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July 9, 2012

Yes, I know. I said expansiopocolypse is done for the summer. It’s not done for good, and some other materials in my tabs that I just need to get out. Not essential stuff, but things that might be interesting when it all comes back in another year.

Strangely, while Florida State seems to have settled down to some degree over leaving the ACC — at least until they get a clear signal from the Big 12 that they want them — Clemson still seems to be discussing it. Now, maybe it’s because Clemson has been a founding member of the ACC, so this is not nearly as simple as it is for FSU about the willingness to leave the ACC. Clemson seems much more divided.

So you see articles like this pushing back on any move because of travel costs.

Geography impacts travel costs, recruiting and historical rivalries. All of those aspects favor Clemson remaining in its conference home of the last 59 years.

Based on Clemson’s actual travel expenses for football and projected costs had the Tigers played in the Big 12 last season, the team would have spent $750,000 more in the Big 12.

Those travel costs would negate a significant portion of the Big 12’s greatest draw — television revenue. The Big 12’s deal with ESPN will pay its programs about $3 million more per year than what the ACC’s deal with ESPN pays out.

Unlike the Boise St. move of the football program to the Big East, a move by Clemson would obviously be for all sports. Which means increased travel costs for all programs. I’m not convinced the number would really be as high as $750K, but it would be more significant that most Clemson pro-move people suggest.

On the flip side, Clemson blog, Shakin the Southland has been pushing for a Big 12 move because of the football culture and the money. Esepecially the money. They have been doing a series of looks at financial data. What’s interesting is how they see the numbers. They correctly note that no ACC team is in the top-20 in terms of revenue. FSU and Florida are 24th and 25th, though, and Clemson is down at 39th. That puts them 6th — at least as far as public universities go. Behind UNC, VT and Maryland.

As much as they bitch and complain about the failure of the ACC to secure them the TV money they feel Clemson should have, consider this. Louisville and UConn are both ahead of them in terms of revenue. While WVU and Rutgers are right behind Clemson. Even UNLV is only a couple million away. The post won’t say it, but it is clear that the revenue issue will not be solved for Clemson simply by a move of conference affiliation. They have simply done a poor job of generating revenue.

A couple of notes. The USA Today financial data is not always reliable. Private schools don’t report the numbers and Pennsylvania schools aren’t required to. Penn State voluntarily discloses their data while Pitt and Temple did not.

I’ve kind of understood the FSU angst over the ACC. Here’s a recap of FSU’s mixed feelings with the ACC. At present, there’s a real sense of buyer’s remorse among the fans. A feeling that the school chose poorly 20+ years ago. That they would be so much better off now, if they had gone to the SEC back then. I get that. As a Pitt fan who can only think back to the missed opportunities Pitt and the Big East has had over the years, I know the “what ifs” all too well. Unfortunately for FSU fans, like Pitt fans, that door is closed and not coming back.

For Clemson, I think it has been a more recent issue. They were a founding member of the ACC. The moves from GT to FSU to Miami and VT were all football driven. Annoyed and longstanding grudges to ACC Commish Swofford notwithstanding, it’s hard to argue the ACC has hurt Clemson over the years. Clemson has generally done it to themselves. Again, as a Pitt fan, I know how that works — even if admitting it sucks.

But the thing sticking in their craw is their in-state rival. South Carolina left the ACC for the SEC. Now SC is doing much better financially. They are in the glamor league. And Spurrier actually has Gamecock football that matters. Look over the history of Gamecock football. Only seven top-25 finishes in its entire history. It’s one of constant mediocrity. Clemson was the program in South Carolina. They have the success and history. Why Clemson has lost more bowl games than SC has participated (18-17). That has to be galling.

Moving on. Gene Corrigan was an ACC Commissioner from 1987 to 1997. Before that he had been the AD at Virginia and then Notre Dame (1981-87). So, often when the ACC and Notre Dame possibilities are discussed, he’s a favorite guy to get a comment.

