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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