I began writing about conference realignment last January when I postulated the growing concern of Florida State and Clemson over the revenue gap between the ACC and the SEC would lead them to explore options with other conferences.
It was shortly after WVU and Clemson played in the Orange Bowl that I learned substantial discussions were ongoing between the Big 12 and FSU and Clemson.
I am guilty of many things as I have tried to cover expansion. I have sometimes jumped to conclusions and let my enthusiasm get the better of me. However I have always been careful to only write what I was certain was true and I learned the hard way to double-check my facts.
I began posting a blog about WVU and WVU's chances at being invited to the SEC to defend WVU against those who had incorrect assumptions about WVU and West Virginia. My experiences writing about the SEC taught me a valuable lesson – double and triple check facts.
Contacts within a major university like WVU know the power of social media. They know they can release information via social media that a traditional news outlet, like the Charleston Gazette, could never print. Traditional journalism is about what "has happened" not what "could happen" and social media nicely fills that gap.
A conference like the Big 12 or a university like FSU could use social media to plant a rumor to gauge fan support for a conference switch or coaching change – the opportunity to shape opinion is there and universities are becoming more adept at using it.
The danger to bloggers is that information is shared for a reason and that reason always serves the best interest of the university and may or may not be true. I learned that when I was told WVU had submitted paperwork for the SEC. My contact at WVU did not tell me that WVU had only submitted financial information and lead me to believe that WVU had submitted an application for membership.
I learned my lesson well and when I began writing about FSU and Clemson I was very careful about what I did (and did not) write. I took great pains to verify information and reached out to several media members who confirmed the majority of what I had learned. These helpful individuals had no connection to WV or WVU.
At every step in the process I freely shared whatever information I had and I was fortunate enough to have others share their information with me. Every piece of the puzzle was verified and although some details remain murky, like the specifics of the ACC contract, I was able to independently verify each and every one of the items I've written about.
I stand by my assertion that both FSU and Clemson had significant talks with the Big 12 and that both were willing to leave the ACC based on facts collaborated by my media contacts, independent of WVU, who covered FSU, Clemson and the SEC.
Eric Barron can deflect all he wants and try to reassure his boosters but the fact remains the ACC has problems that that threaten their stability.
Eric Barron can't change the fact that the ACC is the lowest paid of the major football conferences. He can't change the fact the ACC's reputation harms Florida State chances of reaching the playoffs in 2014. Barron can't change the fact that the Big 10, SEC and Big 12 covet ACC members and even the $50 million exit fee isn't enough to keep the conference whole.
More importantly Eric Barron can't change the fact that the new BCS playoff system begins in 2013 and the Big 4 are determined that the ACC isn't around to receive their share.
As for Eric Barron calling me out by name I have a few simple questions for him:
- Have you or anyone acting on FSU's behalf spoken to the Big 10, Big 12 or SEC about conference membership?
- Have you or any agent of FSU retained outside representation to review or prepare financial documents related to Big 10, Big 12 or SEC membership?
- Have you or anyone representing FSU spoken to the Big 12 conference in the past 14 days.
- Have you spoken with senior leadership at Boston College, Clemson, UVA, Virginia Tech Georgia Tech about their plans in regards to ACC membership.
As for the criticism… I have done all I can do. I have shared what I know, given up my non de plume and used my real name. I don't own a website, I don't charge for information, I don't benefit from anyway from hits to any website. I'm on record with my opinion that greed is ruining college football and that conference realignment is bad for the game we all love.
And I was warned many, many times not to write about expansion.