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May 21, 2012

Madness in a Week

Filed under: ACC,Conference,Expansiopocolypse — Chas @ 2:31 pm

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.

Then this:

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.

As an aside, take away the Rose Bowl and the Pac-12 bowl affiliations are worse than the ACC.

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.





I too think there is too much hand wringing going on over this. Speculating and debating the future possibilities is one thing, but why actually worry about it until there is really something to worry about?

If FSU and/or Clemson leave the ACC, do we really think that is the only domino that is going to fall? Pitt and college football do not exist in a vaccuum. For every domino that falls, 2 or 3 more will fall with it. And so on. Look at how this started. A&M was moving the the SEC. NOW look where we are! Back when that was just speculation, was Pitt and Syracuse jumping to the ACC, and WVU to the Big 12 even a whisper of a thought?? Nope. How about a college football playoff becoming reality? No, again. There are far too many variables to consider to really know how one move will affect the rest of the field.

I look at it this way. I was more or less happy in the Big East as it was if none of this conference hopping ever happened. I had no illusions of it ever becoming the SEC or even the Big 12. It was a conference Pitt could compete to win on an annual basis, and if they did win it on occasion, they’d compete against the best of the rest. The ACC as currently composed presents a slightly greater challenge to win it. If FSU and Clemson leave, the odds of Pitt winning it become more like they were in the Big East. EXCEPT — they are still pulling in triple the money from TV than they were before. So, to me, no matter how you look at it, the move is still an upgrade.

What is the important thing here really. Having the most bestest best conference? Or having a good football team that we can get behind? And taking it a step further, how many people here went to Pitt because of the football team? I know I didn’t. I went because of the excellent education it offered, and my degree is the most prized thing Pitt will ever give me regardless of how many football games are won. I would not want Pitt to compromise its academic integrity in any way just so we can say “hey look at us and our awesome football conference”!

Comment by JCE 05.22.12 @ 10:25 am

If Pitt somehow goes undefeated and has no shot at a playoff to determine the national champ, that would be a travesty. That could happen if the ACC is left out. But nobody knows how this playoff system will eventually work.

I still think if no schools get poached that the ACC could become the 3rd best football conference and the best basketball conference. The Eastern seaboard has the TV sets, the right demographics and growth, and it’s where the vast majority Notre Dame alum reside.

I hope the FSU’s see this and have patience instead of going for the quick buck.

Comment by TX Panther 05.22.12 @ 10:26 am

JCE – I had the choice of Pitt and Penn State. Both solid academic schools but at the time Penn State was significantly better. However, what sold me on Pitt was the vibrant city atmosphere and Pitt football. I grew up watching Marino and Hugh Green. I just didn’t see myself rooting for another team particularly a JoePa coached team. Football is part of a healthy college experience.

Nonetheless, I also don’t want Pitt to compromise its academic integrity, but I do want Pitt to have every opportunity as the Bama’s of this college landscape to be successful in sports. Pitt’s brand is powerful due to the right balance between academics and athletics.

Comment by TX Panther 05.22.12 @ 10:39 am

TX Panther — totally understand. Didn’t mean to say that football should not be a consideration. Just that it should not be the primary or only one. Athletics certainly has a role to play in the identity of a school.

Comment by JCE 05.22.12 @ 11:02 am

Unfortunately, for many kids these days, football and sports is the primary reason for selecting a school or the choice is made based on the school’s party and social life qualifications.

It looks like conference affiliation now has everything to do with football and very little to do with 95% of the other scholie sports and the academic side.

Comment by TX Panther 05.22.12 @ 11:14 am

@Denny, just using those two as examples.

@JCE, good points. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree a little bit.

Part of the fun, excitement, enthusiasm for me, is who the opponent is when Pitt plays.

Having FSU and Clemson coming to Heinz, and going on road trips to those places are part of the excitement for me in joining the ACC, along with the many other schools in the new conference.

For me, losing those two would definitely take some of the shine off of the move.

Lose a couple more, would really be disappointing.

Start replacing with old BE re-treads, would plain suck.

I’ll still support them, no matter what, as I’m sure most on here will. Would definitely be a downer though, relative to the move we thought we made.

No worries, just gabbing.

Again, hopefully nothing happens.

Comment by Dan 05.22.12 @ 11:14 am

I went to Pitt because of the basketball team. It is a basketball school, right?

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 05.22.12 @ 11:24 am

Worth a read….

link to foxsportssouth.com

Comment by CJK 05.22.12 @ 12:11 pm

@ TX Panther:
I have to defend our alma mater’s honor.
PSU significantly better back in the day?
When we opted for Pitt, PSU may have been SLIGHTLY better regarded academically, at least by US News and the like.

Most of us recognized the shell game PSU plays to boost their rankings, and their “selectivity” in terms of who gets into Main camups as freshmen: PSU has always shuttled off lots of applicants to branch campuses for two years, thereby officially rejecting them from Main campus; but then tons of those kids are allowed them to come to Penn State Main and finish up with the same degree as the supposedly superior kids who got into Main campus as freshmen. Quite the little scam, and it works to boost their rankings – but the PSU degree is carried around by lots of folks who didn’t get in to Main Campus, and probably wouldn’t have gotten in to Pitt either.

Lately, Pitt’s “selectivity” rating has become even tougher than PSU’s. Schools that receive a lot of throw-away applications often have falsely inflated selectivity ratings – they can sift through the tons of applicants, figure out who has no intention whatsoever of attending, reject them, and make themselves seem more exclusive in the process.

Incidentally, schools with successful sports programs get more and more applicants because more kids, at least, have heard of them before. My theory is that Pitt’s rise in total applications has coincided with the rise in their basketball program, and has allowed them to become more selective. [That and how rediculously expensive a private college education has become.]

