Unless you live in a cave with no cable, satellite or wi-fi, you’ve probably heard that the Seminoles have launched a full-scale media campaign on the topic of jumping ship from the ACC toward the greener gridiron pastures of the Big 12. That’s right, the same Big 12 that’s now 10 because it lost four teams and very nearly imploded each of the past two years.
Well it seems Florida State – which last won the ACC football title in 2005 and has lost to Wake Forest four of the past six seasons – is clearly too good for its current stablemates and wants to explore the possibility of trying to compete with Texas and Oklahoma instead.
What’s more, rumor has it that Florida State and Clemson (or Miami) might be some kind of package deal to make the Big 12’s name make sense again. To Clemson’s great credit, its president, Board of Trustees chairman, director of athletics and football coach have all had the good sense not to utter a single statement with the words “big” or “twelve” in it since all this mushroomed last week.
Florida State was not so discreet. As ACC officials prepare for their annual spring meetings, Florida State Board of Trustees chairman Andy Haggard threw an incendiary device into the mix with an emphatic rebuke of the new TV deal that he feels falls short of the desired mark. His poor familiarity with the facts didn’t seem to matter.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees I can say that unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer,” Andy Haggard told Warchant.com.
That led to football coach Jimbo Fisher chiming in his support for exploration and school president Eric Barron trying to cool heads with counter-arguments in e-mails to riled-up boosters.
“Florida State is not seeking an alternative to the ACC. Nor are we considering alternatives,” Barron said in a statement to reporters after his bullet-proof rebuttal points were leaked. “Our current commitments remain strong.”
This seems like a good place to interject one rather salient point – Florida State and especially Clemson will not become Big 12 members. No matter how much the fans might clamor for something new and exciting, the negatives far outweigh the perceived positives of secession from the ACC.
What all this really smells like is some kind of plot to gain leverage. Despite the reality that football drives the financial bus, Florida State, Clemson and some other schools still chafe under the conspiracy notion that Tobacco Road is pulling all the strings in the ACC.
Of course, the way to solve the North Carolina-centric problem would be to join a conference where Texas is truly the king and earns disproportionate spoils from its brethren. Yeah, that makes sense.
All of this stems from dissatisfaction with the ACC’s newly-signed 15-year, $3.6 billion television contract with ESPN. The league spun all of the positives about an average $4 million per-school annual increase (neglecting to point out that it’s backloaded), but the truth is it isn’t the kind of money that football-rich conferences like the Southeastern, Big Ten, Pac-12 or even what’s left of the Big 12 can and will get.
And who’s fault is that? If Florida State is unhappy about that, it can look in the mirror to find the problem. The Seminoles’ demise from a once respected national football brand – in the days when it didn’t complain about running roughshod over its inferior conference mates – is one of the prime reasons that the ACC isn’t as financially attractive to the TV networks. That Florida State can no longer beat all the teams that can’t beat the bigger teams from other conferences makes them a curious stone-thrower in the ACC’s glass house.
The ACC is 2-13 in BCS bowl games – a sorry standard for sure that played into the TV negotiations. But the conference is no athletics patsy, either. The ACC has aggressively positioned itself through expansion to remain a relevant player in the constantly realigning landscape. Its core has held strong thus far. It retains an academic standard that could prove to be the pivotal piece in eventually landing the biggest fish out there – Notre Dame.
You think that might make a difference in the TV contract renegotiations?
Florida State fans didn’t stop showing up at football games because of the competition. Doak-Walker Stadium was filled when the Seminoles were beating up on the same teams they’re consistently losing to now. You want to fix the problem? Just win.
But forking over upwards of $20 million to gain an extra couple million a year in the Big 12 isn’t going to fix anything. And it sure isn’t going to make them any more likely to gain a place in the coming four-team playoff.
All it would do is raise expenses. Tallahassee is a long way from everything, so the travel issues might not seem like a big deal to folks marooned in the Florida Panhandle. But don’t think for a minute that Clemson – a charter member of the ACC – is going to give up bus trips to places like Atlanta or Raleigh so it can fly its tennis and soccer teams to Ames, Iowa, and Lubbock, Texas, and everywhere else in the geographically-challenged Big 12 footprint.
Perhaps this is all posturing to push ACC commissioner John Swofford into finishing what he started with his expansion plan and bring Notre Dame into the fold. Perhaps they just want to feel more loved. Perhaps they really want to see if the SEC might consider growing to 16 teams and are just using the Big 12 as bait.
Whatever the motive, the prudent option – and the one Clemson will ultimately stick with in the end – is patience and commitment to the conference they already have.
Build winners on the field that don’t get embarrassed on the big stages, and the money will come.