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July 23, 2012
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Even as two Division I-AA cupcakes kickstart FSU's 2012 schedule, Jimbo Fisher acknowledges the program's financial thirst for big-ticket out-of-conference foes to make their way onto the home schedule.
Those opportunities - like Oklahoma in 2011 - would be an attraction for fans and a boon for the school's ticket office. The idea of jazzing up the OOC docket went as far as Florida State president Eric Barron, who cited a need for bigger out-of-conference games as a "key to success" for the FSU football program when speaking to the FSU Board of Trustees last month.
But Fisher believes that conversation is all but over with the ACC's new nine-game ACC schedule beginning in 2013.
"That nine (game conference schedule) is a very tough scenario," Fisher said during the ACC Kickoff at the Grandover Resort on Monday. "With a nine-game conference schedule, it is a very hairy deal. It's not about not wanting to play somebody; it's about getting a home game and trying to find quality home games. It just made it harder."
Since taking over as head coach 2010, Fisher has been outspoken about playing an easier out-of-conference schedule on top of eight league games and the annual meeting with archrival Florida, a stark contrast to the philosophy under former coach Bobby Bowden.
But Fisher and other ACC coaches now consider that point moot. With nine ACC games, it leaves only two slots per season to schedule out of conference teams. And to guarantee the Seminoles play seven home games - something that has been a constant in recent seasons and Fisher considers it mandatory moving forward - it means FSU can only schedule teams that would take a payout instead of a return home game, eliminating any chance of getting a top-tier opponent to come into Tallahassee.
"Our next two games have to be home games. Did Oklahoma solve our (financial) problems next year?" Fisher asked. Despite having the Sooners on the schedule last year, FSU needed a late boost of ACC television revenue to balance its athletic budget for the 2011-12 season. "It's because of the (road trip) there the year before. I want to schedule other non-conference games, but you must have seven home football games. You got to. Not (just) football is going to suffer, every other Olympic sport is going to suffer."
Florida State still had one marquee series under contract, West Virginia, that was set to begin in Tallahassee this year. But the Mountaineers opted out of the two-game set because of its move to the Big 12. That forced the Seminoles to scramble and fill the opening on the schedule this offseason, eventually finding lowly Savannah State after an exhaustive search. Fisher said FSU called 73 different schools, including top-tier teams, to attempt to replace West Virginia. FSU paid Savannah State $475,000 for the game.
FSU could be in the same position in 2013 with its scheduled home game with Nevada. FSU Athletic Director Randy Spetman said that he is expecting the Wolfpack to pay its $600,000 fee to opt out of the game and chase bigger dollars in another matchup. Nevada has not officially pulled out of the contract yet, however.
"It's a bidding war to get those teams. So what's happening - as they say, the price of poker just went up, boys," Fisher said. "Now all of those schools are going to demand $1 million, A million-two, a million-three to get them because everyone has got to go do it."
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney both voiced their displeasure with the nine-game conference format on Monday. Like Georgia Tech (Georgia) and Clemson (South Carolina) both already have annual rivalries as out-of-conference games.
"It's what we've got, it's really a moot point whether we like it or not I wouldn't have voted for it, I prefer to keep it at eight," Swinney said. Clemson just cancelled home-and-home series with Ole Miss (2015-16) and Oklahoma State (2019-20). "You have nine really good teams and South Carolina every year and it takes away the flexibility from a scheduling standpoint."
One ACC official told Warchant.com that one positive the ACC athletic directors saw with the nine-game conference schedule is that it would make the construction of the 12-game season easier since there's one less game to find.
That won't change Fisher's outlook on future out-of-conference scheduling.
"Financially, you can not pay the bills. The only way you can possibly do it (without seven home games) is as a kickoff game or an opener. But (then) how much do you jeopardize your chance of going to national championships?" Fisher said. "Scheduling from now on just got very, very complicated. I mean very complicated."
FSU tapped as preseason ACC favorites
The media at the ACC Kickoff made Florida State the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC year, giving the Seminoles 60 of the 95 first-place votes.
"(We're) excited. I feel very good about our team," Fisher said of the honor. "I like our team coming in. Again, I say that's why I like being at Florida State, you have expectations and that's why people want to come there. We have to come out and play well now."
Virginia Tech was second with 18 championship votes while Clemson was third with 13. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel finished third in the preseason ACC Player of the Year vote. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins earned preseason POY honors.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who led the Tigers to the ACC title last season, didn't seem enamored with the choice.
"I don't think anything of it. Congratulations to them," Swinney said. "Preseason awards are great, but it's more about the postseason awards."
But asked if Florida State was deserving of the accolades, Swinney complimented the talent in place.
"They're a great team, probably the best team in the conference, they're well coached, they're recruiting at a high level and they've got a bunch of guys back. So it's a good vote on (the media's) part," he said. "I think they had a great finish and they have a lot of players back. They got some really talented guys. The defense is going to be very good, they were good last year and they should be even better. They're obviously nationally ranked at a high level too."
This marks the fourth straight year that Florida State and Virginia Tech were predicted to square off in the ACC Championship game. N.C. State was picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division behind Clemson while Miami was slated fifth in the Coastal Division, only in front of Duke.
Twitter on the shelf for fall?
Fisher talked about eliminating clutter in fall camp. He already got that process underway by banning his players from Twitter.
The ban, reported by Warchant.com last week, could last all season according to Fisher.
"They don't need that distraction. Some of them, it's not indicative of who they are and they're not understanding the true ramifications of it," Fisher said. "It can be used for great things, I understand that too. I'm not against it. But it's a power that you must understand the implications of when you use it. And we'll continue to educate.
"But it's a lot easier when there is less distractions. Definitely during the season it's not something we're going to touch."
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