Flaming Out: The Lesson Behind Libery and the Million Dollar FBS Opener

Most people were taken aback by the surprise move of Liberty up to the FBS, mostly because the team wasn’t setting the FCS on fire after two straight 6-5 campaigns. But as out-of-nowhere the move up to a higher division was, an even more head-scratching action was the decision to pay Old Dominion $1.38 million for its home opener.

The Virginia Pilot first revealed the figure through a Freedom of Information Act request through the school for the contract and Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw later said to the Pilot’s Harry Minium the money will come from a “seven figure payout” from one of their pay-for-play games in 2018 and not the university’s $1 billion dollar endowment (The Washington Post reported it would probably come from Auburn or Virginia.)

Liberty’s move has some obvious flaws, including but not limited to:

  • One soon to be mid-major paying another mid-major, a move usually only reserved for P5 teams.
  • Paying Old Dominion of all teams (I know they’re local and all, but really? Even if they are improving, you’re paying that much for them?)
  • Will not have something to play for in the postseason until at least 2019.
  • No TV contract = No extra money coming in to add resources
  • Now have to compete with the likes of Virginia, Virginia Tech, ODU and even FCS James Madison for attention.

But the biggest flaw of all is the potential for this to set a precedent for this type of payment for teams trying to enter the FBS. Coastal Carolina handled their situation differently, going with UMass for their FBS debut this year in a move that doesn’t bring a local name but does smartly save money and give them a chance to win.

No money had to change hands there and even they were in a spot to give up a little cash because of their new spot in the Sun Belt. With Liberty’s brazen move, teams looking to break into a crowded market like the flames will probably have to face a battle to schedule local talent without a payday.

Now this won’t be everywhere. Places like Florida, California and Alabama with high amount of teams and hungrier fans won’t  face this challenge, but teams in states like Virginia, where football is not king, will not as easily schedule teams because of the precedent set and the limitted attention spans they are fighting for.

If Liberty do succeed, my point will be moot because they escaped a stupid initial decision and impressed despite themselves. But if they struggle, and I think they will for a few years, what does all that money that could have gone towards another expense now sits in the pockets of the Monarchs.




One thought on “Flaming Out: The Lesson Behind Libery and the Million Dollar FBS Opener

  1. No conference wanted Liberty, the arrogant Sun Belt Conference or Conference USA, despite that, Liberty is still pushing through and good for them. I hope Liberty is very successful in their move up to FBS football and making it work with all of their sports by meeting Title 9 requirements. Do you big Liberty.


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