Wednesday, May 16, 2012

So It’s A Done Deal?

Yesterday I made a mistake. I wrote that Clemson was a “done deal” to the Big 12 and although it may be a matter of semantics my friend at WVU took issue with my choice of words.

“It is not a done deal,” he said. “An agreement in principal is not a done deal.”

“Until the contract is signed and the press conference is over it’s not a done deal” he continued.

So I asked exactly “what” it was.

Clemson and the Big 12 have exchanged financial information, projected schedules and revenue estimates.  They have reached an agreement on all substantial issues.

Clemson wants the Big 12 and the Big 12 wants Clemson, but the process must play out.

The Tigers are waiting patiently for the FSU endgame and the ACC’s reaction. They’re content to let the Seminoles be the icebreaker and blaze the way out of the beleaguered conference.

It’s expected that the Big 12  will discuss both Clemson and FSU in the next league meeting and there’s a belief that the Big 12 will invite FSU and Clemson to become the 11th and 12th members.

At that point the “done deal” becomes a matter of signing the paperwork and holding the press conference.

It is believed FSU’s move to the Big 12 is inevitable. They’ve made statements that ruffled feathers at Duke and UNC and made every football-centric member nervous. They’ve made their distrust of the conference known and stated their disgust with the ACC TV contract.

FSU is much closer to the mythical “done deal” than Clemson but the Tigers are willing to follow in their footprints.

Friday, May 11, 2012

One Last Argument

Here’s the deal…

The arguments are getting old.

The ACC apologists like Chadd Scott, whom I actually respect and enjoy his articles, can’t seem to grasp what’s really going on with their beloved ACC.

They can’t accept that the Big 12 could be an attractive option for cash-starved institutions in the ACC. 

And I can understand why. Last year the Big 12 was on the brink of collapse. We all thought that Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were headed to the Pac 12.

It didn’t happen, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?

Now a year later and the Big 12 is solid, bound together by a grant-of-rights that will make sure everybody stays put and plays nice. They have a new commissioner, a new TV deal that will likely surprise everyone with the actual numbers, and a new found sense of cooperation.

And they’re on the hunt -- hungry for new TV markets and armed with the shared goal of eclipsing the vaunted SEC for the title of best damn football conference in the land.

This is not last year’s Big 12.

But ACC apologists can’t shake the stereotype of a dysfunctional Big 12 held together by spit and prayers.

So it’s no surprise they’re about to get blindsided.

The first argument they use is academics. “I’ll give you three reasons why FSU would never join the Big 12 – academics, academics and academics” they argue.

I wrote yesterday about how conference affiliation doesn’t affect academics or the research money a university receives.

Today I’ll go one step further and tell you the one thing that can harm both academics and athletics – money.

Florida State University  is good example. The state of Florida hasn’t escaped the economic downturn and the support provided to state schools like FSU isn’t as generous as it once was. As a result state schools are forced to increase tuition to cover the shortfall.

Just last month Florida Governor Rick Scott, no relation to Chadd Scott I hope, voted a bill that would have granted both FSU and UF the ability to raise tuition at will. 

Does it sound like FSU is in the position to financially support an athletic department that’s losing money?

ACC apologist don’t seem to understand that endowments and state funding are intended to support the academic mission of the school. It’s possible for schools like FSU to divert funds from one account to another and use those funds to supplement their athletic department but academics suffer as a result.

FSU is in a tough spot. Faced with the prospect of a reduction in state funding and a budget deficient of $2.4 million in the athletic department they are forced to choose between academics and athletics.

I wonder how those parroting “academics, academics, academics” will react if money intended for academics programs instead goes to cover up weak leadership in the ACC?

How is the ACC responsible for the shortfall at FSU you ask?

How is it that the ACC, the conference that boasts the footprint with the greatest population density, has the worst TV contract of all the major conferences?

Consider this ACC fans... Iowa State, Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State, WVU, Kansas and a host of other schools earn more from TV revenues than FSU, Clemson, VPI, Maryland, Miami and Georgia Tech. 

Now tell me who is responsible?

ACC apologists also forget the link to on the field performance and donations. Have a good year on the gridiron and donations are likely to increase – have a bad year and donations decline.

Let me repeat the salient fact… have a bad year and donations for academics and athletics decline and both suffer.

The link between academics and athletics at a major university is undeniable and to give only once side of the argument without stating the other is inexcusable in my opinion.

Another popular argument is that ACC schools have such large endowments that the TV money doesn’t matter.


The argument that TV money doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme doesn’t hold much water either.

North Carolina’s higher education system suffered a budget reduction of $1 billion last year that had many at UNC calling for reductions in athletic spending to cover the shortfall. As a result UNC reduced the athletic department’s budget and I’m told football took the brunt of the funding cuts.

The point is that institutions like FSU, UNC and WVU would never use endowments to support intercollegiate athletics and when outside funding (i.e. state funding) is reduced athletic departments are the first to feel the pain.

ACC apologists like to argue the fact that the gap between the ACC and Big 12 TV revenues isn’t that much.

Effectively ACC schools will receive $16 million per school for those media rights.

Early reports on the Big 12 contract have them at about $20 million but don’t be surprised if the number is in the neighborhood of $22 million when its released.

That’s a gap of between $4 and $6 million without factoring in the additional money the Big 12 will receive from a championship game.

And it doesn’t count the value added of the addition of new TV markets from expansion.

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that the Big 12 receives the same $2 million bump the ACC received from adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

Now the gap is between $6 million and $8 million.

Now tell me with a straight face that TV markets in Florida, South Carolina, Maryland or Georgia aren’t worth more than those in Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

When everything is said and done the real gap could be greater than $10 million per year – without factoring in what FSU or Clemson could get for their own T3 rights on the open market.

