Barron weighs in on FSU-Big 12 rumors
3:24 PM, May. 14, 2012 |
By Jim Lamar
Democrat associate editor
As Florida State’s future in the Atlantic Coast Conference continued to fuel plenty of rumors and speculation Monday, FSU President Eric Barron spent at least part of his day trying to deliver a message to the university’s alumni, fans and other stakeholders.
“I tried to let them know that this is a complicated issue,” Barron said.
That’s why Barron crafted a bullet-point response to answer the dozens of emails he received this weekend lobbying him to lead FSU’s move from the ACC to the Big 12 Conference. He said he began responding to the emails Monday morning “and after I sent the fourth one it had already been posted on the Internet somewhere.”
“There are definitely some people who said, ‘Don’t comment. Just ignore it all,’” Barron said. “But I made a habit of whenever alumni write to me, to write right back. Of course, I think a lot of people in the university are frustrated this gets so much attention and all the terrible things that have happened to our academics on campus get so little attention.”
The Big 12 speculation jumped into the national news on Saturday when Andy Haggard, the chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees, expressed his displeasure in the new television-rights contract the ACC signed with ESPN. That deal is expected to pay FSU at least $17.1 million per year, but it will not jump to that total payout in the first year of the contract and will instead escalate annually beginning with a $1.2 million increase this year.
Even when the ACC deal reaches the $17.1 million payout, the Big 12 contract is believed to be worth as much as $2.9 million more annually for its schools. According to various media reports, the conference is expected to sign a renegotiated contract in the near future.
“At least half of the emails I’m getting are saying that this $2.9 million is too much to give up,” Barron said. “This was my attempt to explain that there are a lot of factors to consider. You have to realize all the travel costs that would come in the Big 12. We don’t have to fly to every game now in the ACC. We would have to in the Big 12. With the costs there, it may not be as big an advantage as others might think.”
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In his emails, Barron also listed other factors he wanted stakeholders to consider, including an exit fee from the ACC that he said would be “between $20M and $25M.”
“We have no idea where that money would come from,” Barron wrote. “It would have to come from the Boosters which currently are unable to support our current University athletic budget, hence the 2% cut in that budget.”
Barron said he was forced to amend his original email response, which he said he cut-and-pasted to various recipients and tried to add personalized messages at the bottom. His early versions contained fact errors about the Big 12’s payoff structure and the methods of travel for various FSU teams to ACC games.
“After about the 10th email, I corrected that,” Barron said.
But Barron also said he was surprised to hear that people think he has now made up his mind on FSU’s conference affiliation.
“I have no idea what the next few weeks or even days will bring,” Barron said. “I know I have alumni irritated because they think I made up my mind. What I am trying to say is this is not some simple thing.
“It’s amazing how many people will say to me, ‘You don’t understand. If you go to the Big 12, Clemson will go with you and so will Miami and you can play them.’
“How do you know that? How can you say that? This is quite complicated. I have no idea how people will react to what I said, but I’m just trying to get the facts out there.”
Barron also said that he believes FSU has done the proper due diligence should any major conference be willing to discuss a possible move.
Though he wouldn’t pinpoint an exact time when the research was done, he said he felt comfortable last summer when rumors circulated about FSU possibly joining the SEC that his staff was prepped in case the league contacted him.
“There is no way that the university wouldn’t at least do its homework,” Barron said. “That wouldn’t make sense otherwise. But that happened last year and I didn’t believe there was any truth to the rumors then. And I don’t believe there is any truth to these rumors now.
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“It would have been strange for us not to think about it. To do a study and issue a report? No. But of course you think about it.”
Florida State University President Eric Barron sent an email reply earlier today to the many emails and calls he has received regarding the possibility of FSU leaving the ACC for the Big 12 Conference.
Here is what Barron had to say:
I want to assure you that any decision made about FSU athletics will
be reasoned and thoughtful and based on athletics, finances and academics. Allow me to provide you with some of the issues we are facing:
In support of a move are four basic factors argued by many alumni:
1. The ACC is more basketball than it is football, and many of our alumni view us as more football oriented than the ACC 2. The ACC is too North Carolina centric and the contract advantages basketball and hence advantages the North Carolina schools 3. The Big 12 has some big football schools that match up with FSU 4. The Big 12 contract (which actually isn't signed yet) is rumored to be $2.9M more per year than the ACC contract. We need this money to be competitive.
But, in contrast:
1. The information presented about the ACC contract that initiated the blogosphere discussion was not correct. The ACC is an equal share conference and this applies to football and to basketball --there is no preferential treatment of any university with the exception of 3rd tier rights for women's basketball and Olympic sports. FSU is advantaged by that aspect of the contract over the majority of other ACC schools.
2. Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M left the Big 12, at least in part because the Big 12 is not an equal share conference.
Texas has considerably more resource avenues and gains a larger share (and I say this as a former dean of the University of Texas at Austin - I watched the Big 12 disintegration with interest).
So, when fans realize that Texas would get more dollars than FSU, always having a competitive advantage, it would be interesting to see the fan reaction.
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3. Much is being made of the extra $2.9M that the Big 12 contract (which hasn't been inked yet) gets over the ACC contract.
Given that the Texas schools are expected to play each other (the Big 12 is at least as Texas centered than the ACC is North Carolina centered), the most likely scenario has FSU playing Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and West Virginia on a recurring basis and the other teams sporadically (and one more unnamed team has to join to allow the Big 12 to regain a championship game), we realize that our sports teams can no longer travel by bus to most games -- the estimate is that the travel by plane required by FSU to be in the Big 12 appears to exceed the $2.9M difference in the contract-- actually giving us fewer dollars than we have now to be competitive with the Big 12 teams, who obviously do not have to travel as far.
Any renegotiated amount depends not just on FSU but the caliber of any other new team to the Big 12.
4. Few believe that the above teams will fill our stadium with fans
of these teams and so our lack of sales and ticket revenue would continue.
5. We would lose the rivalry with University of Miami that does fill our stadium.
6. It will cost between $20M and $25M to leave the ACC -- we have no idea where that money would come from. It would have to come from the Boosters which currently are unable to support our current University athletic budget, hence the 2 percent cut in that budget.
7. The faculty are adamantly opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker -- and in fact, many of them resent the fact that a 2 percent ($2.4M) deficit in the athletics budget receives so much attention from concerned Seminoles, but the loss of 25 percent of the academic budget (105M) gets none when it is the most critical concern of this University in terms of its successful future.
I present these issues to you so that you realize that this is not so simple (not to mention that negotiations aren't even taking place). One of the few wise comments made in the blogosphere is that no one negotiates their future in the media. We can't afford to have conference affiliation be governed by emotion -- it has to be based on a careful assessment of athletics, finances and academics. I assure you that every aspect of conference affiliation will be looked at by this institution, but it must be a reasoned decision.