I’m now of the opinion that conference realignment in college sports is much the same as summer TV programming. It’s generally not as good as the regular season, but at least it’s something to watch.
Apparently I made the mistake of listening to my wife and taking Sunday as a computer/twitter/internet-free day. Not checking for updates. Not looking to see if anything new happened. So I missed the Chairman of the Florida State Board of Trustees (Sorry, I have to do this) going off the reservation. Ranting about the ACC’s new deal, going with the conspiracy theory of North Carolina/basketball favoritism, expressing how interested Florida State is (or should be) in the Big 12. And generally, acting like he came from the message boards rather than as a steward for the entire school.
The biggest problem was that he was horribly clueless about so much of the reality.
[Andy] Haggard played up the long held idea that the league office is in the back pocket of the basketball programs of Duke and North Carolina, while floating the concept that there is some pile of cash possible if the Seminoles could only package some of their lower-profile football games, maybe even like Texas does with the Longhorn Network.
“It’s mind-boggling and shocking,” Haggard told Warchant.com. “How can the ACC give up third-tier rights for football but keep them for basketball? … It continues the perception that the ACC favors the North Carolina schools.”
The truth is the money delivered by selling off the first- and second-tier rights was shocking enough. Also true: neither of his assertions may be accurate. The ACC later said Haggard was incorrect and third-tier basketball rights are not maintained by schools. And no one has any idea what FSU could get from some of its weaker football games.
Sources say the ACC has not distributed the contract with ESPN to member schools. It rarely, if ever, does. Many in the league are wondering how much Haggard himself came up with the third-tier conspiracy, what he thinks is in the deal or why he believes it even matters so much.
It seems like a ploy to drum up fan support for a bold switch. Nothing rallies boosters like the idea of Coach K bullying someone into action, even if it isn’t true.
What’s also sad, is that this piece by Wetzel has its own whopper of an inaccuracy.
The piece decries the fact that this new contract is back-loaded. In other words, the money will not be $17 million/year. That will be the average over the lifetime of the contract. The fact is, most of the media deals are back-loaded.
“EVERY conference deal with networks is always this way,” a source directly involved in the ACC-ESPN negotiations emailed Sunday. “It is always backloaded. Every deal.”
So while the ACC-ESPN agreement starts at about $14 million per school, the source said, it concludes at about $24 million per school.
Meanwhile, Haggard’s rantings led the FSU President to go into damage control.
FSU President Eric Barron finally decided it was time to weigh in on the matter. Without fully chastising his trustee board chair and calling him everything but a renegade, rouge voice in Tallahassee, Barron deferred to the ACC in a 78-word statement.
He started by saying the school regretted any “misinformation” about the ACC’s contract deal with ESPN. He added the university respected the chairman of the board’s opinions, and acknowledged that a school should make sure to take steps toward building a positive future for itself.
But, perhaps more importantly, for now, he parted with Haggard on one key issue:
“Florida State,” Barron said, “is not seeking an alternative to the ACC nor are we considering alternatives. Our current commitments remain strong.”
That and a couple bucks gets you a cup of coffee.
The other problem is that no one seems to fully understand the whole matter of media rights. Especially what are the 3d Tier rights (and I include myself as being confused by this at various points).
Simply put, third-tier rights are games not desired or contracted for broadcast by a conference’s first and second-tier media rights holder which then become property of the individual schools which may broadcast or sell them as they see fit. As an example, Texas bundled its third-tier rights, partnered with ESPN, and formed the Longhorn Network about which I’ll discuss in further detail.
What each conference provides to its member institutions as “third-tier rights” varies greatly from conference to conference and here is where much of the confusion rests.
In the ACC, “third-tier rights” consist of select (not all) women’s basketball, baseball and Olympic sports events (volleyball, soccer, track & field, softball, etc). ESPN (the ACC’s first and second-tier rights holder) is allowed to broadcast every ACC sporting event it chooses from the ACC football championship game on down to Florida State’s women’s soccer game vs. Stetson – if it wanted to. All games ESPN does not broadcast — the vast majority of women’s basketball, baseball and Olympic sports events — revert back to the individual schools to do with what they choose. Clemson, as an example, sells some of its third-tier baseball games to the regional sports network CSS.
In the Big 12, “third tier rights” consist of all those select women’s basketball, baseball and Olympic sports games as well as one select football game per season (the least desirable one) and a few select men’s basketball games (also, the least desirable ones). ESPN owns the Big 12 first-tier rights while Fox has its second-tier and the individual schools, the third.
The Big 10 only has an outside first-tier media rights holder, ESPN. The Big 10 Network is the Big 10’s second and third-tier rights holder while the league also farms out select men’s basketball games and its football championship game to CBS and Fox respectively.
Adding to the confusion is that many, but not all, people consider coaches’ shows, radio broadcast rights, and internet streaming rights to be “third-tier rights.” All ACC and Big 12 schools have full individual ownership over those rights, however Pac-12 schools granted those rights back to their conference. (According to the Orlando Sentinel and Tallahassee Democrat, FSU presently makes roughly $6.5 million per year from this inventory and there’s no reason to believe that would change in the Big 12.)
The last paragraph is important. FSU already gets money from a bunch of those sources — the only additional 3d tier rights they would pick up from a move to the Big 12 would be 1 really bad football game and 3-4 of the worst basketball games. They might be able to generate an extra million or maybe two from selling those games, but it wouldn’t be easy.
Everyone points to the Longhorn Network as the gold standard of huge profits from 3d Tier media rights. It’s why FSU fans are lusting after the idea of going Big 12. The $15 million/year Texas gets, and that somehow other schools can not only have their own channel but get that kind of money. That conveniently ignores how much of the Longhorn Network is unique to the school, its backer and the timing. Texas is dominate in Texas.
It was already the biggest athletic program in terms of money generated out there. It absolutely dominates the state. ESPN gave them a deal that no one else can get — probably not even Notre Dame right now. It was caused, in no small part because of when it happened. ESPN didn’t want the Texas to go to the Pac-10 at the time. ESPN wanted to keep the Big 12 intact. It made it worth Texas’ while to keep the Big 12 together.
Florida State is not Texas. They do not dominate the Florida markets. They have more competition at the collegiate level. No one legitimately believes FSU could start their own national channel.
It’s obvious, though, this issue is not going away quickly. It may fade into the background for a while, but the discontent from the FSU fanbase is palpable. Everyone is rightfully pointing out that the ACC’s lower payout than other conferences has a lot to do with how poorly the “football schools” in the ACC have done for the last decade. Especially Florida State and Miami. The fact that the ACC did even worse than the Big East in BCS games has an impact. The ACC is 2-13 in the BCS games. Even the ACC Commissioner had to acknowledge it while trying to spin positive.
Swofford estimated that football drives 70-80 percent of rights fees and acknowledged that more national success in that sport would have meant additional revenue.
“We seem to be right on the verge of taking that next step,” Swofford said, not for the first time. “Our main goal … is to have our best teams winning on a national stage.”
About the only program in the ACC that has truly done most of the work was Virginia Tech. And they were only added because of political pressure. Imagine the state of the ACC football if Syracuse had been the team to go in 2003.
I figured over the next year, there would be time to learn a little more about the politics, attitudes and perspectives from of the ACC and schools. Looks like I’m getting a crash-course in FSU a little early.
UPDATE: The FSU President issues a statement that one might be inclined to say bitch-slaps the whole FSU to the Big argument in a calm, reasoned manner.