Conference Realignment: FSU-to-Big12 Drama; A Georgia Tech Point of View


A Georgia Tech perspective on the Florida-State-to-Big-12 chatter

ESPN obtained a memo written by Florida State President Eric Barron and then chaos ensued. At this point Barron’s letter is just a pro/con list on ACC membership, and it is probably premature to be giving this story so much attention. As Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim once said, “nothing premature is good”. Nevertheless, everyone is weighing in on the Florida-State-to-the-Big-12 speculation, so now I will do the same. Although I am writing from a Georgia Tech perspective, I suspect my point of view will be similar to other ACC team’s fans.

First, I want to provide my unfiltered, initial reaction to learning about the story. At first, I was shocked that FSU would bring this up after the ACC just made expansion moves to secure its position amongst the top conferences in college sports. I also wondered, why the Big 12? It does not make sense geographically, and personally I think the Big 12 is overrated. Lastly, I was initially a little angry at FSU, as you may expect. I am a proud and loyal ACC guy, so I don’t take kindly to this sort of speculation.

After those reactions, I tried to step back and examine the story more judiciously. We all know that the conference moves come down to money, and to a lesser extent perception. In terms of money, the move seems like a wash according to Barron’s list. The Big 12 has a more lucrative TV deal that the ACC. However, the ACC shares equally with its members, while Texas tends to gobble up Big 12 money (Ed note: This changed in 2010, thought Texas still earns a ton in Tier-3 rights). The ACC recently signed a 15 year $3.6 Billion deal with ESPN which will pay each team about $17.4 million a year according to Forbes Magazine.  Not bad, but still not the best amongst other major conferences. The Pac-12 deal will provide about $20.83 million a year per team. Forbes also speculates that a move to the Big 12 may provide a little bit more money, but probably not very much.

Now, let’s look at this from a Georgia Tech/ACC perspective. I mentioned that perception is a driving factor for conference realignment. The ACC is no bottom-feeder, but has a popular perception problem. I believe this is unfair and really gets under my skin. A big part of the issue is lack of respect for some of the ACC’s very strong programs. Namely, Georgia Tech and Clemson do not get the respect they deserve as big-time, successful college football programs. Another factor is the ACC’s tendency to beat itself up in conference play every year. Plus, ACC teams beat each other up, and have usually underwhelmed in recent BCS bowl games. I think part of the blame should go straight to FSU, though. FSU plays in the weaker Atlantic Division, yet only has one ACC Championship (in 2005). The Seminoles never lived up to their hype since expansion and have (at times) embarrassed the ACC. If FSU is one of the so-called premier teams in the ACC along with Virginia Tech and Miami, then maybe they should play like it more consistently.

Ultimately, I think and hope that this will all go away and FSU will stay in the ACC. I like FSU. I like the tomahawk chop. And I like them in the ACC. FSU’s faculty has correctly pointed out that a move to the Big 12 would be an academic downgrade. ACC Commissioner John Swofford has proven to be a crafty leader, and will keep FSU around and continue to battle the ACC’s perception problem. “My message would be to stay in the ACC,” said legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden — a statement and point-of-view the school’s administration may want to pay attention to.

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20 thoughts on “Conference Realignment: FSU-to-Big12 Drama; A Georgia Tech Point of View

  1. I am sure this was written before the announcement today of the SEC/Big 12 partnership in a football bowl game. Couple this with the B1G and Pac 12 football partnership and that leaves no partner for the ACC. Additionally, what happens when the ACC/B1G bball tournament becomes the B1G/Pac12 tourney and the SEC/BE bball tourney becomes the Big12/SEC bball tourney. It is as if the 4 super conferences are beginning to take shape and now is the time for ACC teams to begin wondering where they fit.
    What do you think about this?

    • You’d be right. Definitely written before that announcement.

      That said, unsure that basketball really fits into this at all. The four superconferences setup will be more of a football thing (in my opinion), with limited partnership off the gridiron (see B1G/ACC challenge as case and point).

      Have to agree, unfortunately, that the wheels are now in motion for four leagues to be superior to the others. There’s an issue there, though, and that’s where the B1G and Pac-12 go from here. If the Big 12 becomes stable, the Pac-12 is sectioned off out west and blocked from other superior teams, so they have to stay at 12. The B1G has no desire to add teams right now, and I doubt they’d stoop to adding Rutgers/UConn/Syracuse/Pittsburgh just to get to 16. Looking at it that way, the ACC can survive, albeit as the odd-league-out of a four-league system.

  2. This was written before that announcement. The Big12/SEC partnership is certainly not good news, but may not be as horrible as it sounds. Their conference champions play if they’re not in the national championship playoff. It seems pretty likely that at least one team from the SEC/Big 12 would be involved in the playoff most years. And its not as if the ACC has no bowl partnerships with other conferences (ACC/SEC Chick Fil A Bowl). Still, this is a critical time for the ACC. Either get included with the elites, or be the best of the rest.

