ever?

The best moment in college football history came in 2007 when Boise State upended Oklahoma in this very bowl game with the Statue of, um, Liberty play.

College football is trying its best to homogenize its product into the NFL Lite, and even the overdue arrival of the 12-team playoff next season won’t exactly give us the football equivalent of March Madness.

December Delirium?

The 12-team playoff will only further entrench the haves from the have-nots, save for the one playoff spot reserved for the best team from the so-called Group of Five. This year that would have been Liberty.

And while you might not be that excited about Liberty in a one-off showcase game against the Ducks, there certainly would be more intrigue in this matchup if advancing to a playoff quarterfinal were on the line.

That would get everyone’s attention. Celebrities, presidents ... well, at least one president. Point is, it would be great theater.

The Fiesta Bowl can be, too, even if there isn’t as much at stake.

And to my new friends, the Liberty fans: I sincerely look forward to getting more familiar with your program and meeting you in Glendale.

All nine of you.

Bill Oram

Stories by Bill Oram


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