Of course Florida State President Eric Barron is not going to be in favor of the Seminoles leaving a superior academic conference (ACC) for an inferior one (Big 12). He is a college president!
So he sent out a memo framing the argument over the weekend. The memo was leaked Monday. Barron listed four reasons to consider leaving the ACC and seven reasons to stay.
Let’s look at some of them:
No. 1: “There is a $20-25 million exit fee for leaving the ACC. We have no idea where that money would come from.”
Answer: ESPN. Officially it will be “the Big 12” but essentially ESPN’s increased TV rights to the Big 12 to bring FSU into the fold will account for the fee, if not upfront then within the first year.
No. 2: Schedule. “The most likely scenario has FSU in a division with Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia. This would not cure our attendance problem.”
Very valid but the crossover appeal of Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU is more attractive than what the ACC offers (outside of Miami, which we’ll talk about later) so it is about even.
No. 3: Power. “If the ACC is North Carolina-centered then the Big 12 is at least as Texas-centered.”
True, although the Big 12 has agreed to share primary TV revenues evenly, which was a major stumbling block in the past and helped cause Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri to leave.
No. 4: Travel. “Other sports teams will have to make longer road trips and that could eat away any of the financial benefits of the TV deal with the Big 12.”
Also valid. Estimates are $2 million to $3 million more per year in travel, which would account for most of the current difference in TV deals. However, the Big 12 deal would be renegotiated higher and FSU would be able to keep all revenue earned from its own network. Many TV execs think FSU could get $20 million annually from such a network.
No. 5: Academics. “The faculty are adamantly opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker.”
As they should be. But unless Florida State is going to devote less resources to sports (and raise your hand if you think that’s going to happen!), then the Noles have a revenue problem. The extra money from joining the Big 12 would not only pump eight-figures annually into the sports coffers but could easily be arranged so that $5 million or so of that money every year is added to the general student fund. That should soften the blow a bit.
No. 6: Finally, “a move could cost us the football rivalry game with Miami, a game that we sell out.”
Why? It is in both schools’ best interests to keep playing for just that reason. It sells out. It helps with recruiting. Yes, in Florida State’s case that would mean the Noles football schedule would include eight Big 12 games, Florida and Miami. Challenging but doable. It’s no tougher than LSU’s yearly schedule and they are doing OK.
Dr. Barron is putting up the good fight but he is at the mercy of the boosters ($$$) and Board of Trustees here. If they want to go, then his two choices are to accept the move to the Big 12 or start packing.
The bigger question needs to be not if FSU will go to the Big 12, but why won’t Miami be going with them?