Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday that his school is “committed” to staying in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Spetman may be the only one who thinks that way.
Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher, before he spoke at the Seminole Club of Greater Orlando on Saturday, didn’t exactly shoot down rumblings that FSU will explore the possibility of leaving the ACC for the Big 12.
“There have been no official talks, but I think you always have to look out there to see what’s best for Florida State,” Fisher said. “If that (jumping to the Big 12) is what’s best for Florida State, then that’s what we need to do.”
Andy Haggart, chairman of Florida State’s board of trustees, vigorously agreed. In an interview with Warchant.com, a popular website that covers FSU athletics, Haggart said the Seminoles should pursue talks with the Big 12: “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.”
If we’ve learned anything in recent years about institutions of higher earning switching conferences, it is this: Without fail, they all say they are steadfastly committed to their current league only until another league offers them more money.
And right now FSU could sure use some more money. Spetman announced a $2.4 million budget shortfall in the athletic department last week that sent shock waves through Seminole Nation. In college football’s arms race, Seminole fans envision the Gators and other SEC schools purchasing F-22 Raptor fighter jets while they are still going to battle with tomahawks and bows and arrows.
More than ever, Florida State fans feel they are a football school hopelessly trapped in a basketball league. The most recent bout of Seminole discontent came last year when the ACC expanded to add Pitt and Syracuse — two basketball schools who haven’t been relevant in football for years. And then came the news earlier this week that the ACC had extended its TV deal with ESPN for an additional 15 years and $3.6 billion.
A growing faction of FSU boosters and power brokers believe the Seminoles can make significantly more money in the Big 12. And when you’re surrounded by and recruit against big-budget SEC schools such as Florida, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia, you’d better bring some cash or you’ll get spent into oblivion.
Think about it: Even though the ACC’s new deal 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 16-year contract, FSU will earn $128 million less than the Gators.
“FSU is looking at schools like Arkansas and Mississippi State having more resources, better facilities and the ability to hire the best coaches,” said Gene Williams, owner and editor of Warchant.com
Which is why Seminole fans are rightfully worried. And why FSU’s administration should be doing everything in its power to not only keep up with the Gators but to keep up with Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
Right now the Big 12 has a 10-team league with no championship game, and league schools still earn $3 million a year more than ACC teams. How much could the Big 12 earn if it added two premier football programs like FSU and Miami or FSU and Clemson and then had a championship game? This would also give the Big 12 a footprint in Florida, the fourth-largest state and one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country.
Don’t kid yourself.
If the Big 12 offers big money, Chief Osceola would jump on Bevo and ride him bareback out of the ACC.
The only thing left behind would be the billowing smoke from his flaming spear.