Florida State isn't leaving the ACC for the Big 12 ... at least not today

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Florida State is not joining the Big 12 Conference. I guarantee it. Carve it on a stone tablet and rest it against Bobby Bowden's statue outside Doak Campbell Stadium or plant it in the Sod Cemetery.

There is no way, no how Florida State is leaving the ACC for the Big 12.

At least not this week. Next week? Well, who knows.

If there's one thing I've learned in trying to keep up with the never-ending musical chairs, better known as conference realignment, it's never rule out anything.

On Saturday "anything" happened.

First, Florida State Board of Trustees chairman Andy Haggard ripped the ACC's newly signed media rights deal -- worth $17 million annually per school through 2026-27 -- telling Warchant.com that FSU's school board "unanimously" favored "seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer."

That same day FSU coach Jimbo Fisher tossed napalm on the Big 12 speculation.

"There have been no official talks, but I think you always have to look out there to see what's best for Florida State," Fisher told The Orlando Sentinel. "If that [jumping to the Big 12] is what's best for Florida State, then that's what we need to do."

On Monday, at the opening day of the ACC's spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fisher told reporters he's not "a decision maker" and not the one that ultimately would make a decision on FSU's future home.

Meanwhile back in Tallahassee, Florida State president Eric Barron's email account was sending out statements to any alums, boosters or members of the media asking about conference realignment.

"I want to assure you," Barron's statement began, "that any decision made about FSU athletics will be reasoned and thoughtful and based on athletics, finances and academics."

Barron went on to list four factors to support a move to the Big 12 and then seven reasons why FSU should remain in the ACC. In the process, Barron also managed to take a dig at the Big 12, stating his school was "opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker."

Academics matter? Breaking news: Florida State to the Ivy League!

So let's recap: Florida State's Board of Trustees chairman said the school's board unanimously favors courting the Big 12; Fisher is more concerned with FSU's third-tier television rights than his third-down efficiency and Barron basically insinuated that Big 12 member schools can't spell "big" if you spotted them the "b" and the "i."

And you thought the Big East had problems.

On Twitter, Larry Williams, of TigerIllustrated.com, probably summed it up best: "All these mixed messages coming out of Tallahassee remind me of Jeff Bowden's play-calling," Williams said.

Fisher said Monday "the powers that be will make the decision for Florida State. That's the board of trustees and the president. That's all I said that day. They'll do what's best for Florida State. We're in the ACC, and that's where we're at."

Yes, the Seminoles are currently in the ACC. A league they haven't won in seven years. A league where they've failed to beat Wake Forest in four of the last six meetings. A league that the Seminoles, along with Sunshine State partner Miami, were supposed to dominate.

Nearly a year ago, I asked ACC commissioner John Swofford if his league had underachieved. He said he believed the ACC has more depth and is better than ever in league history, but could do more.

"Have we reached our potential football-wise as a 12-member conference?" Swofford told me last July. "No. I don't think we have. I think we will when our top couple of teams is in the national championship picture and hopefully winning and if and when we have a second team in [a] BCS bowl. In time, that will come."

Last season the ACC finally had two ACC teams earn BCS bowls. Neither one was named Florida State.

One ACC source said Monday he was "bewildered" -- that's the polite translation -- by FSU's whining about the ACC, which has lost one league member in 59 years.

"This league is a collegial environment," the source said. "There are rewards and risks taken by all members. Everything is cyclical."

Perhaps, but FSU has a $2.4 million deficit in its athletic department budget so that's why the Big 12 -- which would earn FSU at least $3 million a year more than the ACC -- is an attractive option. Never mind, the Seminoles would have to somehow scrap together $20 million to $25 million in exit fees to leave the ACC.

The Big 12, on its death bed two years ago when it appeared the league would implode, is now a virtual paradise.

Even with Texas A&M and Missouri leaving to the SEC, the Big 12 is in a power of strength. The league's new 13-year media rights deal, projected to be worth at least $20 million per school, should be finalized by June. The Big 12 has agreed on a grant of rights for the life of the contract, meaning if a team leaves the league before the contract expires, the conference keeps that school's television rights.

In other words, no one in the Big 12 is going anywhere anytime before 2025.

What's that mean for Florida State? The Big 12 may -- or may not -- be interested in expanding.

New commissioner Bob Bowlsby doesn't even officially start until next month and the reality is any candidate the Big 12 would pursue (Florida State, Louisville, etc.) has no other options. So the Big 12 can sit back and wait to see how the new 2014 playoff revenue is divvied up among the conferences before deciding who, if anyone, they want to add.

And, oh by the way, the Big 12 is very satisfied with its current 10-member makeup.

"The Big 12 is literally on the fence as far as expansion," an industry source said. "One day, they're like 'Let's expand.' The next day, it's 'No, let's not.' There's no reason for them to expand except if there are some compelling reasons."


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