Corrigan believes Notre Dame would be a perfect fit both academically and athletically because the Irish feature all the “preppy sports” that Duke, Virginia and North Carolina have and is good in all those sports. In that respect, the Irish sometimes can’t find the competition they need in the Big East Olympic sports because many schools in that conference don’t have expansive athletic programs.

“The ACC would be great for Notre Dame, but it’s hard for them to let go of the football thing,” Corrigan said. “Historically it’s tough to do something like that, but if they do, I think they know this is where they would go. They would be perfect in the ACC. This is who they are.”

The fact that the ACC will add Syracuse and Pittsburgh a year from now and that Boston College is already a member hasn’t hurt the league’s chances of landing the Irish some day in Corrigan’s opinion.

What about the rumors of the Irish to the Big 12?

“They have absolutely nothing in common with any of those Big 12 schools,” Corrigan said.

We’ll see. There’s a bit of self-aggrandizing from Corrigan as you would expect from this sort of article. What’s interesting is his own remorse on missing on being able to get Penn State — mainly because he didn’t know they were looking to join a conference. And this tidbit.

“At that time, Syracuse, Boston College and Pittsburgh came to see us before the Big East formed and wanted to know if they could come in for football only,” Corrigan said. “We put it to the membership and they said no, we don’t want any partial members.”

At least that rule is still intact with the ACC. And according to Corrigan’s view of the history, the ACC actually spoke to Syracuse before FSU back in 1990.

Back to money and the ACC. The lack of it at Maryland.

In this environment, a downturn in ticket sales, coupled with a heavy debt burden, can be catastrophic. At Maryland, those factors converged in a perfect storm in recent years. The school’s athletics department deficit, now $4.7 million, is projected to reach $17.6 million by 2017 if not addressed.

Convinced its football stadium was too small and its basketball arena too outmoded for its fan base, Maryland over the past decade expanded Byrd Stadium and added luxury suites, and built the Comcast Center. At the time of construction, officials said the upgrades would pay for themselves through a jump in ticket revenue. Instead, Maryland’s football and basketball teams have struggled, and attendance and revenue have dropped.

As a result, spending on buildings and grounds has soared nearly 78 percent over the past five years, from $4.6 million to $8.2 million, according to data supplied to the NCAA. Debt service on the construction projects alone totals $7.9 million this year — up from $6.9 million in 2010-11. That’s more than 11 percent of Maryland’s athletic department budget, and the figure escalates each year like bad credit-card debt.

And, for the first time since the NCAA financial reports have been required, Maryland football actually lost money in 2010-11, with expenses ($12,538,482) outpacing revenue ($12,065,000) by $473,482.

As a result of their spending without getting any immediate return — because those returns were entirely based on winning and filling the seats — instead of reality; Maryland finds itself cutting 8 sports to try and reign in its budget problems.

This article tries to make it more than Maryland. That it is about a broken model in college athletics, but Maryland is such an extreme mess. They spent huge on building stuff, without doing a good job of figuring how to pay for it — other than by selling the places out. They didn’t set their financing up on anything else. No donors. No long-term fundraising plan. Along the lines of the same mess FSU got itself into.

That’s a big difference between a good athletic department and athletic director and ones that allow themselves to be blinded by projections. We complain a lot about Pitt’s athletic department and the AD. Especially for their cheap ways at points. At the same time, they have not undertaken major capital improvement projects without making sure the money and plan was in place first. Avoiding the later pitfalls that have hit Maryland, Rutgers and even Duquesne in recent years and forcing them to cut other programs.

nothing about the topic, but…

Dion, Dion.

Comment by Pitt it IS 07.09.12 @ 1:37 pm

Bottom line: Get a great coach and they will come.

Comment by steve1 07.09.12 @ 1:39 pm

yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

Having Steve Spurrier for a head coach is what has brought South Carolina up to relevence (and it took a while, too), not conference affiliation.