Travel expenses you say?

WVU estimated only an increase of $1 million for travel for all sports.

How much would that travel budget be reduced if the Big 12 had an Eastern Division?

The last argument ACC apologists use is that the ACC is a much easier path to the BCS playoffs.

Not if some type of RPI is used.

Let’s compare two teams with equal records from the ACC and Big 12. Both are conference champions and both have a 12-1 record. The Big 12 team has played a tougher schedule and has an RPI of 4. The ACC team has an RPI of 25.

Guess which one goes to the playoff?

Just like in basketball the RPI just doesn’t grade your schedule; it also takes into account the schedules of all the teams you have played.

The RPI is unforgiving -- one member who underperforms and has a bad loss can drag down every member of the conference.  And, to make it worse, a weak schedule full of cupcakes can drag down the conference.

Even ACC apologists admit that Big 12 football is superior to ACC football. So which conference do you believe will have the higher RPI year in and year out?

Yet the decision to leave or not will be made based on simple economics. 

FSU is in financial trouble and they’re not the only one. I’m told that both Maryland and Miami have significant funding issues and the new ACC TV contract didn’t do nearly enough to give them the financial boast they needed.

Enter the Big 12.


I don’t really see the point in countering all the arguments made by ACC apologists who can’t put aside their bias and take a look at what’s really happening.

A resolution will be quick. If any ACC school is going to jump it will have to be before the ACC’s August deadline for notification of intent to withdraw.

We’ll know one way or the other by the end of July,  if FSU and Clemson don’t jump by then its not happening. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Hubris of the ACC

Earlier this year I had the chance to sit down with the infamous Chadd Scott, Atlanta radio personality and author of “College Football’s Most Dangerous Blog”, to discuss conference realignment and the outlandish notion that two ACC schools were in active discussions with the Big 12.

Chadd’s opinion was that blog posts suggesting ACC schools were contemplating leaving the ACC were ludicrous.

He vehemently denied that any ACC school would denigrate itself by considering membership in another conference.

Scott went on to say that he believed the chatter about Clemson and FSU originated from West Virginia fans trying to make themselves feel better about WVU’s rejection by the ACC.

His reaction didn't surprise me. 

It was typical of ACC supporters who refuse to accept the conference has leadership problems and out-dated beliefs that basketball is king.

ACC apologists like Scott can’t grasp that the ACC's basketball centric philosophy is a problem. They can’t accept that NCAA violations at UNC and Miami harmed the reputation of ACC football.  They can’t accept that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were added as a “basketball correction” to the last round of football-driven expansion.

Scott made the argument that Pitt and Syracuse would enhance ACC football, but  just a causal glance at each program’s performance in the last 10 years shows  that both have been in decline.

Undoubtedly Pitt and Syracuse are basketball-first schools. Basketball is valued more at both institutions and that’s why they were selected for expansion instead of West Virginia or Louisville.

The ACC's actions left little doubt of their (basketball) priorities when  Swofford made the conscious decision to strengthen basketball knowing ACC football would be weakened as a result.

ACC apologist argue that Pitt and Syracuse will rebound and their football programs will soon return to glory. If you believe that I have some ocean-side property in Morgantown for sale.

ACC membership harmed Boston College's football program and even the once powerful Miami Hurricanes have been brought low since joining the ACC.  You can also make the argument that Virginia Tech has regressed since leaving the Big East and now relies on weak scheduling and reputation to earn BCS berths.

The ACC is 2-13 in the last 14 years in BCS bowl games and managed to lose twice this year after VPI  scheduled their way into a Sugar Bowl loss. That's 14 years of embarrassing performances that earns the ACC the title of the nation's worst major football conference.

To illustrate just how bad ACC football has been consider the much maligned Big East won 4 BCS bowl games within the last 7 years. Even worse for the ACC is the fact that the team they rejected as being unworthy of ACC membership  (WVU) has won more BCS bowl games in the last 7 years (3) than the entire ACC in the last 14.

The sad fact that continues to escape ACC apologists is the level of competition in the ACC is far below what it needs to be for any ACC team to contend for a national title.

So why is it so far fetched that two ACC schools, who clearly value football more than basketball, would reach out to the second best (and it’s a very close second) football conference in the land?

The leadership in place at FSU and Clemson understand what Swofford and his puppet masters at UNC can’t – football has eclipsed college basketball as the driving force in college athletics.

They understand that population base  and TV markets matter little when the product on the field is so poor.  They understand that the ACC isn't going to wipe away 14 years of BCS embarrassment by adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse or have any chance to compete on a national level if the conference continues to make decisions that favor basketball over football. 

Clemson and FSU look at the SEC and see a conference comprised of mostly small TV markets and how the quality of their football demands  top dollar in television revenue and they openly question the direction of the conference.

Yet Swofford turns a deaf ear to their pleas. 

And as much as it may shock my ACC friends Clemson and FSU aren’t the only ACC schools shopping around.

Internal conflicts aside (Frank Beamer), Virginia Tech has had discussions with the SEC. The same can be said for North Carolina State (although they would need UNC’s permission to leave) and Maryland has shown interest in the Big 12.

ACC apologists like Chadd Scott don’t see the problems. They can’t accept the fact that the conference is repeating the mistakes that lead to 6 schools to leave the Big East for greener pastures.

And as for Clemson and FSU: ACC apologists had better get used to the fact that, unless something drastic happens, both will be gone. 

But maybe that’s what John Swofford and UNC want – a basketball first conference without the annoying distraction of a few football-centric schools.