    • I believe the impact of the Big 12-SEC game is that it cuts out the middle man (the bowls) from the process. The game (they have refused to call it a bowl) will be jointly owned by the conferences and put out for bidding, In short, the conferences owns this game and keeps the money for themselves. This is the further financial impact that the ACC may not be able to keep up and draw Florida State/Clemson and hopefully Georgia Tech to the Big 12.

  3. Who says which league is more academically superior than another? Where does all this “de facto” stuff come from? What are the facts? No human is more superior than others. As a publisher and editor i can attest that the only significant difference i’m aware of in higher education academic quality is between Liberal Arts Colleges and State Universities. Differences between one University and another University are minor and differ according to departments. Liberal Arts colleges are superior to any University, unfortunately they’re more expensive. Please don’t refer or quote US New & World Report it’s a ego manual for parents and it’s formula’s of quality are bizarre at best.

  4. I think the ACC needs to take some serious steps in order to keep its membership (including FSU) happy, especially in light of the new SEC / Big 12 bowl agreement.

    I would like to see the ACC start taking charge and set up its own bowls, which seems to be where things are headed. I’d also like to see an actual TV station that is the “ACC Network” (as opposed to just seeing it in normal definition TV on small-time affiliate stations).

    I also think, if at all possible, the ACC needs to bring Notre Dame into the conference.

      • At this point, unsure if Notre Dame keeps FSU in the ACC. Though it undoubtedly keeps the league together. Hoping there’s some resolution coming soon, but given how this realignment mess has moved along, it could be three hours or three years until we know how it all shakes out.

  5. As a Big 12 fan, I’ll promise you that if we don’t secure FSU/Miami/Clemson/yourschoolhere/ it won’t be because we didn’t try. Geography means less than money, so if it makes dollars and sense, they will be our newest members. And by the way, the Big 12 is better than the ACC in football, even though you say it’s overrated. 6-2 bowl record in 2012.

  6. I understand your angst. As a Longhorn and Big 12 fan, I went through the same turmoil especially with the losses of Nebraska and Texas A&M (Colorado and Missouri have been irrelevant for so long).
    Definitely the convergence of Florida State finances and the back-loaded ACC-ESPN contract will force Florida State to seriously consider moving to the Big 12.
    Nothing will be done until the Big 12 directors meet in a week and after that, I think the Big 12 will want to see how the playoffs pan out before making an official offer to Florida State.
    I’ve read that Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez and Texas’s Deloss Dodds favor a selection committee for playoff selection. If so, I think it would add pressure to Florida State to move into the Big 12 for basketball-similar RPI status for the committee to review.
    If Florida State leaves, what will be Clemson’s and Georgia Tech’s positon, will they also want to leave. It’s for this reason I did a google search and stumbled onto your blog. I for one WANT GEORGIA TECH (love the campus, history, and Atlanta) to come with Florida State (and hopefully Clemson) to the Big 12. Not only does it add Georgia’s viewership, but also recruiting grounds and limits travel concerns for Florida State.
    Notre Dame has publicly stated if there’s a conference it would join, it would be the ACC. I believe this is the one coup-de-grace that would save the ACC. But if Notre Dame does not join the ACC, they may be forced to join a conference if the new playoff system requires conference champions. But if Notre Dame does not move to the ACC first, and Florida State moves to the Big 12 with Clemson and Georgia Tech, I think it’ll be too late for the ACC if Florida State jumps.
    Notre Dame would be left with the option of joining the Big Ten (where population growth is falling) or a new Big 12 (where the population is growing and include fertile recruiting grounds of Texas, Florida, and Georgia).

    • Thanks for reading. You make some very good points from a Big 12 perspective I would not have considered. As much as I like the ACC, if FSU does leave and then the Big 12 comes asking for Ga.Tech, then Georgia Tech may really have to sit down and consider that the move may be in their best interest. Georgia Tech, or whoever, should do what they must to make sure they dont get left out of the picture. I’m glad to hear your respect for Tech, and that you also mentioned Clemson. For whatever reason Miami, VT get talked up so much
      more than GT or Clemson. GT and Clemson have just as much to offer in terms of tradition, money, fan base, and valuable media markets (Atlanta for GT).

      It will be interesting to see if the ACC starts to pursue Notre Dame in the next few days/weeks

      • From my perspective, Miami is radioactive with NCAA sanctions coming and I don’t see the benefit of adding Miami because their fanbase only show up with the Hurricanes are doing well. One way I see Miami being added to the discussion if Florida State were to require Miami to be added as a condition of Florida State joining the Big 12.
        Like you, I don’t see how Virginia Tech can de-couple themselves from Virginia after all the political capital Virginia used in getting Virginia Tech added to the ACC when the ACC originally wanted to add Syracuse instead.
        How does Virginia Tech and the Virginia political establishment allow the Hokies to leave and part from the Caviliers. I just don’t see it.
        Much respect for the Yellow Jackets.

      • I would love for GT to come along with FSU and Clemson. I used to support ND to the ACC and a network like someone else mentioned above; but with the recent contracts I can’t see those things happening anymore (unless ESPN is willing to tear up the old one and start from scratch, which I don’t see them doing).

