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Ken Medlin

Seminoles weighing their options

Posted May 13, 2012

Florida State wants a raise.

They see their neighbors in the SEC raking in the dough, and they don't like it.

Florida. Georgia. Auburn. Alabama... These are the schools in the Seminoles' cul-de-sac. And while they're all off buying vacation homes and pricing boats, Florida State's clipping coupons and boiling Ramen noodles.

Or at least they feel like they are.

The Seminoles are in debt up to their flaming spears, with a shortfall of $2.4 million projected for their athletic department next year. The ACC's new television deal figured to help offset those budget woes, but when the numbers came in... the money wasn't there, at least not when compared to what SEC schools are getting. And that has FSU fans doing a very angry tomahawk chop.

Things finally boiled over when none other than the chairman of the FSU Board of Trustees, Andy Haggard, went on a full-scale rant to Rivals.com's FSU site.

Haggard went ballistic on warchant.com, calling the ACC's new deal "mind-boggling and shocking." And, not in a good way...

The ACC's deal with ESPN will bring in an average of roughly $17 million per member school each year, an increase of $4 million over the old deal. That's good money, but it pales in comparison to the estimated $25 million/year coming to SEC schools.

Even more troubling, much of the money is back-loaded near the end of the contract. ACC schools can expect only a $1 million increase next season.

"With the SEC making the kind of money it does it's time to act," Haggard said.

Then, no longer satisfied with merely having his finger on the button, Haggard hit "launch" with this quote: "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."

Haggard's main beef with the ACC's ESPN deal seems to be that it gave up third-tier negotiating rights in football, but kept them in basketball. "It continues the perception that the ACC favors the North Carolina schools," he said.

Basketball-crazy schools on Tobacco Road could negotiate their own broadcast deals on any games not picked up by the networks, and keep the cash. But football schools would be unable to hawk their gridiron wares.

Only... that's not the case.

"There is no change in fundamental rights at this time," Michael Kelly, the ACC's associate commissioner for football, told USA Today.

"ESPN does have the rights to all of our football and all of our men's basketball games," Kelly said. "There is no opportunity for our conference or our schools to produce games beyond that in those two sports."

So basketball hot spots like Duke, Carolina, NC State and Wake have no comparative advantage over football schools like FSU and Clemson after all.

Kelly goes on to say that ESPN's tier three rights really amount to an obligation. He says the 4-letter network has to air all of the games left over by the primary broadcasters.

So, I sincerely hope you have a subscription to ESPN3.com, plenty of ACC games will be heading there soon.

Well... at least Haggard's rant was entertaining. It also compelled FSU president Eric Barron to issue a statement regretting any "misunderstandings" and reiterating his school's commitment to the ACC. Florida State is not seeking an alternative to the ACC nor are we considering alternatives," he said.

Which brings me back to my original point - that Florida State wants a raise.

They're in debt, they need money and they're disappointed by the disparity between the ACC's deal and the SEC's. They're getting more money, just not as much as they want.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 has made a Phoenix-like return from the ashes. On life support a year ago, the Big 12 has rebounded nicely - fetching a new television contract that will pay its members roughly $20 million per year. Add FSU to that mix, and the payout would likely increase.

Haggard's comments echo the thoughts of many of the Florida State fans. They feel the ACC's not doing enough for them. The money - and the caliber of football - simply isn't good enough.

Of course, the real irony here is that if Florida State were playing at the level of... umm..., well..., Florida State... this whole issue would be a waste of time. If the Seminoles were playing like Bobby Bowden's teams from the 1980's and '90's, then every network that covers sports would be lining up to bid on the ACC's football rights.

But, instead of FSU and Miami leading the ACC into a golden age of football, the two Sunshine State schools have been average. Frustratingly average...

You want more money, FSU? Earn it. Win some games. Otherwise, your investment in the ACC will continue to pay disappointing dividends.

Still, the ACC probably needs Florida State more than Florida State needs the ACC. If FSU's not happy with the deal the ACC bargained with ESPN, maybe they can bargain a better deal for themselves inside the ACC - or outside.

I can't imagine the Big 12 would be a good fit for the 'Noles, if only because of its geography. Travel costs for "non-revenue" sports would eat into the profits. And since Florida would likely block the Seminoles from joining the SEC, Florida State is left to decide between the low-paying ACC or the high-pay-but-massive-commute of the Big 12.

My guess is the 'Noles will remain a somewhat disgruntled member of the ACC. But the annual conference meetings set for this week on Amelia Island should be mighty lively.

 

21 Comments

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  • Ken D. May 14, 6:50 p.m.

    "It continues the perception that the ACC favors the North Carolina schools," he said.

    Mr Haggard would do well to go back to school and brush up on his math skills and his history. There are four NC schools in the conference. And ten outside NC. Do the math.

