Instead of flaming out like a lot of message board prognostications, the Florida State and the Big 12 conversation is starting to boil up. Money, of course, is at the core of Noles' discontent with the ACC, while the Big 12 is eyeing a huge payday. Let's start here, Florida State's athletic department is cash-strapped.
The Florida State University athletic department may be forced to cut as much as $2.4 million in expenditures for the 2012-13 fiscal year in part because of what athletic director Randy Spetman called lagging ticket sales in football.
Meanwhile, FSU is surrounded by (recruiting against, trying to be more relevant than) SEC schools that are swimming in the cash like Scrooge McDuck.
Even though the ACC's new deal with ESPN will bring FSU up to about $17 million annually in TV revenue, that's still $3 million less than the Big 12. Not only that, but some estimate the recently expanded SEC's new deal could earn each conference school as much as $25 million per year. Translation: Over the span of the ACC's 15-year contract, FSU will earn $120 million less than the Gators.
It's a hard pill to swallow, and not just because the Noles are at a competitive disadvantage financially, but because a majority of FSU supporters believe they're the jewel of the ACC and they deserve better. It comes off as an arrogant sense of entitlement, which is met with the criticism that FSU should win more, talk less, then let the rest will fall into place. These days Florida State is better known for falling flat on its face, rather than being a powerhouse. However, FSU is still a national brand that that drives TV ratings. In 2010, the Wall Street Journal Since found that bowls FSU has played in experience a positive 22.6% effect on viewership, second only to USC (28.7%). Florida State-Miami on Labor Day is a huge draw for the ACC.
While the ACC went 4-6 in non-conference play, Miami edged the Seminoles 38-34 as 8.4 million viewers watched.
That made the contest the second-most watched regular season college football game in the 30 years of ESPN. The most watched college football game on the WWL was the 2006 match up between the same two teams that Florida State won 13-10
Last year FSU-Oklahoma did 8.5M viewers. FSU improving on its 2-4 record against Wake Forest over the last six seasons wouldn't hurt matters, regardless people are still watching them (struggle).
The ACC's renegotiated television (media) contract didn't make FSU backers feel any better about their current position. $17M a year (average) is a large chunk of change, but it's still 5th best among the five "power" conferences, and the SEC and Big 12 are on the verge of reworking their current deals. Shit got real Saturday when Florida State Board of Trustees Chairman Andy Haggard went on semi-misinformed rant ripping the ACC's new deal.
"It's mind-boggling and shocking," said Haggard. "How can the ACC give up third tier rights for football but keep them for basketball?"
"How do you not look into that option," asked Haggard. "On behalf of the Board of Trustees I can say that unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer. We have to do what is in Florida State's best interest."
"With the SEC making the kind of money it does it's time to act," said Haggard. "You can't sit back and be content in the ACC. This is a different time financially. This isn't 10-15 years ago when money was rolling in."
Haggard is wrong, ESPN controls both the ACC's third-tier football and basketball rights, but it's clear the perception from FSU's view is they're getting a raw deal. And now actual decision makers at Florida State would be open to discussing a Big 12 offer.
The initial bump in television revenue is actually just over $1 million a year, sources said, and a total in the $12 million range next season. The deal is back loaded so the bigger money comes in escalator provisions that, considering how broadcast rights keep growing, probably will be below market by the time any sizeable gains are realized.
That additional $4 million per school, per year? That won't come until 2021, nine years in, sources said.
Privately, almost everyone was troubled by the deal.
Ugh. Even if back loading TV contracts is commonplace the facts is an already underwhelming deal looks worse.
Would the Big 12 be interested in Florida State?
"I can't imagine how we wouldn't be interested in Florida State," one Big 12 source said.
At ten teams, the Big 12–ESPN/FOX deal is rumored to be worth $20M a year. Schools would also retain their third-tier TV rights. It's assumed that number will go up if the league brings in two more schools and adds a championship game. If the Big 12 is seriously considering expanding again, and FSU is a target, what's keeping them in the ACC? The ACC's $20M exit fee is sizable, but it's just a onetime hit, and if the Big 12 dollars are as good as expected that would go to zero, conservatively speaking, in less than 7 years (that's before FSU sees that extra $4M from the ACC). For a league centered in North Carolina, FSU is already a geographic outlier. Is FSU athletic director Randy Spetman's regurgitated public support of the league enough to keep them to stay? How much is being aligned with academic college really worth?
This is much clear, the ACC doesn't have many plays left. According to Teel, "the ESPN contract allows for "look-ins" at Years 5 and 10 to adjust revenue based on performance and/or technology changes." So the league gets more money if it wins more games (unlikely considering the lack of resources, commitment and support to football across the board) and as a result garners more national interest, or Notre Dame joins (even more unlikely).
It was under somewhat different circumstances, but I argued in favor of for Virginia Tech to the SEC twice before, and in a world where FSU leaves the ACC for the Big 12, and the SEC looks our way to keep ahead of the game, I still would. That's a long way from happening, but much more realistic today than it was just a couple of weeks ago.