Conference Realignment: Florida State Talks Big 12, Nonsense

Florida State’s Apparent Flirtation With the Big 12 Reached a Fever Pitch Over the Weekend, With Plenty More to Come

It’s likely everyone caught these shenanigans over the weekend, with Florida State Board of Trustees Chairman Andy Haggard running his mouth about things he knows very little of. Among them, how the ESPN/ACC television deal was put together, the importance of conference academic standing, and his own school’s athletic history, along with that of other schools as well. Said Haggard in his original rant to Warchant.com:

“Schools like Duke, Boston College and Maryland all will receive $17 million a year now. That’s a good chunk of money for anyone’s athletic program, but particularly for one that either sends one of its major revenue sports to the postseason a year, or none.”

He would go on to belabor points about Florida State doing all the “heavy lifting” and try and make a case for unequal revenue sharing. We all know what unequal revenue sharing gets us. As has been pointed out all over the web, his bashing of current conference rivals (poor form which neither he nor the school has yet to apologize for, by the way) seems to conveniently forget 2004-2008.

In that time period, FSU football won one conference championship while forfeiting 12 wins, and never reaching 10 victories in any single season. For all of their huffing and puffing now (after another season in which they failed to win 10 games), the Seminoles have been to the same number of conference title games in football (two) as the same Eagles they criticize in that statement. In basketball during that period, they did not make the NCAAs once. In comparison, during those four years, Duke made every tournament, Boston College made three and Maryland made one. It’s easy to talk tough when you’re winning, but you didn’t hear this type of preening from the ‘Noles when they weren’t. Even now, they still haven’t won a league title in football since 2004. In basketball, this season marked their first ACC tournament crown (but don’t tell them that).

This post isn’t just to bash Florida State, either. The uproar of this weekend’s events also brought to light further issues with the negotiating process undergone for the ACC’s latest TV deal. Says Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel:

“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.”

So this sort of flips the script on the ACC. And rightfully so. While the league has yet to make a statement stemming from these findings (and they probably won’t), I’m curious to see if there are calls to rectify it at the ACC meetings this week. The more that comes to light on this TV contract, the more of a raw deal it appears to be (for everyone involved). As our newest contributor Joel Penning brought up in the comments the other day, how is it that the ACC is the third-most watched football league and second-most watched basketball league, yet gets the fifth-most money?! When put in those terms, it’s hard for a brand like FSU, or Clemson or Virginia Tech or Miami stand by and allow themselves to get jobbed out of tens of millions. Once the new SEC and Big 12 contracts hit, the disparity will be even more extreme, making the $20 million exit fee chump change compared to the riches teams can find in other leagues.

None of this is to support teams leaving or anything like that, but the league can’t be in denial of the facts: It’s getting short-changed by its own leadership for reasons I still can’t figure out. Is it ESPN pulling the strings here, and if so, why would they want their sole-ownership property (the ACC) to be sullied by a deal like this? So is it John Swofford undervaluing his conference? We really don’t know at the moment. Surely, there will be plenty of talk about all this at the conference meetings this week, but we’re in the dark on anything even beginning to get sorted out. Schools are likely ticked off about the television contract, and scared of possible defections (the four schools named above, specifically). Do they push for a renegotiation of TV rights (not gonna happen), or maybe look to add schools? The second part isn’t happening (shouldn’t be happening) without Notre Dame being involved, obviously, since any subsequent expansion to keep teams in place needs to stress football earning power over everything else. Again, what happens next is anyone’s guess, and apparently the ACC is now far from safe.

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