FSU prez makes case for remaining in the ACC

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In a statement released Saturday night, and after the chairman of Florida State’s Board of Trustees undermined both the ACC and his own athletic department in suggesting the Big 12 is a viable conference option, university president Eric Barron said that the school “is not seeking an alternative to the ACC nor are we considering alternatives.”

On Monday, Barron released another, much lengthier statement addressing the conference affiliation issue for FSU, and did not back down from his  weekend stance at all.  In addition to once again noting the misinformation that was spread by, among others, BOT chairman Andy Haggard, as it pertained to Tier 3 rights, Barron in his memo seemed to focus in on four key areas of concern, including one that takes a direct slap at the academics in the Big 12.

The University of Texas Monolith
Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest problem, with past instability in the Big 12 was the perception that — right or wrong — it was the UT tail wagging the conference dog.  Barron warned all of those concerned about the ACC being too North Carolina or hoops-centric to be careful what you wish for.

Barron: “2. Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M left the Big 12, at least in part because the Big 12 is not an equal share conference. Texas has considerably more resource avenues and gains a larger share (and I say this as a former dean of the University of Texas at Austin – I watched the Big 12 disintegration with interest). So, when fans realize that Texas would get more dollars than FSU, always having a competitive advantage, it would be interesting to see the fan reaction.”

(Writer’s note: the president appears to be guilty of spreading misinformation ala FSU’s board chairman, or at least isn’t clear as to what tier to which he’s referring as the Big 12 has equal sharing of revenue for Tier 1 and Tier 2 rights.  With the Longhorn Network, however, UT certainly dwarfs the other schools in the conference as there is no sharing of third-tier rights.)

Travel Concerns for Non-Revenue Sports, Loss of Rivalries
In this latest response, Barron makes the case that the travel costs associated with a move to the Big 12 would wipe out any gains in broadcast revenue, plus run beyond that $3 million annual difference between the Big 12 and ACC deals.  Additionally, Barron mentions one rivalry specifically that would be lost in a conference move..

Barron: “3. Much is being made of the extra $2.9M that the Big 12 contract (which hasn’t been inked yet) gets over the ACC contract. Given that the Texas schools are expected to play each other (the Big 12 is at least as Texas centered than the ACC is North Carolina centered), the most likely scenario has FSU playing Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and West Virginia on a recurring basis and the other teams sporadically (and one more unnamed team has to join to allow the Big 12 to regain a championship game), we realize that our sports teams can no longer travel by bus to most games; the estimate is that the travel by plane required by FSU to be in the Big 12 appears to exceed the $2.9M difference in the contract, actually giving us fewer dollars than we have now to be competitive with the Big 12 teams, who obviously do not have to travel as far. Any renegotiated amount depends not just on FSU but the caliber of any other new team to the Big 12.

4. Few believe that the above teams will fill our stadium with fans of these teams and so our lack of sales and ticket revenue would continue.

5. We would lose the rivalry with University of Miami that does fill our stadium.”

Too Broke to Move?
FSU’s athletic department is already facing cuts due to revenue shortcomings, which has played at least some role in the speculation that the school should move its sports to a conference that offers a better annual TV take.  One of the problems with that, however, is the upfront costs to actually leave the ACC.

Barron: “6. It will cost between $20M and $25M to leave the ACC; we have no idea where that money would come from. It would have to come from the Boosters which currently are unable to support our current University athletic budget, hence the 2% cut in that budget.”

Big 12’s Not Nerdy Enough
Haggard has already gone thermonuclear on the ACC, with the result likely being some very upset conference officials and school presidents.   Now Barron has taken a sniper rifle and aimed it at the Big 12, hitting at the very heart of an institution of higher learning’s purpose.

Barron: 7. The faculty are adamantly opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker, and in fact, many of them resent the fact that a 2% ($2.4M) deficit in the athletics budget receives so much attention from concerned Seminoles, but the loss of 25% of the academic budget (105M) gets none when it is the most critical concern of this University in terms of its successful future.

That bolded part will certainly leave a mark in the classrooms throughout Big 12 country.

Barron closed his memo with some of the first bits of common sense tossed into this situation — don’t negotiate your future in the media and don’t let conference affiliation be governed by an emotional reaction to what some perceive as a “bad” broadcast deal.

I present these issues to you so that you realize that this is not so simple (not to mention that negotiations aren’t even taking place). One of the few wise comments made in the blogosphere is that no one negotiates their future in the media. We can’t afford to have conference affiliation be governed by emotion ? it has to be based on a careful assessment of athletics, finances and academics. I assure you that every aspect of conference affiliation will be looked at by this institution, but it must be a reasoned decision.

Of course, Barron’s “commitment” to the ACC or reasons for remaining in their current conference doesn’t ensure in any way, shape or form that FSU will or won’t remain remain in the ACC, or will or won’t reach out to the Big 12 to gauge interest, if anyone even loosely associated with the university hasn’t already.  What it does, though, is continue to highlight the divide between the upper levels of the university’s administration.

Incidentally, the ACC’s spring meetings commenced today, so we’re it’s a near certainty that we’ll hear more on this issue from all sides at some point in the next day or two.

(Photo credit: Florida State University)