NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – The Rev. Jerry Falwell was the founder of what has become Liberty University and likely the biggest fan of Flames athletics.

He was on the mind of Liberty coach Carey Green as the Big South champion Flames prepared to face host Old Dominion on Easter Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“I guess I had a more personal relationship with him,” Green said Saturday, his eyes moistening as he struggled to find the right words. “The truth is I miss him.” Falwell died last May at age 73 after being found unconscious in his office at the evangelical Christian school, which he founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971.

The Flames earned their NCAA tournament berth on a short jump shot by Megan Frazee with 0.3 seconds left in the conference title game, giving them a 66-65 victory against Radford. The ball bounced twice on the rim before dropping into the basket.

“Sometimes I wonder. We made a last-second shot to get here,” Green said. “I wonder if that ball was going to come out and Doc tipped it in. That type of thing. Knowing his competitiveness and how much he loved all sports and everybody at Liberty – I don’t know all the Biblical and spiritual realities, but if God would have allowed him to tip that thing in, he would have grabbed it and slammed it in there.”

Falwell, a television evangelist who founded the Moral Majority and used it to mold the religious right into a political force, cherished the Flames’ success in sports, viewing the Liberty basketball teams almost as the Moral Majority in short pants.

He also relished being king of it all, his entrances for Liberty home games greeted by chants of “Jerry! Jerry!” His front-row seat was often besieged by picture-seeking students whose upper bodies were painted in the school’s red and blue colors.

Since his death, Falwell’s son, Jerry Jr., has assumed the role of chancellor of the school of about 8,000 students, and his other son, Jonathan, has taken over as the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, with a congregation of about 22,000 members.

Green said Jerry Falwell Jr. was expected to attend Sunday’s game.

Green, meanwhile, had a good reason for being emotional. His appearance in Norfolk came one day after the birth of his first grandchild, Joshua David Grunkemeyer, in Ohio, and he began his press conference by announcing he had photos for all to see.

“This is March Gladness for us,” he said.

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