Having a bumbling collection of head coaches has been Clemson’s problem.

Comment by originalether 07.09.12 @ 3:26 pm

Having a bumbling collection of coaches has been Pitt’s problem as well. In Chryst we trust.

Comment by TX Panther 07.09.12 @ 3:37 pm

Wait..wait..wait..Pitt talked to the ACC before forming the Big East football. what Pitt football woulda been if we had been in the ACC instead of the BE.

Comment by Lou Gagliardi 07.09.12 @ 6:19 pm

I get back from the beach and find that we really are in a down period for college football-posters with more aignst ab0ut Pitt’s developing class (we won’t know for 2-3 years how this worked out), more PSU scandal stuff and an article about Gateway’s financial and football coach/athletic director problems.

Comment by opfim 07.09.12 @ 8:51 pm

If the ACC brings in ND, Mike Brey might have to wear a tie.

Comment by JW 07.09.12 @ 9:17 pm

Sorry, I hit a wrong key.
So I really appreciate the above article although more detail on the history of conference expansion and discussions about expansion isn’t the most exciting stuff. However the description of what has happened at Maryland is fascinating and accurate. The rest of that story is that there is great excitement over the new football and basketball coaches, their recruiting and the new athletic director. Randy E. almost lost it last year, his first, when he lost a ton of players who transferred, apparently due his extremely hard nosed, rigid approach. He appears to be turning it around and doing a great job in recruiting, particularly in the Maryland D.C. area.

Apparently season ticket sales are moving up. Maryland even has a pretty new artificial turf field as I understand it, paid for by the Under Armor founder, a Maryland football alum. In the interest of promoting healthy Pitt rivalries within the ACC the question of why Maryland needs an artificial turf field needs to be addressed. Answer: If they didn’t have one the cheerleaders would graze. Sorry! Bad as that one is I still intend to torment my Maryland neighbors with it.

Comment by opfim 07.09.12 @ 9:20 pm

Seems like Tyler Boyd will end up at Penn State. Looks like it’s Robert Foster or bust for this Pitt class.

Comment by TonyC 07.09.12 @ 10:17 pm

Boyd can go to State Penn and never play in a bowl game if that’s what he wants. Foster can come to Pitt and be a Heisman winner.

Comment by TX Panther 07.10.12 @ 7:30 am

Why are they a thorn in our bowl hopes?–ncaaf.html

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame says it has had talks with the Atlantic Coast Conference about the Orange Bowl….Notre Dame is interested in a deal that would give the Fighting Irish an automatic landing spot in some seasons in which they are good enough to play in a top-tier game but do not make the playoff.

Comment by KeyboardKev 07.10.12 @ 7:46 am

Why the SPECIAL TREATMENT for the South Bendies. Why must we continue the melodrama of the Lion Cubs from Mt.Nittany? I correspond from Columbus to learn of Pitt;s Panthers. Perhaps I’m chasing a “PIPE DREAM”? Well, grid drills will begin shortly and hopefully Panther fandom will have an opportunity to read about OUR blue and gold clad heroes. –OR NOT? Rev. George in Columbus

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 07.10.12 @ 8:11 am

Well Rev, as I see it, the ACC just wants ND to know how swell they think ND is…just in case ND ever looks for a conference home…I can just here Swafford telling Swarbrik “Listen, the Big 12 did not think about ND when they set up their little bowl deal with the SEC…You are not in the Big 10- Pack 12 Rose Bowl love affair…We love you more than those conferences ever will. So much so that we are willing to cut you in on our guaranteed Organge Bowl deal…While you are playing in sunny south Florida on New Years day, feel free to chat with representatives of our other conference members to find out more about our wonderful conference and all it has to offer”.

Comment by HbgFrank 07.10.12 @ 12:58 pm

*hear* *Swarbrick*

Comment by HbgFrank 07.10.12 @ 12:59 pm

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