By now you’ve certainly seen the memo/email that Florida State president Eric Barron sent out yesterday during the ACC’s spring meetings. In it, he gave serious counterpoints to the arguments first made on social media… that were then picked up and shouted by the chairman of FSU’s board of trustees, Andy Haggard… and that are now being supported by more and more Seminole fans each day.
It was a stunning response to Haggard’s statements on Saturday. Aside from Texas officials in years past, I can’t recall many university presidents referring to other conferences as being “weaker” academically. Especially not when their school was supposedly angling for an invite into that very league.
Before we look at what Barron said, let’s tackle some obvious points:
1. Barron is having to convince his own board that any move to the Big 12 would be rash and imprudent. Ditto the fanbase. His email reads like a private communication rather than as something he knew would hit the press. It wasn’t given the once-over and twice-over and proof-reading polish that these types of statements usually receive. (Hey, Barron could fit in as a writer here at MrSEC.) There is emotion in his words.
2. The fact that he sent the email at all tells you that there’s suddenly a movement growing to get FSU out of the ACC and into the Big 12. Haggard on Saturday claimed he could speak “unanimously” for his board. Was he going rogue? Does he really have everyone’s backing? Barron’s email suggests that if he didn’t have strong support before his statement he certainly has it now (unanimous or not).
3. Before Haggard gave credence to the incorrect info regarding the ACC’s contract with ESPN, Seminole fans seemed split on a move. Since Haggard spread his incorrect info, the FSU messageboards and other social media outlets show a strong, strong fan push toward exiting the ACC. ”Give us Iowa State!”
4. This move is being driven by the internet. We noted on Saturday that the tail could be wagging the dog a bit in this whole FSU-to-Big 12 situation. First, bloggers and messageboarders say FSU and Clemson are moving to the Big 12 for more money and because they’re tired of everything favoring the North Carolina schools. Then the chair of FSU’s trustees takes that misinformation and spreads it. That makes national news (everywhere but at ESPN, the ACC’s television partner). After it makes national news, public opinion spins even further in the direction of a move. Tail… wagging… dog.
5. Further, the two Rivals.com sites covering Texas and Florida State are working together to drum up support for the move and to goad more FSU fans into supporting the move. Orangebloods.com wrote a response to Barron’s email yesterday arguing against all of his points. All that was missing was a “please come to the Big 12, FSU” at the end. Soon, Warchant.com posted Chip Brown’s story on its own site and today that site has posted its own response shooting down Barron’s email. It’s pretty clear how the Rivals sites want things to culminate.
6. Ironically, Orangebloods.com — viewed by many as a PR arm for Texas’ athletic director — is actually breaking ranks with DeLoss Dodds on this issue. Dodds wants the Big 12 to remain a 10-school league. Why not split the new TV contract among fewer schools, have an easier path to the national title without a league championship game, and give yourself a 1-in-10 chance of winning the league rather than a 1-in-12 or -14 or -16 chance by expanding? He told Kirk Bohls of The Austin American-Stateman yesterday that FSU is “a long ways away” both in terms of distance and of joining the Big 12. ”There’s no traction. There’ve been no conversations between Florida State and the Big 12… I’m for 10. I think Oklahoma wants to alk about it. If the rest of the league wants more than 10, we’ll be good partners (and accept that).” So yet again Big 12 schools are apparently all over the map on this with Texas claiming they’ll be a good partner when even new commissioner Bob Bowlsby referred to the Longhorns as the league’s “800-pound gorilla” just a wee ago. Seeing if Texas will acquiesce to Kansas State’s wishes will show us just how happy and friendly the Big 12 schools really are these day. (Using KSU only as an example of a school that might favor adding FSU.)
7. All the above — Barron’s email, Dodd’s comments, etc — appear to further prove our “Wag the Dog” theory. Reports of a done deal were the nonsense everyone in the traditional media said they were. But those very reports have led some to start thinking more and more about a move and now those against a move are having to make their cases against an FSU-Big 12 marriage. Regarding the traditional media in all of this, isn’t it likely that at least one — one! — reporter working the rumors would have found someone to fess up before Haggard’s rant? No one from The Topeka Capital-Journal to The Tallahassee Democrat to The Dallas Morning News to Yahoo! Sports to ESPN could get a single source to confirm any of this. Then it blew up Saturday thanks to Haggard’s reaction.
