Toss out the “gentleman’s agreement” that never existed in the first place. Forget that Florida State once turned down advances from the SEC two decades ago. And nevermind the SEC’s “don’t step on any other conference’s toes” approach to expansion.
Florida State is the biggest name in the South not already in the SEC. Sorry, Clemson. Tough break, Virginia Tech. North Carolina would be nice, but they’re not leaving Duke and a basketball-first conference filled with other AAU schools.
Florida State makes sense on the field. Florida State makes sense in terms of television negotiations. Florida State makes sense in the bank account.
But FSU just voted to raise the ACC’s exit fee to $20 million. So scratch them from the SEC’s wish list, right?
Well, maybe not.
The chairman of FSU’s board of trustees, Andy Haggard, told WarChant.com — the Rivals site covering FSU — that school president Eric Barron worked hard to make sure the league’s new exit penalty didn’t go even higher:
“There was talk of a $34 million penalty and it was at $16 (million). Eric made some outstanding comments to the committee, to the ACC to explain this and that and did a great job for us. H brought that (penalty) down. He and I think Maryland and another school, they all had a problem with it being that much and brought it down to $20 (million) which is only an increase of four (million).”
Well, most reports had stated that the league’s previous exit fee was $13 million, so this jump in exit fees really is nothing to speak of. Not to mention the fact that FSU helped keep it low.
Haggard, you might remember, is the man who said a week ago that FSU was forming an expansion committee. A day later he said that only the president would decide whether or not to call a committee together. Flip meet flop.
And he was flip-flopping all over the place in this most recent interview, too. To wit:
“(A move to the SEC) isn’t happening anyway. The SEC has not contacted us and it’s not going to happen. Every time I read the paper or hear the rumor about FSU all that strikes me is that FSU is a dominant program and if I was on the rumor mill I’d mention FSU, too. But we’ve never been approached and it’s not going to happen in my humble opinion. As a chairman of the board of trustees, I don’t think it is going to happen and Eric (Barron) doesn’t think it is going to happen.
With the new movement with the ACC, which I’m so proud of us and the ACC for expanding and we are one of the first ones to do it, and with speculation about Notre Dame and Connecticut I like were we are at right now. I don’t see any SEC possibilities. But hey, we’ll listen.”
Anybody else wanna land a pie in this guy’s face?
First, you can’t complain about the rumor mill if you’re the guy who tells the press your school is forming an expansion/realignment committee. (We said at the time the only reason to make such a statement was to legally cover the rear of a conference that had approached FSU… “we’re looking, they didn’t come to us.”)
You also can’t complain about the rumor mill when you make a long case for staying put… only to finish that statement by saying, “but we’ll listen if someone else calls.”
Of course FSU’s on the rumor mill. FSU is sending mixed signals. More specifically, Haggard is sending mixed signals. Barron may be the school’s president, but Haggard has become the face of the university.
So what do we make of all of this?
1. The SEC has to know that FSU would be the grand “get.” Like Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska or Penn State, Florida State is one of the top brands in college sports. The Noles would increase ratings across the board no matter who they were playing. Networks would like that.
2. Florida State knows that it would probably make more money in a 14-school SEC with Texas A&M than in a 14-school ACC with Syracuse and Pitt. Now, if the ACC lands Notre Dame, Texas or the Pittsburgh Steelers, yeah, all bets are off. But if FSU is the 14th school in a league, it would be wealthier in a 14-school SEC than a 14-school ACC.
3. We know that FSU has announced and then un-announced the formation of an expansion committee. Why even consider an expansion committee if leaving the ACC were not an option?
4. We know that FSU helped keep the new ACC exit fee from going higher.
5. Add it all up and… hell if I know.
Haggard and FSU have been so far all over the board that it’s impossible to get a read on their thoughts. And from afar it seems as though Haggard just likes to see his words in print. Who knows if his back-and-forth ramblings are to be taken as gospel or not?
There’s no question the ACC is a better academic league and that it will take a lot of cash for FSU’s academics and pointy heads to decide to walk away from that league for the jock-first (at least in reputation) SEC.
Also, the ACC just added two more basketball-first schools. FSU could look at that and realize that it needs to be in a football-first conference. Or it could look at that and realize that it’s got a great chance to own the ACC… while the SEC would be much tougher on Jimbo Fisher’s crew.
Sorry, we’ve got no answers. The SEC is running silent — as usual — and FSU’s Haggard is making so much noise it’s unintelligible.
But we keep coming back to these facts:
1. Regardless of what Mike Slive will say, the SEC needs/wants a 14th school.
2. Slive wants to secure the SEC’s long-term financial security (and his own legacy).
3. FSU is a perfect fit on all fronts.
If the SEC is to avoid the nightmare — and it would be a nightmare — of a 13-school league divided unevenly into two divisions with unequal schedules, then FSU is the best remedy.
And apparently they’d listen if Slive called.