Last year D1A welcomed their newest conference, and with a multitude of new teams. This year the Liberty Conference is back, and it looks to have grown leaps in bounds since its debut season. Before they kick their season off on September 7 take a look into the conference, and what lies in their cards for the 2018/19 season.
What Has Changed?
Its Size- The Liberty Conference was the largest conference in D1A last year, it boasted 17 teams within its ranks, this year they’ve expanded. Three premier college programs from the Northeast, now join the conference: American International College (AIC), Boston College, and State University of New York, Oswego. AIC will nestle into the I-95 division, Boston College will compete in the New England Division, and Oswego will be venturing into the Empire Division.
“We’re happy to grow the conference.” Stated Liberty Conference Commissioner and Fordham Head Coach, Andrew Gheraldi. “AIC has a national pedigree; Boston College has been one of the most competitive programs in the Northeast, and just like [Cortland] last year we expect Oswego to come in and compete immediately.”
The Format- Reflecting on last year, Gheraldi conceded that it had been more successful than anticipated, but there was room to improve. One of the biggest issues that needed addressing was finding an outright champion.
Not many could argue against Iona College being the premier side in the inaugural season; but the Gaels were unable to hold any official claim to that title, as there was no defined way to declare the champion. To avoid this dilemma, Liberty has introduced a four-team playoff. The three divisional winners and one wild card team will face off in a four-team playoff to determine who is the best team in the conference. The seeding and wildcard selection will be decided by a competition committee vote.
Despite not having a representative in the National Championship Playoff last year, the Liberty Conference has put in work over the offseason to see its teams be able to compete nationally this year. Gheraldi mentioning, “When we formed the conference, we founded it with like-minded programs and open-minded coaches. The coaches have worked together to pick brains of coaches and administrators domestically and abroad so that everyone will be heading back to camp with new ideas.”
Additionally, each team within the Liberty Conference has incredible depth, with the majority of programs fielding up to three sides. The development and increased exposure of their player pool will only continue to help grow the skill level throughout the conference. However, in the immediate future the question that begs is, who will be the best this year.
Who to Watch For?
When looking at it division by division it appears that the strength lies in the I-95 division. With teams like Iona, AIC, Fordham and Delaware in the mix it certainly makes for a compelling division to watch as it unfolds.
In the Empire, there is perhaps the greatest amount of parity. The result of the pool will seemingly come down to a singular game, as was the case last year. It will be hard to look beyond Binghamton to repeat or Colgate to have a renaissance year, given the outstanding coaching of Kevin Dublin and David Chapman, at the respective programs.
In the New England Conference, Boston College in their debut season could be the favorites to walk away with the hardware, but they will come up against tall orders from the rest of the conference. Their major threat will be reigning champions and cross town rivals, Northeastern. The Huskies, went through the year undefeated last year, and with a point differential of 182 points they’ve got a firm perch on the top of the ladder.
For the overall championship, it can be hard to determine, but Iona will likely be the team to beat once again. Gheraldi noting that “Iona will be a challenge for most teams in our conference. They are a well-coached and organized team. Across all the divisions it will be tightly contested but Iona, at this stage, appears to be ahead of everyone else.”
The Liberty Season officially kicks off the weekend of September 7, with most teams getting their campaigns underway a week later .
Liberty Conference Schedule 9/7- 9/8
Liberty Conference Schedule 9/14-9/15