When Jesus Is your Fairy Godmother

We’ll know more later today, but so far Liberty’s men’s basketball team has already paid off one of the most remarkable gambles in American higher education.liberty ncaa 2019

SAGLRROILYBYGTH know the story: Back in the 1970s, as I detail in Fundamentalist U, Moral Majoritarian Jerry Falwell dreamed of elbowing his way into elite higher-ed circles. Back then, it didn’t seem at all likely.  In the 1970s, the school that became Liberty University had a squalid little campus, overcrowded classrooms, and no money to pay its faculty.

About twenty years ago, though, second-generation leader Jerry Falwell Jr. won the higher-ed lottery by continuing the long evangelical tradition of non-traditional distance education. Turns out online education was an incredibly lucrative business at the time, and Falwell Jr. plowed his billions into fulfilling his father’s dream.

Falwell invested in traditional markers of prestige in higher-education, including high-performing sports teams. As we’ve seen, they’ve scored big successes in football and now they are poised to be this year’s Cinderella story in the NCAA men’s basketball tourney. Later today, they’ll take on Virginia Tech, having clambered over #5 Mississippi State.

Whatever happens in today’s game, having Liberty teams considered part of the usual landscape of elite college sports already signals a huge win in the Falwells’ long-term strategy. As have other groups before them such as Catholics at Notre Dame and LDS at Brigham Young, Falwell Jr. hopes that Liberty can sport its way into the roster of high-end American universities.

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  1. What Liberty’s Billions Can’t Buy | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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