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Jerry Falwell Jr. says the Sun Belt only turned down Liberty’s money because of politics, but the Sun Belt says differently

The evangelical school reportedly offered $24 million to Conference USA, and its school president is calling out the Sun Belt as well.

NCAA Football: Liberty at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Liberty’s making the leap to FBS football in 2018 and 2019, despite not having a conference home.

This came only after Liberty was rebuffed by at least two conferences.

In early September, The Virginian-Pilot reported Conference USA had turned down a $24 million admission offer from Liberty, much higher than the regular $2 million admission fee. Per the newspaper, it was due to C-USA presidents being unwilling to deal with Liberty’s evangelical politics.

Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. took to Twitter to share the story and call out a second league along the way.

In a conversation with SB Nation, Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson acknowledged Liberty offered the league a “sizable” admission fee.

“It was less than $24 million in spring of 2014,” Benson said. He declined to say specifically how much it was.

The Sun Belt ended up adding Coastal Carolina. Benson cited geography as a big factor in CCU’s favor.

When temporary members New Mexico State and Idaho leave, the Sun Belt’s members will be within the Deep South, Mid-South, and Gulf regions. Liberty is in Central Virginia.

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Benson maintains the Sun Belt’s content at 10 football schools for the near future.

Idaho and NMSU were added via four-year contracts in 2013, and in 2016 the decision was made to not extend agreements.

The NCAA used to require leagues to have 12 teams in order to hold title games, but does not anymore, so the Sun Belt’s adding one in 2018.

Liberty is going the route of the independent with money to blow.

As a private institution, its money situation is different from that of recent FBS newcomers like UMass, Coastal Carolina, UAB, and Georgia Southern. Liberty’s spending bookoo bucks to prep for the move.

The school has spent an eye-popping $196 million on athletic facilities since 2010, and after I walked around campus for a few hours this week, it’s obvious that Liberty’s athletic plant rivals some Power 5 schools.

Liberty recently opened a $29.2 million indoor football facility that is more costly than Virginia Tech’s and is a stunningly-beautiful building. It has a 70-yard high ceiling, a 100-yard field and picturesque windows on the north side that offer a breathtaking mountain view.

The large amount it offered both conferences shows the checkbook is open, as does the $1.32 million LU will pay Old Dominion for a guarantee game next fall.

Liberty hired former Buffalo and Kansas coach Turner Gill in 2012. He has a total compensation package that is competitive with coaches in the MAC and C-USA at over $750,000. The Flames have also been competitive against FBS programs, beating Baylor in 2017.

The transition from FCS to FBS is extremely difficult. It remains to be seen how the Flames will handle the move. Whichever way they do, they’ll be going it alone.