FSU prez makes case for remaining in the ACC

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In a statement released Saturday night, and after the chairman of Florida State’s Board of Trustees undermined both the ACC and his own athletic department in suggesting the Big 12 is a viable conference option, university president Eric Barron said that the school “is not seeking an alternative to the ACC nor are we considering alternatives.”

On Monday, Barron released another, much lengthier statement addressing the conference affiliation issue for FSU, and did not back down from his  weekend stance at all.  In addition to once again noting the misinformation that was spread by, among others, BOT chairman Andy Haggard, as it pertained to Tier 3 rights, Barron in his memo seemed to focus in on four key areas of concern, including one that takes a direct slap at the academics in the Big 12.

The University of Texas Monolith
Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest problem, with past instability in the Big 12 was the perception that — right or wrong — it was the UT tail wagging the conference dog.  Barron warned all of those concerned about the ACC being too North Carolina or hoops-centric to be careful what you wish for.

Barron: “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.”

(Writer’s note: the president appears to be guilty of spreading misinformation ala FSU’s board chairman, or at least isn’t clear as to what tier to which he’s referring as the Big 12 has equal sharing of revenue for Tier 1 and Tier 2 rights.  With the Longhorn Network, however, UT certainly dwarfs the other schools in the conference as there is no sharing of third-tier rights.)

Travel Concerns for Non-Revenue Sports, Loss of Rivalries
In this latest response, Barron makes the case that the travel costs associated with a move to the Big 12 would wipe out any gains in broadcast revenue, plus run beyond that $3 million annual difference between the Big 12 and ACC deals.  Additionally, Barron mentions one rivalry specifically that would be lost in a conference move..

Barron: “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.”

Too Broke to Move?
FSU’s athletic department is already facing cuts due to revenue shortcomings, which has played at least some role in the speculation that the school should move its sports to a conference that offers a better annual TV take.  One of the problems with that, however, is the upfront costs to actually leave the ACC.

Barron: “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.”

Big 12’s Not Nerdy Enough
Haggard has already gone thermonuclear on the ACC, with the result likely being some very upset conference officials and school presidents.   Now Barron has taken a sniper rifle and aimed it at the Big 12, hitting at the very heart of an institution of higher learning’s purpose.

Barron: 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.

That bolded part will certainly leave a mark in the classrooms throughout Big 12 country.

Barron closed his memo with some of the first bits of common sense tossed into this situation — don’t negotiate your future in the media and don’t let conference affiliation be governed by an emotional reaction to what some perceive as a “bad” broadcast deal.

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.

Of course, Barron’s “commitment” to the ACC or reasons for remaining in their current conference doesn’t ensure in any way, shape or form that FSU will or won’t remain remain in the ACC, or will or won’t reach out to the Big 12 to gauge interest, if anyone even loosely associated with the university hasn’t already.  What it does, though, is continue to highlight the divide between the upper levels of the university’s administration.

Incidentally, the ACC’s spring meetings commenced today, so we’re it’s a near certainty that we’ll hear more on this issue from all sides at some point in the next day or two.

(Photo credit: Florida State University)

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.

A&M, UCLA both add New Mexico to future schedules

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Texas A&M and UCLA announced Wednesday that their 2017 opener had been moved from Saturday to Sunday.  As it turns out, that wasn’t the only scheduling news connecting the two football programs.

As part of a release announcing seven games being added to its future schedules, New Mexico confirmed that two of those contests will include A&M and UCLA.  Both of those games, obviously, will be on the road, with the Lobos traveling to College Station Sept. 18, 2021, and to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Sept. 13, 2025.

In its release, the school wrote that “[t]he game in College Station has a guarantee of $1,100,000 and 450 complementary tickets,” while “[t]he game in Pasadena has a guarantee of $1,200,000 plus 2,000 complementary tickets that UNM can sell for extra revenue.”

The last and only time New Mexico and UCLA squared off was in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 win for the Bruins.  UNM and A&M actually completed a home-and-home series relatively recently, with the Aggies winning both games played in the 2008 (28-22) and 2009 (41-6) seasons.

In addition to the future Power Five games, a continuation of the long-running rivalry with UTEP will be extended.  UNM will play in El Paso in 2021, then host UTEP in 2022.  Those two games will mark the 79th and 80th contests in the regional rivalry.

Michigan State, Washington round out future schedules with Utah State

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Needing to fill a single spot in some future schedules, both Michigan State and Washington have come calling to the Mountain West for an opponent. Utah State was happy to oblige.

Michigan State will host Utah State on September 1, 2018. The Aggies will travel to Washington on September 19, 2020. For their travels, Utah State will collect $2.9 million between the two games, according to FBScheduels.com ($1.4 million from Michigan State, $1.5 million from Washington).

The Big Ten and Pac-12 each use nine-game conference schedules, leaving three spots open for non-conference games. The Big Ten requires all conference members schedule one game per season against another power conference opponent (the Pac-12 has no such requirement of its members at this time), although exceptions are made. Utah State, as a member of the Mountain West Conference, would not satisfy that requirement for the Big Ten, but the Spartans already have a road game against Arizona State (Pac-12) on the schedule in 2018. Michigan State and Arizona State will play again in 2019 in East Lansing. Michigan State also has future power conference matchups with Notre Dame (2017, 2026, 2027) and Miami (2020, 2021). Michigan State will also play BYU in 2020 in Provo.

Washington has future power conference matchups with Rutgers (2017), Auburn (2018, in Atlanta), and Michigan (2020, 2021). The Huskies will also face Mountain West Competition from Fresno State (2017), Hawaii (2019), and Nevada (2027).

Utah State will face power conference opponents on the road in 2017 (Wisconsin, Wake Forest), 2018 (Michigan State), 2019 (Wake Forest, LSU), 2020 (Washington), and 2021 (Washington State). Utah State will also host Washington State in 2020 as part of a home-and-home deal. Utah State also has an annual series against BYU running through 2020.

Old Dominion hopes to “hit the ground running” on new stadium project

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Some fans of the Old Dominion football program may be getting a little impatient with the progress (or lack of) in the development of the football stadium, but Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig says things are coming along nicely and progress will start to be seen soon enough.

“Once we get the architects engaged, we’ll figure out what $55 million will buy in 2019 dollars,” Selig said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Then we’ll have an idea for how much additional money needs to be raised to support the project.”

Old Dominion is planning on tearing down Foreman Field at the end of the 2018 season and rebuild it with modern seating and amenities. The $55 million project remained on the books in the Virginia budget in February, allowing the university to move ahead with their plans. The first step is finding an architect to take on the job.

Because Old Dominion’s football stadium is among the smallest in the nation and will remain so even after the rebuild and renovations, the entire project is expected to move fairly swiftly once the work actually begins. Old Dominion isn’t building a grand football palace, so any concerns over the lack of updates on the stadium should be calmed.

If nothing else, the concerns raised about the lack of updates on the stadium renovations may just mean Old Dominion has some eager fans excited about the future of the program.