Eric Barron

FSU prez makes case for remaining in the ACC


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)

Georgia reportedly hires Kirby Smart as head coach

Kirby Smart

Sometimes the rumors really are true.

Seemingly since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the worst-kept secret in college football was that Kirby Smart wouldn’t jump from Nick Saban‘s perch until the Georgia job opened.

And now, one day after Mark Richt said goodbye in Athens, multiple reports say that’s exactly what will happen – Smart will be the next Bulldogs coach.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, Smart was the only target UGA athletics director Greg McGarity truly targeted and, barring a major turn of events between now and the SEC championship, he’ll have landed him.

Hailing from Bainbridge, Ga., Smart played safety for Georgia from 1995-98, then returned in 2005 as running backs coach. In between he made stops at Valdosta State, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Dolphins and, finally, Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide to three national titles and never produced a defense ranked lower than 18th nationally in yards per play defense.

This year’s Crimson Tide defense ranks second nationally heading into an SEC title game date with Florida. If, as expected, Alabama wins and, as expected, Smart is introduced as Georgia’s next coach, he would have to decide whether or not to pull a move much like Herman last year and work double-duty through Alabama’s run in the College Football Playoff. Or he could rip a page from his predecessor’s book and dump Alabama to drive straight into the Georgia job.

What sort of program will Smart run? Other than the Process-based enterprise seemingly microchip implanted into the brain of every Saban aide, it’s hard to say. Smart only spoke to the media three times annually.

But here’s one guarantee: he’ll need to nail his offensive coordinator hire. Saban’s former offensive coordinators — Jimbo Fisher and Jim McElwain — have thrived, while his most prominent defensive coordinator-turned-head coach protege — Will Muschamp — failed mightily at Florida because he could never conquer the other side of the ball.

Smart will be expected to win, win big, and win quickly. You don’t fire a coach with 145 wins in 15 years and 19 victories in the last two for any other reason.

Why Steve Spurrier retired, as told by Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier

When Steve Spurrier abruptly retired in October, most stopped to reminisce about a true college football original’s career come to a sudden, but not unexpected end. But others pointed out that Spurrier essentially quit on his team in the middle of a tough season. It was an easy take and, hey, it’s not like the Old Ball Coach himself wouldn’t have said something if Mark Richt had done something similar.

In a letter provided to The State, Spurrier reasoned his retirement truly was better for the team, that the team played better without him around and that his presence would’ve generated speculation that would have suffocated the rest of the season.

Considering the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel, one has every reason to doubt that claim. But it’s the one Spurrier is going with.

The letter in full:

In the last few years when asked how much longer I plan to coach, I have said often that if our team is going in the wrong direction I need to resign and allow someone else to take over as head coach here. After six games, we were 2-4 with two blow-outs by Georgia and LSU. We were behind at halftime against UCF (a team that went 0-12 this year). We were definitely going in the wrong direction. I felt that I was doing a lousy job as head coach and a change would help our team become more competitive.

I told our team after I resigned that they needed new leadership, new enthusiasm and a new plan. By stepping aside, this allowed Shawn Elliott the opportunity to change our direction, change our attitude, and hopefully, he could be named head coach after the season. If this happens, some of our assistant coaches would be retained, and this was a major reason for me to get out of the way. Also, by resigning, I forfeited the buyout clause in my contract that saved our university three million dollars.

I certainly believe, as the media has said, that our team played better after I resigned. Shawn Elliott did an excellent job getting this team prepared to play with enthusiasm and effort the rest of our season. Unfortunately, the close games turned into close losses.

When I mentioned I may coach again, I meant possibly as a volunteer coach at a high school. After thirty years as a head coach, I positively know that my head coaching career is finished.

I understand the critics have asked why I didn’t announce I was retiring at the end of the season, as some other coaches have done. I felt that if I had done this, I would have been a distraction throughout the remainder of the season about my last game everywhere I went. I did not want a “Spurrier Farewell Tour.” The players deserve to be the story of each game. Also, it would have prevented Shawn Elliott, a coach that has loved the South Carolina Gamecocks his whole life, from getting the shot to be the interim head coach, with the possibility of becoming the Head Coach here.

When a coach gets fired, the change is often good and helpful to the team. Miami was 4-3 when Al Golden was fired, and the interim head coach went 4-1. Randy Edsall was 2-4 at Maryland when fired and his replacement got the team playing better. Clay Helton, the interim coach at the other USC, was recently named head coach as they went 5-2 under his watch.

Our university was not going to fire me, so I thought it was best for our team that I basically fire myself by resigning. The players have enjoyed playing for Coach Elliott and again the media has said the team has performed better after I resigned.

Thanks to all Gamecocks for allowing me to be your coach for over ten years. My wife Jerri and I will always be thankful and appreciative to the University of South Carolina for this opportunity.


Steve Spurrier

Top four remains same in penultimate College Football Playoff rankings

Bob Stoops

The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and the top four remained the same from last week. Michigan State sits at fifth, meaning Saturday’s Big Ten Championship is officially a national quarterfinal.

Stanford, heading into this week’s Pac-12 Championship, checked in at No. 7, while party-crasher-to-be North Carolina jumped from No. 14 to No. 10.

Ohio State checks in at No. 6, but Stanford seems primed to pass the Buckeyes with a win over No. 20 USC. Getting into the top four, however, would require a loss by No. 1 Clemson or No. 2 Alabama. No. 3 Oklahoma is seemingly in the playoff with a completed 11-1 regular season.

TCU moved one spot ahead of Baylor after a rain-soaked double overtime win over the Bears on Friday night.

Houston, USC and LSU moved back into the rankings, while Tennessee joined the party for the first time this year.

Tuesday night’s release was the final dress rehearsal of the 2015 season; the next time we hear from the CFP selection committee will be to announce the four semifinal selections.

But while these are the second-to-last set of rankings, we can ask 2014 TCU about how much they ultimately mean.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
7. Stanford
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Baylor
13. Ole Miss
14. Northwestern
15. Michigan
16. Oregon
17. Oklahoma State
18. Florida
19. Houston
20. USC
21. LSU
22. Temple
23. Navy
24. Utah
25. Tennessee

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney

When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.