Comment by Patrick 05.22.12 @ 12:25 pm

All I know Patrick was that it was more difficult to get into State back in the day but that depended alot on your major. For instance, if you chose engineering as your major, there was a good chance you’d be stuck at a branch campus for 2 years. I know that program was very selective so I selected undecided when applying.

I also recall my visits to both campuses as part of the official tours given by the university. The applicants in my group on the State visit were definitely a different caliber of student compared to my Pitt tour. I felt intimidated associated with the State prospects. I even recall the sense of arrogance or entitlement by the Nitter tour guide. A tour of the men’s showers was not provided however.

Granted Pitt’s acceptance standards and ratings have dramatically risen since then. But, Pitt’s shift away from athletics to a heavy emphasis on academics started in the late 1980’s. Coincidently, our football program began its long decline into irrelevance. We did get to see Curtis Martin play I guess.

I’m more proud of my Pitt degree now than I was 20 years ago. Pitt has made great leaps in academics and endowments and by all means should continue down this path.

Maybe with the greater exposure from the ESPN contract, Pitt and other ACC schools will be able to attract a better student and get an increase in applications which will allow schools to become more selective hence making my diploma look all the more better.

Comment by TX Panther 05.22.12 @ 1:00 pm

ACC needs to bring Notre Dame into the league ASAP . (wow doesn’t this sound familiar, talk about Bigeast 2) Having ND keeps all the players in place at the ACC table (again sounds like BigEast 2)

Nobody is going to leave if ND is in the conference as that would add another $5-$10 million per school in the reworked TV contract.

ND’s alumni and subway alumni base is and will always be in the Northeast, moreso the subway alumni. What a boost they would be for the conference as a whole. This should be a no brainer for them, as they have a natural rivalry with Boston College, PITT, Syracuse and Miami.
And it would be an excellent academic and olympic sports conference fit for ND as well. The only college football team NYC truly cares about are the Fighting Irish.

Swofford needs to do whatever to get the Golden Domers into ACC country, BEFORE this thing gets out of hand. !!

Comment by Emel 05.22.12 @ 1:09 pm

As much as I appreciate and am proud of my Pitt education (3 Pitt degrees) I must admit:

At the end of the day for the vast majority of students in most majors how selective the school they attended undergrad will matter little later in life. Anyone can get a sufficiently good basic undergrad education in most common majors at just about any accredited institution (even WVU!).

So, unless a kid wants to major in a specific specialized area only offered at a few schools and expects to go beyond undergrad to specialize in that or a closely allied field, that kid (and parents) are far better off economically choosing the least expensive accredited school to attend–and perhaps even doing the first two years at a JUCO. There will get a far better economic return on the educational investment if that route is taken.

Comment by pitt1972 05.22.12 @ 1:12 pm

oh btw, I’m reading that linked story now. lol

Comment by Emel 05.22.12 @ 1:13 pm

You guys need to check this link out on panther-lair.com

link to pittsburgh.rivals.com

It should help calm your conference jumping jitters…

Comment by Kenny 05.22.12 @ 2:48 pm

i’ve been thinking about this a lot because we are a weak fan base. we have fervor but our numbers are small. we need to put seats in the stands as well as give donations. so, i’ve been thinking about alumni associations. what do they do to support pitt athletics? they all golf. enough said about that because everyone but me seems to like hitting tiny balls great distances. (hear there’s usually alcohol too, and i’m a pitt fan)and neither separates me from a lot of fan bases.

i’ve enjoyed some terrific bb games against nova and g’town. the venues are great and since their fan base is smallish too, pitt fans were seemingly equal to the home town team fans.

i’ve always made plans on my own. but i’ll bet there will be a few alumni clubs for most acc games. do they plan tours for fans to attend games?

i’m an old fart and i’ve lived a few places that i’d expect to have alumni clubs. i’m back in the burgh and should have an easy time finding one, but i’ve never done it.

do we have anyone associated with the alumni association on this site. now might be a good time to push for membership. i’d lean toward one if it promoted collegial bus trips to away games.

any thoughts?

Comment by pittkeith 05.22.12 @ 7:48 pm

Pitt’s decline in football was inevitable. For those of us old enough to remember, Pitt’s rise to power in the mid to late 70’s was due to one thing, well two things, Tony Dorsett and scholarships.

On the 76 national championship team, Johnny Majors must of had 70 out of 80 kids on scholarships. Those days are long gone and the decline started in Pitt football when the NCAA and the University started cracking down. Today’s “student” athletes can be very selective on where they go. Pitt will always be swimming upstream to land the elite recruits. With that being said, there is no reason with a solid couple of years, they can be at the top of the ACC, no matter who is still in.

Comment by goalie44 05.22.12 @ 8:39 pm

I should have saved the money and gone to IUP then. But I understand your point. Part of my decision was based on the college experience. I wanted to be able to wear my Pitt hat with pride and to have people respect the name. So yes, I went to the same school as Dorsett and Marino and May and Ditka and Martin and Jackson and others and I’m proud of it. I also went to school with some bright and successful people you seldom hear about. I did use my Pitt degree to get into grad school. Too bad my degree doesn’t mean much in Texas country but I was able to brag about our win over the Aggies with Larry Fitz down in College Station and I was able to gloat about Pitt’s basketball win over the Horns. These southerners, Texans that is, respect a boy from a school that beats them fair and square. So let’s not do anything stupid and jump to the Big 12. We have a chance to dominate the ACC and hopefully that path can lead to participation in a playoff where anything can happen.

Comment by TX Panther 05.22.12 @ 9:40 pm

Easy on the IUP talk there Tex. 😉

Comment by ECH 05.22.12 @ 9:48 pm

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