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May 23, 2012

Well, like it or not, this is going to be a reoccurring topic for a while.

Let’s start with some background. Specifically when the Seminoles chose to go to the ACC over the SEC.

While conference affiliation would impact FSU’s entire athletic program, suggesting that football was anything less than a major factor in expansion talk would be naive. So while (Bobby) Bowden was not directly involved in the decision, his support was critical in the process.

Not surprisingly, the Birmingham born-and-raised Seminoles coach — who spent one year as a quarterback at Alabama — said the SEC was ‘emotionally’ his first choice. Even so, he carefully weighed all options.

‘I was probably involved just about as much as anybody in that I agreed to [the ACC],’ Bowden said. ‘I think if I would have wanted to fight for the SEC it might have caused some concerns for everybody, but I didn’t feel that way.

‘When you started looking at it from a financial perspective and what’s best for us, I felt pretty sure what we should do is go ahead and join the ACC. … Bob [Goin] had it laid out pretty good. I’ll be honest with you, it was a no-brainer.’

Haggard, like many on the advisory committee, valued Bowden’s view on the choice of conference.

‘Bobby was totally SEC when it started,’ (Andy) Haggard said. ‘As Bobby’s thinking changed, our thinking changed. It ended up unanimous ACC.’ (Haggard is currently the chairman of FSU’s board of trustees and he was the man quoted in yesterday’s story regarding FSU’s expansion committee.)

By the time a contingent of ACC school and league officials made their Sept. 2 tour of FSU’s campus, the league had already made substantial gains on the SEC’s initial foothold. Finances, football and basketball prowess aside, the ACC’s overall image — specifically its academic reputation — had left a strong impression.

‘More people here wanted the ACC; that’s what really changed me,’ Sliger said. ‘The faculty really wanted the ACC. There were very few [faculty members] that had gone to the SEC, but many of them had gone to North Carolina and Virginia, places like that.’

While the ACC and FSU continued to discover common ground through the search process, the SEC was losing ground.

That’s right, the same Andy Haggard that shot off his mouth two weekends ago about running to the Big 12 was part of the crowd that followed what Bobby Bowden wanted back in 1990.

 

At that point, the academic side played a significant role. It remains to be seen if it still does twenty-plus years later.

The more interesting drama is revealed that the ACC schools nearly screwed FSU. It was believed that the 8 ACC members would vote 6-2 to expand the ACC. At which time, they would vote on the only candidate they had vetted — FSU. Duke and Maryland were known to be opposed. Then when the vote by school presidents happened, the North Carolina contingent of UNC, NCSt. and Wake surprised everyone and abstained from voting. Making it a 3-2 vote in favor of expansion. Not enough of a majority to authorize expansion.

And by this time, the SEC had gotten wind of FSU choosing to go ACC. As a result, they took a quick vote not to extend a formal offer. Cosmetic, face-saving, but potentially screwing FSU.

‘All of a sudden we’ve got these abstentions,’ Corrigan recalled. ‘I’ve got the athletic directors on another line waiting. … A couple of them went ballistic.’

The resounding voice of the AD’s was: ‘That’s not the way we thought we were voting.’

Corrigan could have let the issue die, but after conferring with the athletic directors, agreed to have a second vote at 7 p.m., after the abstaining parties had the opportunity to hammer out final questions.

The revote went as expected and then FSU was invited. I’m not sure if that was the genesis of FSU’s long-simmering discontent with the North Carolina powers over the ACC, but for a storyline it sure fits.

As for learning that FSU’s fanbase has such a distaste for their conference, I admit that I did not know of it. Nice to learn that even those who covered teams in the ACC didn’t really know of it.

I wasn’t really aware of the level of dissatisfaction FSU fans had with the ACC until I became the editor at ACCSports.com in 2008 and began to interact with them more. Before then, I covered the Triangle ACC schools for the Greenboro (N.C.) News & Record. FSU back then to me was the school that a) was the standard bearer for ACC football and b) wasn’t very good in basketball.

In many ways, the FSU mindset is very similar to what I witnessed growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, in the heart of Clemson territory. Back then I always heard complaints from Tiger fans about how the ACC treated them like they were black sheep, and how they just didn’t fit in with the culture of the league.

