SB must be desperate. With Benson and Hawkins guiding the ship it's understandable.
Taking Liberty would not be a desperate act by the SBC, but merely the execution of their strategic plan, two key components of which are well known:
1) football CCG, which requires a 12th football school
2) georgraphically balanced divisions, which requires a sixth eastern school
JMU could have had that spot since shortly after WKU announced their departure, but they apparently don't want it, so you move on to the next option. If they fail to move on, then it wasn't really much of a strategy to begin with, and also would be a true sign of desperation.
OK to all the negative people out there that don't see Liberty as a good option. I have said it on multiple post here that either Liberty or EKU would the the next school added to the SBC and it is appearing more and more like it will be Liberty. Why is this so bad? I don't get people who are so against it! There are plenty of schools in FBS that are either Private Christian Schools, and no one says anything. Liberty is a school that has the eastern zone that SBC is looking for. Liberty has the money to make the move. They have great facilities and are on TV often. To me this the right move! I hope it gets done ASAP!
As I see it, the only legitimate reason for rejecting Liberty is their very poor academic rating, which is due to two factors:
1) Faith-based curriculum: For example, in biology courses Liberty claims to teach both creationism and evolutionism, but if they spend half their time teaching creationism, then compared to other schools they have spent only half as much time teaching evolutionism. Because evolutionism is the standard against which they are judged, Liberty will not be rated highly.
2) Online education: Liberty has about 12,000 residential students and about 90,000 online students (and growing rapidly). It is difficult to measure the quality of online eductation, so it gets dicounted in the ratings. So once again, because the standard is based upon on campus learning, Liberty will not be rated highly.
Now many mainstream universities have expanded into online education, but they apply limits in some ways to prevent it from lowering their academic ratings. Because of #1, Liberty has no such restrictions, and since Falwell Sr. died in about 2007 they have put pedal to the metal for online eductation, growing it at a phenomenal rate. Falwell Jr. seems to be a far more aggressive businessman.
Translating into dollars: enrollment exceeding 100,000 paying annual tuition of $10,000 gives Liberty over $1 billion per year in tuition revenue. I doubt any current SBC schools will approach that amount - probably ever. It seems reasonable to assume that Liberty's growth rate will decrease somewhat, but if it doesn't they could have an enrollment approaching half a million by about 2020. Their athletics budget is already about $30 million per year and, depending upon enrollment growth, could double or quadruple. Imagine Liberty spending at the same level as some of the top P5 athletic departments. Could happen -- and much sooner than people realize.
Liberty has the potential to be a great pick up for the Sunbelt. As a faith-based school they could potentially develop a small, albeit nationwide fan following. For a lot of folks they might not be their favorite team but one of secondary interest (i.e. Someone might be a die hard Sooners fan but also like to see Liberty win games because they're Evangelical) Any more television money isn't about saturation, its about your ability to sneak in and get a share of market. This could get Sunbelt games in markets that they might otherwise not air.
Agreed, except that the fan following is likely to be very large. It will be nationwide, and even global, but concentrated in the "Bible Belt," which is great for the SBC because for the most part Sun Belt = Bible Belt. Not only will this increase media coverage, as you stated, but should put a lot of fans in seats at SBC schools when Liberty comes to visit. Liberty would help the entire SBC prosper. In a sense, Liberty could be much like the service academies, BYU and Notre Dame. (In fact, Liberty's stated goal is to be for Evangelical Christians what Notre Dame is for Catholics and BYU is for Mormons.)
If I'm a humbug, it's because of how they hit their ceiling in FCS in Big South, and how others ahead of them don't want to do business with them. Maybe it's because these other schools don't like doing business with them? I mean, this comes with calling a school to be an equal...can you work with them? Do you want to work with them? Because conferences like CAA, SoCon, and maybe even OVC don't want to, there's got to be some reason.
There's a lot of mistrust over that institution and the way they do business. Academically, they're likened to a diploma mill, and they are really spending money earned through that on athletics, all while questions begin to be raised as to the value of their degrees, cost to the student, etc. (and it isn't exactly the cheapest option out there). Not my personal opinion, just observations...
Firstly, Liberty is not a "diploma mill;" they are fully accredited.
Secondly, Liberty's business model tells me they have no ceiling. The NCAA has never seen anything like Liberty.