And Now Liberty is FBS Bound
PRESS RELEASE: NCAA Approves Liberty’s Waiver Request for FBS Reclassification Process
— Liberty Flames (@libertyflames) February 16, 2017
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.