Last week, it seemed that things were beginning to slightly cool down from all the expansiopocolypse talk of Florida State and another ACC team (Clemson, Miami, VT, GT all being mentioned) fleeing to the Big 12. The FSU president put out a pointed statement talking down the Big 12. The details about media contracts were better explained.
The champions of the Big 12 and SEC conferences will meet in a New Year’s Day bowl game annually beginning with the 2014 season, the conferences said Friday in a news release.
The five-year agreement calls for the champions of each conference to be in the matchup “unless one or both are selected to play in the new four-team model to determine the national championship,” the statement said.
“Should that occur, another deserving team from the conference(s) would be selected for the game,” the release said.
The style of the agreement will be similar to the one the Rose Bowl has with the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences.
This was a largely symbolic gesture, but one that was immediately treated with deeper meanings.
1) The SEC and Big 12 are looking for more money and found it by making what was simply the Cotton Bowl a bigger thing over which they have more control, along with some more leverage.
As previously reported, BCS 2.0 will likely be a multigame television package centered around New Year’s Day and restricted to teams that meet a certain ranking. But a game like the recently beleaguered Orange Bowl will have to decide whether it’s willing to pony up for another go-around with the ACC’s champion, or whether it makes more sense to drop down and simply host a Capital One-type game between modestly ranked brand names.
Either way, BCS 2.0 will no longer require six games, as previously reported. With the SEC and Big 12 partnering up, it will need at most five if the anchor bowls serve as semifinals (Big Ten-Pac-12, SEC-Big 12, ACC and two open spots).
In reality, with this latest consolidation of conference power, two bowls will now trump all the others: Rose Bowl West and Rose Bowl East.
Roughly, the bowl system still has a place in college football. The SEC and Big 12 managed to get a new revenue stream and a little more attention on the New Years Day bowl games.
Not good for the ACC, but hardly the end of days. The fact is, outside of maybe 3 programs (Clemson, VT and FSU) there aren’t any other ACC (and we can include Pitt and Cuse in that list) programs that travel particularly well for bowl games. There’s a reason why the Belk (formerly the Tire) Bowl in Charlotte always tries to make sure that one of the teams is from the same state. Sure, not much for the hotels but at least there are tickets sold. But, then, the ACC bowl line-up has always been a step below the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12.
2) Then there were Four. Power conferences, major college football is now residing in just four conferences. Sure there is a 4-team playoff. Sure this will be a bidding war for the game between the Fiesta (traditional Big 12 BCS location), Sugar (traditional SEC spot) and Jerry World (big money out there from Dallas). The fact is that this deal has the top teams (that don’t make the BCS) from the Pac-12, Big 10, Big 12 and SEC pairing off against each other. That means while the ACC isn’t Big East bad, it is now on the outside.
Asked what he would if he were ACC or Big East commissioner today, Neinas, laughing, said: “Better get a good bowl.”
The Big East, ACC and whoever else is still playing in FBS don’t have war chests. They have become content farms for leftovers.
The Champions Bowl (working title) became a traveling road show that will be played at the site of the highest bidder. The Big 12 and SEC champions will play each year unless one or both champs are in the playoff. If that’s the case, a second choice from the conference(s) is picked.
It’s what the deal represents: If you haven’t noticed, the top level of college football is now narrowed to the Big Four – Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. Those 48 schools control most of the influence, power, money and, most importantly, product in the Football Bowl Subdivision. That shouldn’t be a surprise but the announcement of the Champions Bowl put a face on college athletics’ latest study in Darwinism.
“Nothing’s changed,” one industry source said. “The Big East is diminished and the ACC is not the same as those other top leagues.”
And that means ripe for plucking.
If you’re not in the Big Four, you’re not big time. That means you, Miami and Florida State, who suddenly have a huge decision to make. Remain outside the Big Four with the ACC making $17 million per year in a league that can’t compete for a national championship, or take your valuable brands and petition for entry into the Big 12.
Based on Friday’s announcement – the two biggest football names in the ACC could soon be making $25 million a year in the Big 12.
And if that happens, the ACC becomes a whole lot less desirable to a Notre Dame that has to be thinking seriously about joining a conference. Put it this way: ND’s isn’t going to get better access when the four-team playoff debuts in 2014.
Why not just cut to the chase? Miami, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame to the Big 12. Even the other members of the Big Four (SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12) would have take notice that potential earning power.
In other words, doom and gloom for the ACC. The conference is just a step above the Big East, at best.
Reality seems like this should be something else. The fact is, the Big 12 will have their TV deal officially wrapped up soon. That means if the Big 12 were to expand again. Even with FSU coming aboard, the whole contract isn’t renegotiated. There is merely adjustments.
A week ago, Frank the Tank was explaining how there were so many reasons that FSU leaving for the Big 12 was at best short-sighted.
