Liberty athletic director: We're a Sun Belt option

Liberty University athletic director Jeff Barber publically acknowledged Tuesday night that his school is being considered for membership in the Sun Belt Conference.

Liberty announced nearly a year ago it wants to move its football program from the FCS level to the FBS. The Flames are a member of the Big South Conference.

"It's just the continual changing of the landscape with Tulsa leaving Conference USA to go to the (soon to be renamed) Big East and Western Kentucky left the Sun Belt to go into Conference USA, so it opened up another spot. We're one of those being considered," Barber told The News & Advance of Lynchburg.

FCS powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern accepted invitations last week to join the Sun Belt in the 2014-15 school year, but other movement within the conference, including Western Kentucky's impending departure, will leave the conference with 11 football-playing schools, or one short of its preferred amount, according to commissioner Karl Benson.

James Madison from the Colonial Athletic Association also is rumored to be on the Sun Belt's short list of candidates.

Liberty's campus has undergone expansion and renovations, including with its athletic facilities, in recent years. The Flames' average home attendance of 16,318 last season at 19,200-seat Williams Stadium ranked 11th in the FCS. There are plans for further expansion at the stadium.

The Flames are coached by Turner Gill, who previously led Buffalo and Kansas on the FBS level.

"Eleven months ago, we did say we're ready and now we are having discussions with the Sun Belt Conference and we're hoping for good things," Barber said. "We're ready to move up. We're ready to compete at a higher level. Our coaches are ready and our staff is ready. We're ready to move."