But FSU fans have an extra layer to their ACC anger. Their school also has an N.C. State-to-UNC type of relationship with the University of Florida. So imagine being dissatisfied with the league you’re in, while also having to cope with the considerable shadow of your insufferable neighbor who plays in the league (the SEC) that’s the envy of everyone in big-time college sports. Now you’re starting to see how some Seminole fans feel about the ACC.

Oh and tack on the events of recent years, that have seen the SEC consolidate its dominance of college football — the sport that matters most to FSU fans. Your own house always starts to look a little shabbier when your neighbor adds a finished basement and a sunroom to his, along with those sweet granite counter tops in the kitchen.

I think the now boiling anger by FSU fans has a lot to do with the SEC and Florida. It wasn’t always that way, but in the last 5-7 years that has become the biggest factor. Whether you call it buyer’s remorse, envy, frustration, jealousy sibling rivalry a huge source of the anger has to do with seeing the SEC become so dominant. That’s who they see as their competition. Especially their rival — Florida.

As a Pitt fan I get that. I don’t compare success and disappointments to UConn, Rutgers and USF.  I do it in terms of WVU and Penn State. Pitt’s rivals. Penn State reels in a top recruit in the state. That’s a loss for Pitt.

The one difference is that FSU’s fanbase appears to be ascribing most of the reason for the dominance to the money. That in turn is what is driving them to say that they need to get to the Big 12 (or ideally, get a do-over with the SEC).

For myself and I’m guessing other Pitt fans, the money matters for the long-term stability of Pitt. To see Pitt be able to compete on the national level. Money-wise Pitt hasn’t been close to Penn State for at least 18-20 years. So while we would all love to have Pitt getting Big Ten level money, we don’t pretend that is the reason Penn State has been the overall stronger program over the last 20 years. And really for the last 10 years, despite the extremely wide gulf in terms of money, attention and conference prestige; it has not seemed like Penn State is lapping Pitt when it comes to on-the-field success.

FSU has only recently seen the money gap between the ACC and SEC widen at the same time the SEC has asserted such a dominance over college football — and FSU has slipped noticeably. The SEC has always had a big place in college football, but the last 6-8 years have seen them really dominate the scene. Correlation does not equal causation. Money is a significant factor, but it is not why FSU slipped so badly. Bowden lost a lot of really good assistants, but did not get good replacements in most cases. It wasn’t because of the money. They were just bad assistant hires — especially on the offense.

Then there are the budget problems at FSU. An issue, once again, where it appears most FSU fans look only at the deficit. Look at the TV money differences of the ACC versus the SEC and what is expected from the Big 12. Conclusion: all would be well if they just get the bigger money from another conference.

Tomahawk Nation took a look at the budget issues. FSU has some issues regarding the increasing costs in coaches salaries and scholarships, but the biggest issue was that they were using too much of their regular budget for capital improvements.

The university saw fit to spend existing funds for substantial facility improvements (3). The practice fields got a long over due, much needed overhaul. Original price tag was $2.5 million though I believe the final price had substantial overruns. Sounds pricey, but 3,000 dump trucks full of red clay removed, new drainage system, etc. Needless to say, that kind of operation is expensive. Another substantial project finished in 2011, the FSU weight room. FSU, though there is no new building to point to and drool over, spent a substantial sum on facility improvements. Important to note, these are planned expenditures for facility improvements that are part of an approved budget. As you can see, the normal buildings/grounds budget is in the mid $11 million range and it swelled to almost $21 million. I’m guessing 2007 and 2008 were more because we got those awesome new video screens and ribbon boards in the stadium (this is pure speculation).

Belatedly the FSU athletic department has realized this isn’t exactly fiscally sound. Now they are adopting the model of setting those projects to have separate fundraising and budgets.

Say what you will about Pederson — and I’m sure many of you have and will — but he (and Jeff Long during his tenure) has been extremely careful with Pitt’s budget. Significant facility upgrades/building projects were not paid out of the general fund. They did not happen until the finances were set through separate fundraising projects or commitments from boosters. For as much of an issue as it can be with Pitt alumni and boosters not being the most generous, Pitt has made it work. It has meant delays and exasperation at times over the state of certain facilities at points, but Pitt has kept itself on sound financial footing despite the Big East TV money limitations.

