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Tangibles, not hypotheticals, drive ACC when it comes to FSU rumors

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Just before noon Wednesday on the final day of the Atlantic Coast Conference's spring meetings from the picturesque oceanfront Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman emerged from meeting room Talbot C.

Spetman, along with the league's other athletic directors and administrators, had just completed the final meeting.

If you haven't heard, Spetman's school has been in the news recently about possibly being interested in moving to the Big 12. The source of those comments came Saturday first from Florida State's Board of Trustees chairman Andy Haggard and then FSU football coach Jimbo Fisher prompting a response Monday from FSU president Eric Barron.

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On Tuesday, I tried to talk to Spetman. "I have no statements today," he said.

On Wednesday, I tried again. This time to specifically ask about the comments former Florida State board of trustee member Derrick Brooks said on The Tim Brando Show that the Big 12 had initiated contact with Florida State.

Before I even said his name, Spetman -- without breaking stride down the hallway -- said no comment. I suggested maybe I could actually ask the question before he said no comment and asked him about Brooks's statement.

"I don't know where Derrick got that," Spetman said.

That was it and Spetman was gone. I didn't have a stopwatch, but I think he may have broken Usain Bolt's world record. And I can verify it was not wind aided.

Back in Talbot C, I asked ACC commissioner John Swofford about the FSU-Big 12 chatter and if he was concerned the Seminoles might leave for the Big 12.

"I don't deal in hypotheticals," Swofford said. "I deal with what's tangible."

What's tangible is in the past two years about one-fourth of the current 124 FBS schools has or will change conferences by 2013. The top three reasons are: money, money and money.

And Florida State would ultimately make more money as a member of the Big 12.

So while Swofford doesn't deal in hypotheticals, one problem with today's collegiate environment -- or what's left of it -- is that hypotheticals can melt into perceptions and perceptions turn into reality.

Haggard's displeasure over the ACC's newly inked media rights deal and his perception -- "it's mind boggling and shocking" -- is nowhere close to reality, Swofford said.

"It's unfortunate there was some misinformation put out there," Swofford said.

The ACC's new 15-year media rights deal with ESPN is through 2026-27 and worth $17.1 million annually per school. That's a 140 percent increase from the previous deal, Swofford said.

"Our group is very pleased, very excited about the contract," Swofford said. "Our contract for us is by far better than it's ever been before in dollars and exposure on the platforms we're on there's not a better one in the country with the partner [ESPN] that we have.

"The stretch of the exposure for us in all sports across the board is really pretty phenomenal. We have five-year look-ins to adjust it [if needed], with the potential to develop a channel.

"We're extremely well positioned up and down the East coast and stabilized in terms of that revenue," Swofford said. "This is set up for the long term. It has this league positioned extraordinary well for the long term."

Will that long term include Florida State? Swofford certainly thinks so. He had "a conversation or two" with Barron, FSU's president, to reaffirm FSU's commitment and said the talks were "positive."

Swofford touted Florida State as a valuable member for the past 20 years in a league with "extraordinary potential."

"We've got 14 valuable members and Florida State is certainly one of them," he said.

Swofford said he continually pays attention to the all of the shifting going on among schools involved with conference realignment.

"We may not make a whole lot of noise about it all the time, but in today's world -- and I think any commissioner would tell you -- it is something you keep your eye on it whether there's any obvious reason to or not," Swofford said. "Our schools have a great deal of stability in this league and solidarity in the league."

Besides Florida State, Swofford also discussed the ACC's preference concerning college football's upcoming playoff (semifinals played at bowl sites and the teams having to be a conference champion ranked in the top five or six); which ACC division will have five home league football games when the league adds Pittsburgh and Syracuse and goes to a nine-game ACC schedule and the new format for the ACC basketball tournament whenever Pittsburgh and Syracuse join.

"We're ready for them to come," Swofford said of the two new members. "Sooner than later is preferable. It's in the hands of Pittsburgh and Syracuse and the Big East."

After Swofford concludes his meeting with myself and the three other reporters, I returned to my room.

A few minutes later there was a knock on my door. It was Mario from the hotel staff checking to see if I had used the mini-bar during my stay -- unfortunately I hadn't.

He asked me if I was here covering the ACC meetings. I told him I was. He just happened to be from Tallahassee and is a big Florida State fan.

I told him how evasive -- and fast -- FSU's athletic director was earlier in the day when I tried to ask him about the Big 12.

Mario suddenly broke into a huge grin.

"Yeah, we're going to the Big 12, you can count on it," Mario said. "Not this year but the year after. I know it. And the Big 12 will pay for our move because they'll make so much more money with us in the league and, you know, this is all about money. I can't wait."

So there you have it: official confirmation. Mario says Florida State is headed to the Big 12 in two years. Now if anyone sees Spetman back in Tallahassee, can you run him down and please get me a quote?

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