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December 4, 2012

Will B12 get off sidelines as Fla St looks around?

There are those in the Big 12, which has the smallest TV household footprint of all the major conferences, who are growing increasingly restless with a wait-and-see approach to expansion when they think it's clear the Big Ten is still shopping around the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Nothing about realignment makes sense.

But what makes absolutely no sense to an increasing number in the Big 12 is sitting back and watching the conference with the largest TV household footprint (Big Ten) looking to get even larger with the additions of Rutgers, Maryland and perhaps more, sources say.

Because the Big Ten requires its schools to be members of the American Association of Universities, considered the nation's top public and private research institutions, increasing speculation has focused on if the Big Ten would go to 16 by trying to lure Georgia Tech and North Carolina, both of whom have denied contact, or possibly even Virginia.

Florida State is not a member of the AAU. So the thought in the Big 12, it seems, has been the Big Ten won't take Florida State, and the SEC has never expressed an interest in Florida State because of an unwritten agreement that Florida be the only SEC school in the state.


FLORIDA STATE LOOKING AROUND: But it should be getting more and more clear after Maryland's departure from the ACC, Florida State is not sitting around playing solitaire.

According to Warchant.com, the Florida State site on the Yahoo!/Rivals network, FSU officials are now exploring conference options and have put out feelers to the Big Ten.

Warchant.com has also reported there appears to be a movement in the SEC led by Alabama to make the conference rethink its stance against adding Florida State and/or Clemson.

Big 12 sources told Orangebloods.com last summer the priority list of potential expansion targets would be Notre Dame's Olympic sports, followed by Florida State and Georgia Tech - if those schools reached out to the Big 12.

But according to multiple sources, Florida State did not even come up at a Big 12 athletic directors' meeting in New York on Tuesday when new commissioner Bob Bowlsby gave his realignment update.


BIG 12 ON THE SIDELINES? With Texas leading the courtship of Notre Dame, the rest of the Big 12 began to think the Irish would place their non-football sports in the Big 12.

But the ACC, led by self-preservation commissioner John Swofford, changed its previous stance on full membership or no membership. Suddenly, Notre Dame's Olympic sports and five annual football games against the Irish were in the ACC.

Swofford also made sure the exit fees from the ACC were raised to $50 million, and a lawsuit has already been filed against Maryland by the rest of the ACC demanding every penny.

The raised exit fees and lawsuit don't seem to be a deterrent for Florida State at the moment.


THE TEXAS INFLUENCE: Because Texas has always been a founding voice in the Big 12 and is seen as the anchor that saved the league by sitting tight in 2010, the Longhorns have continued to drive conference policy.

And Texas continues to be the loudest voice favoring a 10-team league because it makes for easier scheduling with 9 conference football games (everyone plays everyone) and round-robin scheduling in basketball; no conference title football game to potentially derail an undefeated team from the national title picture; and fewer schools to share TV revenue with.

But sources in the Big 12 tell Orangebloods.com there is increasing disagreement about these positions.

Those sources argue it's actually easier to get to a national title game in a league with divisions because there's an increased chance the best teams won't always play each other and knock each other off.

Look at the SEC this year.

Alabama didn't play the best teams from the SEC East - Florida, Georgia or South Carolina - during the regular season.

And Georgia didn't play the best teams from the SEC West - Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M - during the regular season. And those two played for the right to be in this year's national title game.


MAKING THE RIGHT MOVE: To be perfectly clear, no one in the Big 12 wants to expand simply to expand. The Big 12 commissioned a study on the value of adding schools like Louisville and Cincinnati and decided the value wasn't there.

But Florida State and a partner out of the ACC - either Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech or all of them, would be adding real value, three officials in the Big 12 told Orangebloods.com Tuesday.

Published reports have said Maryland stands to make $100 million more in its first five years in the Big Ten than it would have made in a new TV agreement between the ACC and ESPN.


INCREASING THE BOTTOM LINE: In the Big 12, new, TV contracts with ESPN and Fox totaling $2.6 billion as well as a $960 million ESPN TV contract for a bowl game with the SEC - all through 2025 - are providing nice bottom lines of roughly $28 million annually for Big 12 members - in addition to third-tier TV deals (Texas makes $15 million annually from ESPN for the Longhorn Network).

But the only way for schools in the Big 12 to grow in TV revenue is by expanding its footprint. And the only way for a league with one-third the population (36.6 million) of the Big Ten (103.9 million) is by adding the Seminoles in a state with 19 million people, those sources say.

Basically, those sources want new commissioner Bob Bowlsby to make Florida State his top priority, whether Texas agrees or not. Sources at Texas say UT does not have an iron-clad stance against expansion but definitely favors 10 schools.


MOVE IT OR LOSE IT: There is increasing fear in the Big 12 that if the league doesn't get proactive on expansion, Florida State could get away - either to the SEC or, God forbid, the Big Ten if Delany could convince his schools to make an exception to its AAU membership requirement.

Talk about TV market domination by one conference.

Florida State would need a partner in the Big 12, most likely Clemson or Miami. Or the Big 12 could get really aggressive and go after Florida State, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech.

There would be a touch of irony in all of that considering the ACC rejected Texas and its Longhorn Network as a potential expansion target last September when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State flirted with the Pac-12. Instead, the ACC grabbed Syracuse and Pitt.

"If you rely on the rules in other conferences as they are written or someone's word in times like this, you get left behind," one official at a Big 12 school said. "We learned that lesson with Notre Dame going to the ACC."

And one source said if the Big 12 took the Big Ten's approach by shopping around the ACC, it might come with Notre Dame's Olympic sports after all.

Stay tuned.



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