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June 9, 2012

FSU prez Barron's outline for BOT realignment discussion

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SARASOTA - Florida State President Eric Barron suggested that playing higher profile out of conference football games, winning more in the Atlantic Coast Conference, realigning the ACC divisions and keeping a close eye on the pending BCS playoff format are "keys to success" for FSU in the future during a conference realignment presentation to the FSU Board of Trustees on Thursday.

Warchant.com obtained the two-page, bullet-point outline of talking points from Barron's conference realignment discussion which took place during the BOT's quarterly meeting at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Barron, Allan Bense, who was named the new Board of Trustees chairman on Friday, and former BOT chair Andy Haggard told Warchant that Barron's discussion was a matter of educating the trustees and no formal plans have been put in place to further analyze realignment.

"Of course any decision you make is on a whole host of things including comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges on what the resources are like," Barron said. "And so this board got a briefing on the apples and oranges and all of the different factors. We're not seeking anything, we are not expecting anything, there are not any conversations are going on."

Barron covered a wide range of topics on the outline including the playoff format, realignment cost factors like a potential buyout and travel cost increases, an analysis of FSU's out-of-state alumni base, an analysis of fan support and the academic profile of BCS conferences.

Playoff Format: Barron told the trustees that the ACC would not be left out of any four-team playoff format and emphasized the importance of conference champions carrying heavier weight in any playoff format.

"My personal feeling is a huge factor has to be conference championship, it just has to be," Barron said Friday following the BOT meetings. "If you look at any playoff system, a four-team playoff system for example, and you've got more conferences that are eligible than that, then winning a conference championship is not enough and you're going to have to look at strength of schedule or some analysis by a committee or by polls or by something.

"But from my particular viewpoint, the most important factor here is that you have to be a conference champion, that's step one."

A format weighted towards conference champions is expected to help the ACC gain footing in terms of national title contention with more powerful football conference like the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12. ACC Commissioner John Swofford has voiced his support for a format that factors in a conference title.

Improved football scheduling: Barron pointed to an estimate that Florida State expects to lose $2 million to $3 million because of the cancellation of its home game with West Virginia for the upcoming season. West Virginia was replaced by a FCS team, Savannah State, giving the Seminoles two FCS teams to open the season. But Barron's stance on scheduling more prominent out of conference games as a revenue source clashes somewhat with FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who has been a proponent of weaker out of conference schedules since taking over as head coach in 2010.

Either way, the school may have an opportunity to bolster its out-of-conference slate quickly. The University of Nevada has contacted FSU Athletic Director Randy Spetman about pushing back its 2013 trip to Tallahassee, which would leave one opening on the Seminoles' 2013 schedule. FSU is slated to play nine ACC games, travel to Florida and host Wofford, a FCS team, on Aug. 31. Nevada would have to pay FSU $600,000 to get out of the 2013 game.

Better ACC play: Interlaced with the speculation of FSU moving conferences has been national attention focused on FSU's lackluster effort in conference play in recent years. The Seminoles have won just one conference championship are 32-24 overall since the league expanded to 12 teams in 2005. Fisher is 11-5 in ACC play as head coach. ACC teams are a combined 2-13 in BCS games to date, a substantive testament to the caliber of football in the league compared to other BCS conferences.

ACC Regional alignment: Barron suggested that realigned divisions in the ACC could help FSU's travel times/costs and could better incorporate the school's alumni base. One popular line of thought is to move Georgia Tech to the Atlantic Division to join Clemson and Florida State - possibly switching with Maryland or Boston College - to give the league a more regional footprint. After Clemson, the closest team in FSU's division is Wake Forest, which is about 540 miles from Tallahassee. The Atlantic Division just added Syracuse for the 2013 season.

Cost analysis: Barron estimates a $2 million increase in its travel budget with a move to the Big 12, going from the current figure of $4.975 million to $6.988 million. A FSU official told Warchant.com that the $4.975 million figure does not include travel costs for NCAA postseason play. Barron also acknowledges that while the pending Big 12 TV contract is rumored to pay out about $20 million per team, "we might speculate that a single new school of sufficient caliber who would make a Big-12 contract worth $22 million. - the total value obviously depends on the number of new teams and their market. So, net over the ACC could be $5M - compared to change in travel costs and payback."

Budget analysis: Barron said that FSU's athletic revenues for 2010-11 were $78.5M and compared that to $82 million for Oklahoma State, $104 million for Oklahoma and $150 million for Texas. Barron wrote that FSU's ticket sales rank 5th in the ACC, booster contributions rank 2nd in the conference and licensing ranks 1st. In the Big 12, Barron writes, those current numbers would rank 4th in ticket sales, 5th in contributions, and 3rd in licensing.

Fan reaction: Barron told the BOT that he has received more than 100 e-mails ranging from individuals with messages ranging from "go (to the Big 12) or be fired" to "I always wanted to attend some away games but I have no intention of traveling to Ames or Lubbock."