    As for history, every decision involving conference membership, including the decision to form the ACC in 1953, were driven by football, not basketball. The decision to expand to 12 teams was made over the objection of its two premier basketball powers, both NC schools.

    Seminole fans have been reading too many NC State fan websites. They need a dose of reality. If they want to leave, we should be happy to see them go.

  • 4tarheels May 14, 6:20 p.m.

    I mentioned this in another blog...but VT and FSU (historically speaking) have carried the ACC in football. What if they were paid more of the football TV money than the Duke's and Wake Forest's who historically don't go to many bowls and don't draw the TV demand. On the flip side, UNC and Duke historically carry the ACC in basketball, so maybe they should get more of the TV money associated with basketball. I know it's a capitalist idea of pay for worth and that's probably not popular in the socialist world of college athletics...just a thought.

  • Ken D. May 14, 9:11 a.m.

    "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."

    When someone in a position of power, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at a major university is, goes off in such an outlandish way, you have to wonder about his fitness for the position. His job isn't to fire up the most rabid football fans for the school. It isn't to throw them red meat. I would be shocked if the statement he made were actually true. And if it were true, I would be very disappointed in them.

    It is certainly true, as the chairman points out, that SEC schools get a bigger payout for their football teams than the ACC does. There is a reason for that. The marketplace feels that league offers a better product to viewers. That is true when you compare the SEC to every other conference, not just the ACC. Does he really want to go to the Big XII and be dictated to by Texas? That's why that league almost collapsed recently.

    When it comes to performance in the revenue sports, the ACC is a clear fifth in the ranking of major conferences. That wasn't quite as clear before the Big East started to fall apart. So their TV contract seems to fall right about where it ought to. If Notre Dame were to join the league, the leagues overall performance won't be noticeably better, but their TV contract probably will.

    That Board Chairman needs to learn when to keep his mouth shut. He is embarrassing his school.

  • Ken D. May 14, 8:25 a.m.

    I hope FSU stays in the ACC! As for Swofford I think he has done a good job but why would he... View More

    — Posted by Zaknow

    When did he do that? I can't find anything on the web about it.

  • Zaknow May 14, 7:17 a.m.

    I hope FSU stays in the ACC! As for Swofford I think he has done a good job but why would he critize FSU, Miami and Clemson for letting the conference down in football? Maybe it is time for a change?

  • daniel81nc May 14, 2:52 a.m.

    no.. swofford is doing a great job LOL hows that "battle of the blues" push going swofford? i do not blame fsu one bit but the part that gets me is the big 12. really? fire swofford now before more schools want to leave.

  • Ken D. May 13, 7:36 p.m.

    The Big 12 would be a good fit for them and I think for Carolina also. Football is big at Fla.... View More

    — Posted by 903 crybaby

    I guess I'm a sucker for tradition because I'd HATE to see Carolina leave the ACC. There's... View More

    — Posted by GunnyGoesArrrgh

    I don't think I'd worry too much about Carolina going to the Big XII. I doubt it would help their football much, if any, since the other schools are so remote. It might even hurt local recruiting, since kids wouldn't have local rivalries to get them excited.

    As for basketball, just how much better could their program be than it is now? It's one of the top 5 programs of all time as it is, and the Duke rivalry helps sustain both those programs in that elite tier. I think going to the Big XII could only hurt them in basketball.

    Rest easy, jgunn. Your Heels aren't going anywhere.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh May 13, 6:46 p.m.

    I wouldn't be so quick to assume that Florida would (or could) keep FSU out of the SEC. And if... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Ken, I swear, you need to talk to someone in power. Your ideas about the BCS and conference expansion are always to logical. Someone needs to hear what you have to say!

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh May 13, 6:44 p.m.

    The Big 12 would be a good fit for them and I think for Carolina also. Football is big at Fla.... View More

    — Posted by 903 crybaby

    I guess I'm a sucker for tradition because I'd HATE to see Carolina leave the ACC. There's rivalries and tradition in the ACC that I would really miss. That said, the direction the ACC is headed in is breaking apart the rivalries, history and tradition that have made the ACC the storied conference it is today.

  • Ken D. May 13, 5:18 p.m.

    I wouldn't be so quick to assume that Florida would (or could) keep FSU out of the SEC. And if FSU did go that route, I think it would be with Clemson by their side. That would take the SEC to 16 schools, and take the ACC back to 12. Both of those configurations make more sense than the current 14 each.

    Adding the ACC schools to the SEC east lets Missouri go back to the west, which makes more sense. Another possibility, in that scenario, is for the SEC to declare itself two separate conferences, which have a TV partner in each other. That would allow them to have two of their teams in a four team playoff if that model is limited (for now) to only conference champions.

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