Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips took part in a Q&A yesterday afternoon with TigerNet.com. During the back and forth — which can be read in its entirety here – Clemson’s AD revealed that:
* 80% of the revenue generated by the ACC’s new ESPN deal is tied to football.
* The league has “look-ins” at five-year intervals that would allow the conference to renegotiate for more money if the conference’s level of play in football were to improve. (In other words, if Florida State, Clemson, Miami or others started competing for national titles, the league could earn more cash.)
* The ACC used some of the same consultants for negotiations that other leagues have hired to aid in their own ESPN negotiations. In other words, it wasn’t the negotiations that hurt the ACC… it was the lack of high-end football.
* There have been no discussions between Clemson and the Big 12, but “it’s such a moving target,” that Phillips would rule nothing in or out.
Asked whether or not the ACC needed to expand to add more football powers (preferably in good TV markets with plenty of recruits near by) — good luck finding those at the moment — Phillips had this to say:
“I’m at a juncture to where you don’t rule anything out anymore. You simply can’t rule it out. The irony of it is that as I look backwards, I can still remember when I was at Arkansas when we went to the SEC and the consternation of us leaving the old Southwest Conference at that time. That was traumatic because of the ties that we had. Then I go to the Big XII when they expanded. I guess that should’ve been a signal that this is the times that we live in. I do believe that it’s going to continue. I do know this — football has got to be very strong because that is driving these contracts. At the ACC meetings, we had an interesting presentation that was in regard to basketball and football with regard to the public. Basketball is a great sport and has a great following, but over the last 10-15 years, where at one time basketball was up as a sport in this part of the country and football was lower and now it has changed places. That in and of itself tells you that football is what the public wants. They want a playoff. They want a championship game that’s not contrived, but one that pretty well matches up the two best teams at the end of the day. That’s what the public wants and conferences have got to position themselves to where their members have an opportunity to get there.
One of the things that (Clemson football coach) Dabo (Swinney) did a very good job of talking about at the conference level was about the concern that one of the (SEC) teams will start off ranked higher and they have a tendency to stay up there and Dabo said, ‘Well, this past year was a great example that that is not true. If you base it on performance and who you are playing.’ We start off 8-0 and we go from being unranked to fifth in the BCS and had we finished out — fortunately we were able to come back and beat Wake Forest to get in the championship and then we beat a good, solid Virginia Tech team in the ACC Championship. But had we finished out the year the way we did those first eight games, we could’ve been playing for the national championship and that’s going from being unranked. That’s based on performance. I thought Dabo’s point was very good. This year showed what can happen and unfortunately, we were very grateful that our kids played well in the championship game and we won that against a good, solid Virginia Tech team, but our losses occurred at the end of the year which dropped us out of the BCS opportunity, but at one time we were sitting there pretty doggone good.”
This is further proof that the anti-SEC push of “their teams just start out more highly ranked in the polls” is poppycock. Yeah, I said it… poppycock. Balderdash, too, for that matter.
Phillips’ statement also shows that the powers-that-be in college athletics are now seriously paying attention to the fans. In part, that’s because social media and the internet and talk radio — all of which have boomed in the last 25 years — have given fans more outlets with which to voice their opinions. But playing just as big a role is the fact that fans aren’t spending as many dollars on tickets as they have in years past. They aren’t watching the BCS bowl games on television like they have in years past.
College athletics’ power brokers have finally realized that they can no longer hand fans a peanut butter sandwich and charge them for steak.