Summer 2024

Liberty University's Ritchie McKay given Jim Phelan Award for top Division I head coach

After leading the Liberty Flames to a school-record 29 victories this season, and an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since 2013, head coach Ritchie McKay on Friday was named the 2018-19 recipient of the Jim Phelan Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top Division I coach.

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Not only did Liberty reach the Big Dance, the No. 12 seed upset fifth-seeded Mississippi State in the first round, the university’s first NCAA Tournament win.

McKay has guided Liberty to three straight seasons of 20 wins or more, and a 265-212 overall record with the school. He just finished the fourth season of his second stint at Liberty, which is one of the largest Christian universities in the world. The Christ-centered culture on campus is what attracts many of its students — and its coaches, such as McKay.

“I’ve always been unashamed of who I am in Christ,” McKay said on a recent episode of the Sports Spectrum Podcast.

And after Thursday, McKay is set to stay at Liberty for a long time. He signed a multi-year contract extension that will keep him in Lynchburg, Va., through the 2024-25 season.

The Jim Phelan award is named in honor of the legendary Mount Saint Mary’s University coach, who coached for 49 years and won 830 games, including the 1962 NCAA Men’s Division II championship. The award committee is a 30-member panel made up of current and former D-I head coaches, athletic directors, conference administrators, members of the national media, and staff members. Past award recipients include Bob Huggins of West Virginia, John Calipari when he was at Memphis, Tony Bennett when he was at Washington State, and Tubby Smith when he was at Kentucky.

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