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.