8. Despite Barron and Dodds making it clear they’re against a move, neither said specifically that a union wouldn’t occur. Barron’s long email made no such definitive statement. (Mainly because he couldn’t. The board of trustees is his boss. They’ll make the call… just as the board did at Missouri a few months ago.) And Dodds said he’d be a good soldier if that’s what’s required. So, no, Barron’s email and Dodd’s public stance of being pro-10 schools don’t nix the chatter or the possibility of a move one bit.
Now, take a look at Barron’s email. It’s startlingly strong:
I want to assure you that any decision made about FSU athletics will be reasoned and thoughtful and based on athletics, finances and academics. Allow me to provide you with some of the issues we are facing:
In support of a move are four basic factors argued by many alumni:
1. The ACC is more basketball than it is football, and many of our alumni view us as more football oriented than the ACC
2. The ACC is too North Carolina centric and the contract advantages basketball and hence advantages the North Carolina schools
3. The Big 12 has some big football schools that match up with FSU
4. The Big 12 contract (which actually isn’t signed yet) is rumored to be
$2.9M more per year than the ACC contract. We need this money to be competitive.
But, in contrast:
1. The information presented about the ACC contract that initiated the blogosphere discussion was not correct. The ACC is an equal share conference and this applies to football and to basketball – there is no preferential treatment of any university with the exception of 3rd tier
rights for women’s basketball and Olympic sports. FSU is advantaged by that aspect of the contract over the majority of other ACC schools.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Wow. Barron is obviously trying to calm down his trustees and a fanbase that’s increasingly feeling the urge to move. But some of his comments suggest he might be trying to scuttle any chances of an FSU-Big 12 merger from the inside, too.
In Point 2 he makes the Big 12 appear weaker without those four schools that have left it. He says that Texas — where he was a former dean of the geosciences school — rules the conference. He’s basically saying what we wrote yesterday: If Seminole fans think there’s a Carolina bias in the ACC, just wait’ll you land in the Big 12 with Texas.
In Point 7 he states that the FSU faculty are “adamantly opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker.” Holy crap, he just flat called the Big 12 “academically weaker.” We’ve written time and again that schools don’t move to academically weaker leagues — especially schools from the ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten. Some Big 12′ers have emailed to ask about Mizzou and Texas A&M moving to the SEC? First, neither the Big 12 — a league formed in the mid-90s — nor the SEC were viewed on par academically with the other three leagues I specifically referenced. Second, when A&M and Mizzou moved to the SEC, they made it the stronger conference than the Big 12 in terms of the number of AAU schools. (Again, rant against the AAU if you wish, but that’s a measure used and pushed by academicians across the country.) More importantly, neither MU or A&M publicly dissed the SEC as being academically inferior even during the non-denial/denial stage of their courtships.
Think Big 12 presidents will enjoy reading Points 2 and 7? Think Barron didn’t know they’d be ticked at reading them?
Barron has walked so far out on a ledge that there’s almost no room left for backtracking. At least not for him. If the board of trustees ignores the points he’s put forth and decides to push for a Big 12 move it’s hard to imagine Barron being the the Florida State president if/when the school entered that league.
This is all looking more and more like Barron and his pointy heads versus Haggard and his hot heads. Meanwhile, it also appears that there might be yet another Texas versus Everybody fight brewing in the Big 12.
Welcome to Dysfunction Junction… where the Big 12 and Florida State meet.
Again we ask the following question: When’s the last time the Big Ten or SEC had any kind of public battles like this? The Pac-12 under Larry Scott’s leadership has also learned to keep its fights and arguments in-house, behind locked doors.
That’s not the case in the ACC or Big 12 yet. That’s why those leagues still aren’t as stable as the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12, television dollars be damned.
For now, we at MrSEC.com await the next round of the internal fight in Tallahassee that’s being waged externally for all to see. What happens between FSU and the Big 12 could destabilize an already shaking college football landscape further. So watch with care, SEC fans. The moves at Florida State could set off a chain of events that might just impact your league in the long run.
We didn’t see that one coming. Probably because it wasn’t actually coming until Haggard believed what he read on the internet and kickstarted a Seminole Summer, rather than an Arab Spring.