According to Barron's outline, one-third of FSU's alumni base lives outside of the state of Florida. And when analyzing that group, 51 percent lives in an ACC footprint, the highest of any BCS conference. The lowest was the Big 12's footprint, which had just 10 percent of FSU's out-of-state alumni. Outside of Florida, the top six states for FSU alumni are (in no order): Georgia, Texas, California, New York, Virginia and North Carolina. The Big 12 also has the fewest FSU Booster clubs (5) of any BCS Conference footprint. The ACC leads with 20.

Academics: Barron wrote that the ACC and Big 10 are the only conferences that have all of its schools ranked among the top 101 nationally. Barron did not specify which publication's ranking he was referring to for those numbers. He called the Association of American Universities "very important" and noted it was invitation only. The Big 10 has 11 schools that are members of the AAU. The Pac-12 is second among BCS Conferences with seven. The ACC has six members. The Big 12 ranks last with three.

President Barron's outline for discussion of conference realignment during the FSU Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday:

Conference realignment

Why are we talking about it?

a) Sells newspapers and gets attention to blogs
b) Results in fear that other will leave ACC (or Big 12 or Big East), and a school could be left behind (miss BCS playoff bid or weakened conference)
c) Push more for dollars (especially given weak budgets)

Where is the BCS going? Is the ACC vulnerable to change?

  • The BCS is a key factor in any realignment decision
  • Not democratic vote - all BCS conferences must agree
  • Possible - 4-team playoff from conference champs; must have ranking
  • Possible - strength of schedule a factor in selecting 4 teams
  • ACC must be competitive or miss out on the playoffs

    Analysis of cost factors

    Buy-out of ACC: Is between $20 and $25 million dollars (WVU - $20M; $10M loan from university. WVA must pay $1M per year to Big 12 for 5 years, Also conference distribution is 50% in Year 1, 67% in Year 2, 84% in Year 3 and full share in Year 4.
    Travel Costs
    Current FSU travel is $4.975M per year. Projected Big XII travel is $6.988M (but this depends on which teams so specific opponents and schedules are not known) - basically $2M more per year. SEC less geographically distributed than the ACC.
    Conference pay-out:
    ACC: $17.1M; Speculation Big-12: $20M; SEC $19.5 this year - renegotiation with Missouri and Texas A&M.

    For the Big -12, that would appear to make the average team worth $2M per year- so we might speculate that a single new school of sufficient caliber who would make a Big-12 contract worth $22M - the total value obviously depends on the number of new teams and their market. So, net over the ACC could be $5M - compared to change in travel costs and payback.

    Analysis of FSU athletic budget:

    Issue:
    FSU's projected athletic expenditures are about $2.3M less than revenues. The West Virginia game alone would have yielded between $2 and 3M in revenue. But, horse race for dollars focused on coaches salaries, tuition costs for students, facilities, etc. will continue. FSU [athletic] revenues for 2010-11 were $78.5M compared to $82M for Oklahoma State, $104M for Oklahoma and $150M for Texas, and out ticket sales are 5th in the ACC. Our contributions are 2nd in the ACC. Our licensing is 1st. In the Big 12 our ticket sales [currently] would be 4th, our contributions would be 5th, and licensing would be 3rd.

    Analysis of fan support:

  • Email- [over] 100; not particularly large number; input from individuals varies greatly from "go or be fired" to "I always wanted to attend some away games but I have no intention of traveling to Ames or Lubbock"
  • UF and Miami games are critical for fan support - 2/3 of alumni are in FL; high attendance at game; champion of the state is significant for recruiting
    1/3 of all alumni live outside the state of Florida
  • 51% live in an ACC footprint (GA, NC, VA, NY in top 6 states)
  • 35% live in a SEC footprint (GA in top 6 states)
  • 15% live in a Pac-12 footprint (CA in top 6 states)
  • 11% live in a Big-10 footprint (no states in top 6)
  • 10% live in a Big 12 footprint (TX in top 6 states)
  • ACC and SEC have the most alumni clubs (20 and 17, respectively)
  • The Big-12 has the fewest alumni clubs (5)

    Other factors: Academics Example AAU membership (important to FSU - by invitation)

  • Big-10 11 (Nebraska lost membership after joining)
  • Pac-12 7 (Colorado)
  • ACC 6
  • SEC 4 (Missouri and Texas A&M added 2)
  • Big 12 3
  • Only Big-10 and ACC have all schools ranked in the top 101 (FSU is ranked No. 101).

    Key to FSU success:
    - A change in schedule to include national name competition outside of the ACC - Impacts ranking, strength of schedule; financial benefits
    - ACC regional divisions should be considered - Travel times; alumni base
    - Success on the football field against ACC competition
    - Great care to analyze the impact of the BCS decision



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