Now at the moment it seems the breaks have been tapped on FSU leaving the Big 12. Well, at least Texas is saying that. They don’t see the need to expand at the moment — unless it is for Notre Dame.





ESPN College Football leads with this today

link to espn.go.com

Comment by winedogs 05.23.12 @ 11:06 am

I’m glad Todd Graham is coaching somewhere else and not at Pitt. I’m not a spred guy and I dn’t think is’t a good fit for Pitt. I think a pro-style offence will be better for a couple of reasons. It will be better for attracting the higher rated prospects with professional aspairations and it fits in better with the local talent pool from we are recruiting.

Comment by Justinian 05.23.12 @ 11:46 am

Thanks Chas for the additional background on FSU. Helps to fill in the picture and put things in proper context.

@winedogs If ever there has been someone who wants to play the victim because of their own bs actions, it’s Fraud Scam. Though i’m more pissed at ESPNs caption under the pic on the college football landing page.

Comment by ECH 05.23.12 @ 11:48 am

Graham is gone … the best thing we all can do is to move on, and appreciate what we now have

Comment by wbb 05.23.12 @ 12:20 pm

ECH, on the other hand, the photo does show Fraud with that devilish smile with Sun Devil spades in the backgound

Comment by wbb 05.23.12 @ 12:23 pm

“The Grahams who moved east struggled to adapt to urban living. You ever try to parallel park a pickup truck?”

Who wrote the garbage? He lived here -> link to theclubatnevillewood.com

Urban living my arse.

Comment by CBC 05.23.12 @ 12:59 pm

the 18th — great hole, split fairway, pond, traps

Comment by wbb 05.23.12 @ 1:27 pm

Fraud Graham = ASS CLOWN!

Comment by TX Panther 05.23.12 @ 1:35 pm

Good background stuff, Chas. It sounds to me as if FSU’s problems with the ACC the last few years basically amount to “our program’s taken a tumble the last five years and all the SEC schools are doing well, therefore it must be the ACC’s fault.”

A little simplistic and self-serving on the part of the FSU administration and the fanbase.

Comment by Jeff 05.23.12 @ 1:53 pm

No more fraud links unless ass clown is hit by a bolt of lightning…

Comment by 63Team 05.23.12 @ 1:54 pm

Comment by AlexVP 05.23.12 @ 2:26 pm

@Jeff, ya really. The ACC was okay for them when they were in the top 5 every year in the 90′s with a couple NC’s, I guess???

Comment by Dan 05.23.12 @ 3:07 pm

I would merely endorse 1000% wbb’s comment about appreciating what Pitt has now and moving on. Really, I don’t need to be reminded of the Graham CRACKER. Rev. George from Columbus where all is serene because OSU paid BIG BUCKS to lure URBAN to this supposedly URBAN MECCA.

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 05.23.12 @ 3:47 pm

We should team up with ND join the Big 10/11/12, change the name to The Big 10-4 and Schedule PSU, ND and (WVU as a Out Of Conference Game) every year.

Big Money
Rose Bowl
Rivals Played
Games close to home
All good, problem solved.
I love when a plan comes together.

Comment by wayne weaver 05.23.12 @ 4:30 pm

wayne weaver aka

Comment by Tackle made by HUGH 05.23.12 @ 4:37 pm

Wayne,

That would be a great idea, but they don’t want us. At least not while Paterno was alive.

Comment by AlexVP 05.23.12 @ 4:37 pm

This will never happen. Money and all, I’m well aware, but a fantasy.

You know what would be great, if it ends up with just the 4 conferences in the playoffs?

The other 70 or so Div 1 teams should break off from them, form their own conferences, and never schedule any of those schools.

Make them play with themselves (pun intended) and for any extra games, Div 2 would be the only option.

If only I had the keys to the universe!!

Comment by Dan 05.24.12 @ 12:38 am

GREAT write-up. I’ve been half-following this FSU stuff, but this gives a lot of context. They really should stay put… the grass isn’t always greener. Money is money but being a stalwart of the ACC is nice too.

Comment by tacocat 05.24.12 @ 12:52 am

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