Feb 17 / Rob

And Now Liberty is FBS Bound

Earlier this afternoon, Liberty University, the school that hired the ex-Baylor AD Ian McCaw who failed to report an allegation of a 2012 sexual assault involving five football players, announced its intention to move its football program to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The timing was shocking, but it was no secret the school had its sights set on making the move eventually. Liberty University, the school that hired the ex-Baylor AD Ian McCaw who reportedly asked for immunity for football players under investigation for sexual assault, had made a number of public overtures to join FBS conferences. After the school was repeatedly denied, its only option appeared to be getting a waiver from the NCAA to make the jump without an invitation from a conference. The NCAA granted that waiver and now the move to FBS is in the works.

There are a few different ways for the JMU faithful to react to this news. We’re guessing the “FBS or Bust” crew will probably lose their minds and double-down on the sky is falling, Fire Bourne!, Fire Alger! rhetoric that was temporarily put on the back burner during the run to Frisco. The “Pro FCS” folks will probably laugh this off and immediately point out the risk of making the leap without any conference affiliation. And the “Whatever. I’m Rootin Regardless” folks probably have better things to do than read this nonsense. We’re not going to tell you how to feel. We’re not going to light our pitchforks and protest on the quad. And we’re not going to wrap you in a blanket and tell you that everything is going to be just fine. Because we don’t really know. And it’s all up to you to decide.

We will point out a few facts though. First off, Liberty University, the school that hired the ex-Baylor AD Ian McCaw who allegedly helped suppress up to 52 cases of sexual assault by football players, is in a very different situation than JMU. While we all love JMU, it’s not a school with deep pockets. Television contracts for the non-P5 FBS are nowhere near as lucrative as they once were. If JMU were to make a similar move to FBS as an independent, it would need to negotiate its own television deal. BYU and Notre Dame have done that, but it would be tough for an FBS newbie.

Likewise, if JMU were to move up as an independent, it would lack the bowl tie-ins or revenue guarantees that conference members get. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that such a move would be a guaranteed disaster. It would be a substantial risk though, especially if the school didn’t have enough money to sustain itself while it worked toward building the revenue streams required to field a competitive team.

Liberty University, the school that hired the ex-Baylor AD Ian McCaw who failed to report allegations of sexual assault by football players to Baylor’s judicial affairs or anyone outside of athletics, on the other hand has very deep pockets. Enough money in fact that it could afford to pay teams to fill its schedule. And it has its own television network, so it wouldn’t need to negotiate broadcast rights. And it has a vastly different mission, which is to become the evangelical Christian version of what BYU is to Mormans and Notre Dame is to Catholics. This means that going it at alone as an FBS independent actually fits the schools vision for itself. JMU’s vision is different. JMU wants to be a part of a conference of peers and has stated it will make a move if an opportunity to join a conference that fits the school comes about.

Again, we’re not going to tell you if this is good or bad for JMU. We’re no different than anyone else, in that we have no idea what the future holds. It’s undeniable though, that JMU does not have the resources of BYU, Notre Dame, or even Liberty University, the school that hired the ex-Baylor AD Ian McCaw who presided over a football program accused of covering up over 50 instances of rape, perpetrated by as many as 31 players. This very well might be a good move for the folks down in Lynchburg. But that doesn’t mean the exact same move is right for JMU right now. But maybe in a few years, we’ll look back fondly on this move and view it as the thing that enabled JMU to join the always dreamed about hypothetical East Coast conference.


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  1. Shrowder / Feb 17 2017

    Thank you for pointing out the unconscionable hiring of Ian McCaw. All decisions made by that university need to be filtered through the lense of “If they hired a guy who repeatedly covered up sexual assault, is that a school/program we want to immulate?” There are plenty of reasons why a move to FBS makes sense, but following Liberty’s lead isn’t one of them.

    You bring up a good point that I hadn’t heard before/thought of: LU is trying to be on the same plane as BYU and ND. In that sense, they have a completely different set of goals/expectations for themselves than we do for ourselves. Overall, while it’s an interesting move especially because of the proximity of the schools, I agree that there isn’t much of a comparison to draw between their situation and ours.

    Great breakdown Rob!

  2. Drake / Feb 17 2017

    Other than a handful of playoff appearances, they really haven’t had much success in football. I’m from Lynchburg, and they do have an ass load of money. It’s obnoxious how they have taken over the town and their hate speech continues to divide. I see commercials for their online program all the way in Atl. I will say that their hockey program/public ice rink is fun. Other than that, I hate them more than the Pats. Their stadium is cute.

  3. Deacon Danny / Feb 17 2017

    The fact that Liberty shopped a conference invite so hard, but found no conference willing to extend an invite, I think, says a lot about what other colleges and universities thinks of their ‘University of Phoenix’ and deep pockets model of buying anything they want. Guessing most conferences just did not want to have to deal with all of that. Going it alone as an independent newcomer in FBS seems like a pretty tough and expensive proposition. But best of luck to The Flames (not really) on their move.

  4. White Hall / Feb 17 2017

    Setting aside the whether we should become an FBS independent discussion for a minute, how does this affect JMU’s recruiting if we stay FCS? Does an in- state independent FBS offer become more attractive than an FCS powerhousee offer? This is where it could get interesting for us.

  5. maddukes98 / Feb 17 2017

    I was more worried about ODU going FBS than I am with LU. I don’t think LU is the type of school that would really get any interest from the kind of student-athlete that JMU would attract. If you won’t go to H-burg to spend 4 (or more) of the greatest years of your life due to lack of “flash” due to country townie feel, then you sure as hell don’t want to go to L-burg. Move along, nothing to see here in my opinion.

  6. The Fly / Feb 20 2017

    I’m going with the bigger picture here, which is that the NCAA football system is FUBAR. In no sense is LU, Texas State, even UCF or UAB in the same tier as the P5. In all practical reality, we have a Division 1 (P5), Division 2 (G5 + MVC, CAA, Big Sky), Division 3 (everyone else in FCS), and Division 4 (Division 2/3). This Division 2 is pretty close to each other today, whether G5 or FBS, when it comes to coaches, TV money (now almost non existent for G5), stadia, attendance, players, you name it. Put us in a G5 conference, we’ll probably be competing for titles in two years, same as ODU and Appy State. But why? The argument is pretty clear that the increased expense of FBS doesn’t equate to a similar rise in revenue, or attendance, or prestige. I think it’s time for the NCAA to actually sack up and sort out the reality of their awful classification system, and reserve moving up to top-tier football for schools who can compete at the level of at least Vanderbilt if not Alabama. What the hell is a top tier good for if Liberty can get in?

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