The ACC Deal And The Florida State Problem

Florida State flirting with the Big 12 is not as wise as it may sound (Melina Vastola)

After the ACC and ESPN announced their new media deal, most ACC fans were okay with the deal. The only real complaints came from two football schools - Florida State and Clemson. By giving up 3rd tier rights for football games, fans of the two schools felt that the ACC just flat out doesn't care about football and are clamoring for the Big 12.

Before, it was mostly just message board rumors that FSU and Clemson were Big 12 bound. It even got to the point where FSU's athletic director, Randy Spetman, had to publicly release a statement saying that the school was not exploring other options and is committed to the ACC.

"We're in the ACC. We're committed to the ACC," Spetman said. "That's where our president and the board of trustees has committed to, so we're great partners in the ACC."

...

"I'm not out negotiating."

One would think that would debunk any sort of rumor that Florida State was Big 12 bound. But clearly the board of trustees isn't as committed to the ACC as Spetman believes.

Courtesy of Warchant.com:

"It's mind-boggling and shocking," said [FSU Board of Trustees President Andy Haggard]. "How can the ACC give up third tier rights for football but keep them for basketball?"

Haggard is referring to the fact that the ACC surrendered all third tier television rights for football to ESPN/ABC but kept them for men's basketball. That arrangement will likely result in substantial revenue for schools with a strong basketball following like North Carolina and Duke.On the other hand, it will do very little for schools with a more traditional football following like FSU, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami.

"It continues the perception that the ACC favors the North Carolina schools," noted Haggard.

Haggard added that he has received numerous emails from FSU fans and alumni since the deal was announced and estimates that about 95 percent are unhappy with the ACC's deal and how it will impact Florida State.

This overwhelming criticism over the ACC's handling of the new TV deal and FSU's recently announced financial shortcomings (projected $2.4 million deficit for 2012-13) have only added fuel to rumors of a potential move to the Big 12.

Haggard confirmed that as far as he knows there has been no contact between FSU and the Big 12 regarding possible expansion. However, he makes it very clear that he and the Board of Trustees would be more than open to exploring the possibility if it would mean additional revenue to the school.

"How do you not look into that option," asked Haggard. "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. We have to do what is in Florida State's best interest."

And he isn't the only one. Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher would also not be opposed to the move.

"There have been no official talks, but I think you always have to look out there to see what's best for Florida State," Fisher said. "If that [jumping to the Big 12] is what's best for Florida State, then that's what we need to do."

It also hurts that the ACC's media deal is heavily back-loaded. The $17 million figure that has been tossed around is the average over the life of the contract. Add in the fact that FSU's athletic department is over $2 million in the red and you can see the problems:

The reality was bad, however. The initial bump in television revenue is actually just over $1 million a year, sources said, and a total in the $12 million range next season. The deal is back loaded so the bigger money comes in escalator provisions that, considering how broadcast rights keep growing, probably will be below market by the time any sizeable gains are realized.

Saturday night, FSU President Eric Barron had this to say regarding FSU, the ACC, and the Big 12:

"...Florida State is not seeking an alternative to the ACC nor are we considering alternatives."

So this is where we are. Florida State, occasional down football seasons aside, is still a nationally recognized brand in college football and the ACC should do their best to keep them in the conference. The conference would take a major hit should the school depart for the Big 12 as it could take another ACC school with it, whether it is Miami or Clemson.

However, Florida State really has only themselves to blame. Seminoles fans complain over the fact that 3rd tier rights are not given to the schools, but it's highly unlikely that FSU's 3rd tier rights would have covered the $2.4 million deficit. It isn't the ACC's fault at all that Florida State is losing money and by my math, the new media deal would be more than enough to bring the school out of the red. And even if FSU goes to the Big 12, not only do they have to pay the $20 million exit fee to leave the ACC, they also won't be seeing that reported $20 million cut that the Big 12 members are getting until they've been in the conference for a few years. It's also unlikely that the Big 12 would pitch in, a la WVU, because they simply don't need Florida State immediately.

When the ACC last expanded, Florida State, Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech were all expected to be powerhouses and compete for national titles. While all have had good seasons, that really hasn't happened. And it certainly doesn't help that the ACC is a whopping 2-14 in BCS games since the BCS was formed with, by the way, both of those wins coming against the supposed weak Big East. Add all of that relatively mediocre football up and you end up with a less than desired media deal.

Florida State fans constantly feel that the football schools feel like the outcasts and that the ACC's sole focus is on basketball and Tobacco Road. Regardless of whether that is true or not, those schools succeed on the national stage so you can't fault the conference for trying to highlight those programs as often as possible. And should the Seminoles go to the Big 12, they then get to be kicked around by Texas and be stuck in a similar situation to what they may be dealing with in the ACC. Whatever Texas says goes in the Big 12 and Florida State will have to deal with that. And remember that it was only just this past September that Texas was one Larry Scott decision away from joining the Pac-12 and taking Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech with them. The Big 12 instantly becomes nothing without Texas and Oklahoma.

If the university feels ultimately that the Big 12 is the right place for them, so be it. But if Florida State wants to leave because they feel North Carolina and Duke run everything now, then they're in for a big surprise when they start dealing with Texas.

From a personal standpoint, I hope Florida State stays in the ACC because I want to see them play at Heinz Field. The game would be a big draw for the Panthers and really help to boost attendance. But from their own standpoint, they already have enough trouble handling a supposed weak ACC. Competing in the Big 12 against the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia won't be any easier.

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