Over the weekend there have been some developments in a story that most were discounting as of Friday of last week. On Friday, May 11th, Jason Kirk was reporting that the Florida State Seminoles going to the Big 12 was just a rumor and nothing more. Beyond this, the FSU AD stated quite plainly that the 'Noles were happy in the ACC and had no plans to jump ship. Then came the weekend.
On Saturday the whole discussion took on another complexion. The chairman of the the FSU Board of Trustees took some shots at the ACC and said that FSU would be willing to listen to what the Big XII had to offer. The chairman, Andy Haggard, complained that the conference tier 3 rights were given up for football, but retained for basketball, which unfairly benefitted the Carolina schools. Not only would Florida State be interested in the Big XII, but the Big XII would happily entertain the idea of adding a quality football team, like the 'Noles, into its fold. Jimbo Fisher, not to be outdone, has also thrown his hat into the ring, by telling the Orlando Sentinel, and come out solidly in favor of an exit from the ACC and a jump to the Big XII.
On Sunday, May 13th, FSU president Eric Barron came out to clarify the matter. He said:
Florida State University regrets that misinformation about the provisions of the ACC contract has unnecessarily renewed the controversy and speculation about University's athletic conference alignment. Florida State respects the views of the Chair of its Board of Trustees that, of course, any university would examine options that would impact university academics, athletics or finances. At the same time, Florida State is not seeking an alternative to the ACC nor are we considering alternatives. Our current commitments remain strong.
Of interest is the statement, "... any university would examine options that would impact university academics, athletics or finances." That means, if the Big XII helps pay the $20 million and has more to offer per year than the ACC, it would impact the FSU athletics tremendously and lead to more exposure, which in turn kicks up total student applications, especially those willing to pay out of state rates, which in turn helps fund academics.
This rumor actually started because FSU was said to be running a $2.4 million dollar athletic deficit:
So here's Florida State, which acknowledged this spring it is running an operating deficit and may have to trim up to $2.4 million a year in expenditures. It's saddled with what it considers a less-than-desirable football schedule as it tries to lure 80,000-plus all the way to the Panhandle. The addition of Syracuse and Pitt to the league slate won't help that problem in the least. And it's literally surrounded by cash-rich SEC clubs.
The original rumor also had the Clemson Tigers as the travel partner for the 'Noles. According to the SB Nation this morning, it is actually the Miami Hurricanes, who are interested in accompanying the Seminoles to the Big XII. The loss of Miami and Florida State would be a severe blow to the ACC, but this potential departure would be the worst possible case scenario for the now floundering Big East. As has been well documented by Brett McMurphy and CBS sports, the Boise State Broncos and San Diego State Aztecs might be having second thoughts about leaving the Mountain West for the Big East. Add to this the news that Pitt is suing the Big East for the right to leave in 2013 and not 2014, as had been originally slated, and the Big East is in real turmoil, if not in serious trouble. WVU was able to leave early and paid a penalty, which seems to be Pitt's intent. If Pitt is successful, and with the WVU precedent it is hard to imagine that it wouldn't be, that leaves the door wide open for Syracuse to walk out hand-in-hand with Pitt.
BSU and SDSU have escape clauses, or so called get out of jail free cards (or get out of jail cheaper cards), which reduce the exit fees if there are significant changes in the Big East membership or TV contracts. That being said, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the ACC would not quickly accept UCONN and Rutgers if the Seminoles and Hurricanes walk out of camp. Good news for the BE in that scenario is that Louisville and Cincinnati would no longer be on the Big XII's short list, but at what price? With the loss of membership in the state of Florida, the ACC could, instead, look at USF / UCF. Regardless of which scenario takes place, it would involve a minimum of two BE teams being poached in addition to Pitt and Syracuse. The loss of further members would also strengthen the case against the BE for retaining either Pitt / Syracuse or BSU / SDSU. It would also significantly reduce TV contract payouts and weaken the BE's bargaining position. The BE would be forced to pull two more C-USA teams, such as ECU and Southern Miss, and further degrade the BE product. In an even worse case scenario, the ACC could seek to add 4 to finally get to 16, add more stability and try to leverage those teams into slightly higher payouts, helping it retain teams it would otherwise lose. If that were to happen, it is difficult to see the non-football teams staying in the BE which has recently lost its reactionary commissioner and seems to be bleeding teams at an absorbent rate. Any way you look at it, FSU could be the first domino in a big chain of events, which would shake the landscape of college football immensely.