  7. I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you. Swofford is not a crafty leader. The ACC’s last two contract negotiation efforts have given up more than any other major conference, yet still received less than any other major conference. The new contract is seriously backloaded to the point that major increases will not be seen for ten years, and amounted to little more than an extension of the last contract. The ACC has been trumped by the Pac, despite the fact that it has a better geographic and demographic footprint and it has more football AND basketball viewers. He said the ACC considered but dismissed the idea of a network, as it was not “viable”; this was after the BTN had proved viable, and since then Texas got a huge deal for the LHN and the Pac has announced a deal that will make its network system profitable from day one. VT has been the most successful post-expansion team, and yet the ACC originally wanted Syracuse instead. The ACC has NO vision.

    Plus you cannot blame FSU for its lack of success while also saying it should listen to Bobby Bowden’s advice. Sentimentality for Bowden – keeping him around several years longer than it should have – is why FSU has underperformed since 2000. His last few years drove FSU into the ground. Outsiders do not realize how much Fisher has had to modernize the program (e.g., Bowden did not have any nutritionists on staff). In truth, the whole ACC is to blame. Other conferences have teams step up when one power goes down: Bama/LSU/UF in the SEC; USC, Oregon, Stanford in the Pac; UT, OU, Okla. St. in the B12; OSU, Michigan, PSU, Wisconsin in the B10. Since FSU has been down, no one in the ACC has stepped up to help carry the banner. VT loses almost every major out of conference game it plays. FSU is not responsible for the ACC’s bad contract – the ACC as a whole is.

    • ACC has “NO” vision sounds a bit extreme. When the ACC originally announced its TV contract, it was widely praised. Just a few months ago, when the ACC announced it was adding Syracuse and Pitt, many applauded the ACC for being pro-active and securing its position in a changing landscape. Has the ACC done everything perfectly? No. However, if there is a conference with “NO” vision, that would be the Big East (aka Sun Beast Conference, Google image search it).

      And why cant I say that FSU should listen to Bowden while also noting their fall from dominance over the last decade? Sure Bowden deserves a lot of the blame for the program slipping during, but that does not mean his opinions are now meaningless. He is still the man that built FSU’s program and his advice should still carry weight.

      • I just do not see any moves by the ACC, even the ones that once looked good, that have panned out. People applauded the first ESPN contract two years ago, until some other conferences signed new contracts (getting a lot more for giving up less). The ACC declined to pursue a network, even in the re-negotiation (with the BTN, LHN and Pac out there). In the first expansion, the ACC targeted Syracuse but had VT forced on it (its best team since then). Sure, some people thought the last expansion secured the ACC – but we now see that it did not. Would it look better if I said the ACC had no competence, rather than no vision?

        Bowden is out of touch with today’s college football. He said that FSU should stay in the ACC because it is easier to win national championships there. The SEC disproves this, with the last six NC winners coming from what is regarded as the toughest conference in the nation. The new bowl between the SEC and B12 virtually locks the ACC out of any position of power in football – the new playoff format is not yet decided, but this game paired with the Rose Bowl (Pac/B10) could very well leave the ACC in the cold. Plus, money is needed to win. The ACC is falling farther and farther behind in this respect. When FSU joined the ACC, it paid the most money to its members. Now, it pays less than any of the other major conferences. FSU is a relatively poor school – due in large to the Buckman Act of 1905 that cost it 40+ years of male alumni (doctors, lawyers, businessmen) during a time when women became secretaries, teachers and nurses. FSU needs money more than UF, or its ACC comrades (e.g., UNC, Duke, UVA, etc.). Bowden’s advice might make sense if college football had not changed drastically in the last ten years, or if the ACC had any realistic hope for evening up its revenue discrepancy. But it locked those options up for the long term.

        • Plus, let me add a quote from Chuck Oliver (just published today, saying that FSU and Clemson are leaving for the B12, GT is now entering talks to do so):

          “John Swofford took over as commissioner of the ACC in 1997. At that time, the ACC had the richest media rights deal in college athletics and the crown jewel of the college sports world in many peoples opinion was the ACC Basketball tournament. 15 years later Swofford faces the fight of his life to keep his league relevant in a rapidly changing world of college athletics.”

          Whether it is a lack of vision or competence, the ACC has gone from one of the best conferences to… possible disintegration?

  8. The only thing we know for sure now is that a memo from FSU has caused an onslaught of panic and opinions. Time will tell if the ACC is truly in trouble or not, but no one really knows right now. The new bowl agreements between conference certainly aren’t good for the ACC, but its not as if an undefeated team from the ACC would not be able to get into the playoff system (whatever that may be) and play for a national championship.

    • Agreed. And I’ve been saying this for awhile, too (as have many others). The only reason the ACC and FSU aren’t richer is because of FSU’s lack of success lately. if they’d have gone undefeated or finished 12-1, they’d have played for a championship and helped the causes of the league and themselves, respectively. I’m not saying one team should carry the banner for a conference, but if they want to act like they’re the only commodity the ACC has to offer, then yes, they should be held to a higher standard.

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