As for my opinion: if Florida State is seriously considering leaving the ACC for the Big 12, then that would be incredibly short-sighted. This is the ultimate “penny wise and pound foolish” move. Eight months ago, the world was discussing whether the Big 12 would even exist going forward. Texas or Oklahoma sneezing gives the entire Big 12 pneumonia and that’s something that’s never going to change. Regardless of how large and long the new Big 12 TV contract might be, the one thing that you know about the ACC is that its core of North Carolina, Duke and Virginia aren’t interested in going anywhere. Maybe the ACC can be weakened on the football front by defections by the likes of Florida State, but the league is going to live on. In contrast, the biggest flight risks in the Big 12 are the members of its core itself: Texas and Oklahoma. A blue blood athletic program like Kansas was talking to the Big East back in 2010 for fear of not having a place to land. As a result, any complaints from Tallahassee about the supposed power of Duke and UNC over the ACC ring hollow for anyone that can remember only eight months back to the primary example of what happens when a school truly runs a conference. The Big 12 is a power conference that has cheated death twice in two years.
Now I’m seeing arguments that Pitt should see if they can get to the Big 12 instead of the ACC.
Yet, it does seem that there is a sense of inevitability that FSU will bolt the ACC.
One source went as far as to say, “at this point the move is inevitable.”
Important dates to watch will be: May 30th, the Big 12 will have its conference meetings. June 15th, the new commissioner of the Big 12 when Bob Bowlsby will take office and August 15th, the deadline for any institution to withdraw from the ACC.
Florida State leaving the ACC this summer will culminate a process that began with initial talks with an intermediary representing the Big 12 last November. Florida State did not officially reach out to the Big 12 until a week before the ACC’s most recent deal with ESPN was announced. Florida State has long been frustrated with the leadership of its current conference and in the Big 12 believes it has found a partner that is more focused, and in touch with the current economic climate of collegiate athletics.
Even those who didn’t believe it could happen are thinking otherwise now.
Florida State and Clemson aren’t leaving the ACC as much as they’re being forced out by the ACC’s refusal to adapt to college athletics’ changing landscape. FSU is acting with a survival instinct. Major college sports is currently experiencing the most tumultuous and revolutionary period in its history. Fifty years of change is taking place within the span of months and the ACC has been mostly flatfooted responding to it. This goes way beyond a perceptually bad TV deal. This is about the ACC and its leadership at a fundamental level not being able to recognize and embrace college athletics’ changing landscape, which is increasingly driven by football and dollars, and then chart a course for itself and its member institutions to navigate those waters.
The ACC proactively expanded — twice within 10 years. For football and for the future. They have set very obvious bait — Miami, BC, Cuse and Pitt — to make the conference as attractive as the Big 10 to Notre Dame. The ACC will not give them the football independence/home in all other sports option; but they might concede to going back to an 8-game conference schedule. The ACC has not waited to be raided. I admit to my viewpoint being skewed by what I saw from Big East actions that far exceed any claimed misses and late responses by the ACC.
Less than a year ago, the Big 12 appeared to once more be on the verge of collapse with Oklahoma and OSU poised to go to the Pac-12 without Texas if need be. And Texas sending out feelers to the ACC. The previous summer, it seemed that Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado and even Texas Tech were inevitably going to the Pac-10 to create the first 16-team super conference.
Both times, the deal collapsed late. Now the Pac-12 seems set, and likely to stay at 12 with no other candidates likely available.
The Big 12 was twice on the verge of collapsing into itself. Now they have stabilized themselves and have fans of name-brand schools look at them with eyes a-flutter — or at least like this:
You have fans at other ACC schools looking for liferafts. Even if the reality makes it unlikely.
I’m still not sure. Mainly because things aren’t completely shaken out. As much as it seems that these things move so quickly, they don’t.
There are still lots of questions about how much the Big 12 wants to expand just as they have stabilized. And, big surprise a bit of a split on opinion by Texas and Oklahoma. There is a frenzy because there isn’t real information yet. Just speculation fed by tangential stories that create a narrative. Everyone is racing to figure out the endgame, before everything is finished.
My personal opinion: FSU and probably Clemson might leave for the Big 12 at some point in the next couple years. You can’t say never at this point. It won’t be this year, though. Too many unanswered questions. Too many things up in the air. While there appears to be strong momentum from the fans and significant parts of the Board of Trustees at FSU, the academic side seems firmly opposed. Probably not enough to stop it, but enough to delay a while. Plus, despite the FSU-perspective that the ACC isn’t trying to keep FSU, the ACC will not simply roll over for FSU bolting.
Finally, what about Pitt? Not much. Pitt isn’t going to back out of the ACC for the Big 12. The school does not see itself as a mid-west school. The fit of the ACC is right. Pulling a TCU would mean coming up with $20 million for the ACC. Pitt doesn’t want to pay above the $5 million exit fee of the Big East. Don’t see them tossing $20 million to the ACC without playing a season there.