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May 10, 2012Here are a few more key things to consider in the longshot scenario that Florida State would possibly leave the Atlantic Coast Conference, where it would turn over its third-tier football rights to ESPN through 2027, or look at the Big 12, where it could develop its own third-tier licensing agreement or network.
Again, the driving force in any such deliberation for FSU could be financial. The Seminoles are facing a $2.4 million budget deficit in athletics for the 2012-13 school year, and that's despite recent success in football, basketball and baseball.
So how feasible would it be for Florida State to make such a move?
NO GRANTING OF RIGHTS IN ACC: First and foremost, the new ESPN media rights deal with the ACC does not include a granting of first- and second-tier TV rights back to the conference. The ACC has had no problem with defection (the ACC has grown and has Syracuse and Pittsburgh on the way). So there was no need to address it in this latest deal.
Schools in the Big 12 are about to grant those rights back to the conference for the next 13 years as part of its revised tier-one TV deal with ABC/ESPN, which should be finalized soon. That means no school could leave the conference with its most valuable TV rights for 13 years.
So the only thing holding Florida State in the ACC is its buyout penalty, which is significant. A source tied into the ACC told me Thursday Florida State's buyout to leave the ACC would be roughly one year's share of TV revenue - so $17 million under the new deal.
Even if FSU could negotiate that down, the Seminoles would need help with that payment from the Big 12, either with a loan or the Big 12 picking up that tab altogether. And there's no indication how that would be viewed by the powers in the Big 12.
WHO'S IN CHARGE?: A huge factor in this equation is going to be the Florida State leadership. School president Eric Barron has been on the job for a little more than two years. Barron was once the dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas from 2006-08.
Barron is seen as an academic who is not tied in closely with athletics and prizes FSU's place in the academically strong ACC. Although Barron told Warchant.com, the Florida State site on the Yahoo!/Rivals network, FSU has to put money into improvements for the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, where the Seminoles play basketball.
It's a multi-purpose facility in desperate need of renovation.
There is some sentiment that Barron would not be the one to take the leadership reins on any kind of conference move and could work against it.
Athletic director Randy Spetman may be on shaky ground because of the $2.4 million budget deficit facing athletics in 2012-13.
So would Spetman rise up and make a big splash by pushing for a move to the Big 12, where FSU could secure more third-tier revenue?
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is apparently opposed to leaving the ACC, sources said. Fisher is coming off 10- and nine-win seasons at FSU after succeeding Bobby Bowden. He has a strong team coming back this season that should contend for an ACC title. How much political muscle does Fisher have at this point?
And the biggest wildcard in any decision involving the direction of the school is the Florida State board of trustees, chaired by attorney Andrew Haggard.
One source close to the situation said Haggard might be enough of a maverick to try and lead a charge to the Big 12. But that source questioned if Haggard could secure a majority on the board.
ANY TAKERS ON AN FSU NETWORK?: A television industry source told Orangebloods.com Florida State might have trouble getting a bidder to launch a third-tier network dedicated exclusively to the Seminoles because of the problems ESPN has had getting Texas' Longhorn Network into distribution.
ESPN is paying Texas $300 million over 20 years to air its third-tier inventory, which consists of one or two football games (the ones not selected by the school's Tier 1 or Tier 2 TV partners) as well as some low-profile basketball games and things like baseball and softball. But the Longhorn Network, which launched last August, still isn't available to most households in Texas.
Another industry source said there's no question Florida State could make more money on its third-tier rights in the Big 12 than in the ACC simply through a licensing agreement and not a full-blown network. The industry source estimated that number to be $2 million on top of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 TV money FSU would receive in the Big 12 - projected at $19 million.
So, even the most modest projection for Florida State in the Big 12 would be a combined total of $21 million per year for the next 13 years, compared to the $17 million it would make annually through 2027 in the ACC, which will share revenue equally on everything except third-tier basketball rights. Those will still belong to each school under the new ESPN-ACC agreement.
Sources in the Big 12 tell Orangebloods.com there has been absolutely no discussion of Florida State, and that no contact has been made by Seminoles' officials.
Those Big 12 sources say there is no urgency to add one or two more schools and that if the 10-team league couldn't land a game changer (which Florida State would be), there's no reason to expand because of the 13-year granting of rights binding the league together.
Everyone I'm talking to still considers any such move by Florida State a longshot.
But they also agree it's something Florida State has to consider either now or in the future.
And while Clemson has also been rumored to be a possible defector, I've been told the Clemson administration would never act alone in any kind of conference jump. Only if a school like Florida State took the lead on such a move would Clemson even then be talked about as a possible realignment candidate.
Again, longshot stuff. But no one has come forward at Florida State to shoot it down.