Jan 1, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel (3) lines up across from the Northern Illinois Huskies defensive line in the second quarter of the game at the 2013 Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

FSU Conference Realignment: Like 20 years ago, the decision comes down to money

A few days ago, I posted an article about the Big 10’s pursuits a few years ago.  There’s more.  I came across this little doozy.  This was written in 1990:

Athletic directors at Arkansas, Florida State and Miami say their schools would consider joining the Southeastern Conference if the league extended an invitation.

The schools have agreed to be placed under consideration for acceptance, the athletic directors said.

Conference Commissioner Roy Kramer said the 10-team SEC, whose presidents unanimously voted to explore expansion two weeks ago, is only in the preliminary process of determining which schools might be interested.

Kramer would not discuss the candidates and said there is no timetable for when the SEC might extend formal bids to join.

Kramer and athletic directors from across the nation were attending the National Assn. of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention, which continues through Wednesday.

“I think realignment (of major conferences) is inevitable,” Louisiana State Athletic Director Joe Dean said Monday. “This is somewhat of a television-driven thing.”

Arkansas has been in the Southwest Conference for 76 years. Florida State is an independent in football and a Metro Conference member in other sports. Miami is an independent in all sports.

“There are very few schools that can make it as an independent,” Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich said. “We can make it as an independent. But you have to look at what is down the road 10 years from now.”

Should Arkansas join, it might open the door for SWC brethren Texas and Texas A&M to be considered by the SEC. Texas’ big television market is attractive to the SEC.

Interestingly enough, two of those moves worked out–Arkansas and Texas A&M both wound up in the SEC.  Florida State still culturally fits into the SEC model.  Miami had the athletic prowess to complete on an SEC level but didn’t fit into the demographic dynamic of the SEC.

So, what happened?  FSU joined the ACC.  Why did FSU join the ACC?  It was for more money–and sure, this angers some in the SEC, but could you realistically look yourself in the mirror and say you’re going to do something that’s going to cause you to lose money?  Here’s what happened:

Florida State joins the Atlantic Coast Conference this morning when Bernard Sliger, university president, announces it at a 10:30 news conference.

The move was unanimously endorsed by the Board of Regents at its Jacksonville meeting Friday.

As the Seminoles become members of the ACC, the Southeastern Conference continues to act like the jilted girlfriend. First, it was the immature act of voting not to give Florida State further consideration for membership.

“I`m totally shocked at what the Southeastern Conference presidents did,“ football coach Bobby Bowden said. “It`s hard for me to understand.“

Then, there is the rumor SEC schools will not play Florida State beyond current contracts. It was apparently based on a request of FSU to control its schedule if it joined the SEC.

“Not an unreasonable request,“ Athletic Director Bob Goin said. “We`ve been playing Southeastern Conference schools and haven`t been in a conference. They are great universities, and we`d hope to continue our relationship with them.“

The Seminoles will pay a fee of between $300,000 and $500,000 to become a conference member in July 1991.

Goin said basketball and non-revenue sports would become conference members for the 1991-1992 season. He`s hoping to have football positioned by 1993 but indicated 1994 would be more likely.

Florida State had several criteria for conference membership:

— Institutional and conference academic compatibility: The ACC is one of the nation`s top academic conferences. FSU would have been at the top of the SEC but is more compatible with the ACC schools.

— Maintain national football image: The ACC is an underrated football conference. It`s had a national champion since the SEC has. If FSU eventually plays seven or eight conference games, there will be room for additional games of national prominence, something an SEC schedule might not allow. It`s also no secret that SEC schools chop each other up on football Saturdays, something unattractive to the Seminoles.

— Improve the basketball program: It will happen almost immediately. “There will be impact on our recruiting,“ coach Pat Kennedy said. “The ACC simply puts you at the highest level. We`ll naturally have to upgrade everything we do. There are no off nights in the ACC.“ The SEC would have been an improvement over the Metro where Louisville and Memphis State are the perennial powers. “I was prepared to go either way,“ Kennedy said. “It didn`t matter if it was Kentucky, LSU or Georgia coming in or North Carolina, Duke and Georgia Tech.“ It will help FSU`s attendance and finances, “the whole ball of wax,“ Kennedy said.

— Non-revenue sports including baseball, a money maker at FSU, would be enhanced: “We drew 108,000 last year, and this will help improve it,“ coach Mike Martin said. “The ACC is underrated in every sport except basketball. It had four teams, North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, make the regionals in baseball last year. There`s no way for us to match the success we`ve enjoyed in Metro playing in the ACC.“

— Paying the bills: Florida State made $10 million in football last season and $700,000 in basketball. As an independent, FSU kept all of the money.

Using last year`s revenue figures, FSU would lose $1 million in all sports by joining the SEC, but would gain $2 million by joining the ACC based on the differing distribution formulas.

For instance, if FSU had a bowl revenue of $3 million, the SEC is equal shares but two for the participating team. In the ACC, it is $500,000 to the participating school, $100,000 to the conference, and the remainder is split 50-50 between the ACC and the participating team.

“It`s the security of knowing when a rainy days comes,“ Goin said, “you`ll have some brothers around to help you out.“

— Compliance and leadership: The ACC has been at the forefront of NCAA reform, and its commissioner, Gene Corrigan, is considered among the best at his job.

“The ACC provides everything we were looking for,“ Goin said.

If Florida State had joined the SEC, it would have just been member No. 12. It had nothing to give the conference that the conference doesn`t already have, and being in the same conference with Florida, it would have had nothing different to offer recruits.

The same isn`t true in the ACC. The ACC will draw from Florida State`s football prominence and its presence gives the league an entrance into the state`s television audience. The Seminoles will benefit from the conference`s basketball stature.

“Like a good marriage, there is some give on both sides,“ Goin said, “and it has been well accepted by everyone.“ With the exception of the SEC, but, who cares? After all, it was the SEC that left Florida State at the altar and not the other way around.

The ACC was a much stronger conference back in 1990.  It wasn’t the weak cupcake that most people make it out to be.  It had two things going for it: more money and a stronger commissioner.  In fact, here’s what the decision boiled down to for FSU:

Using last year`s revenue figures, FSU would lose $1 million in all sports by joining the SEC, but would gain $2 million by joining the ACC based on the differing distribution formulas.

So, join the SEC and lose $1 million or join the ACC and gain $2 million.  Simple math.  And for a while, it worked out.  But things change.  And things may, of course, change again, but the landscape of college football indicates we are moving toward a 4 conference structure which means FSU needs to find its next home.

So, SEC fans can gripe about FSU turning down the SEC back in 1990.  We still don’t even know if the offer was actually a real offer.  The SEC’s gripes, however, if the offer was real, are legitimate.  However, FSU was not established in 1990 quite yet and was unable to weather financial storms.  Does FSU want into the conference now?  You betchya.  I’d say let bygones be bygones.  FSU, you made a mistake.  SEC, don’t double down on that mistake and turn away from the perfect conference expansion candidate: strong sports, strong athletics, and while it duplicates the Florida TV market to some extent, FSU has a national brand.  People will tune in to watch FSU play the likes of Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida on a regular basis.

Tags: Acc Conference Realignment Fsu Rumors Sec

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