I know this is a long post/article, but most of you don't have access to today' paper from Tallahassee. It talks about Swofford' feeling regarding television rights and money. Something we are obviously interested in.
As he sat down with reporters following three days of meetings with representatives from the NCAA, ESPN, the conference's 14 member schools and his own staff, ACC Commissioner John Swofford appeared a tad fatigued but sounded completely confident last Wednesday morning.
While it must have been a trying few days, with rumors swirling that Florida State might be contemplating a jump from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big 12, Swofford showed no real signs of concern.
He praised his conference for being proactive during this era of conference realignment. He spoke in glowing terms about the ACC's stability and future prospects. And he disputed any notion that the league or member schools were troubled by their recently renegotiated television contract.
"Nope. Not at all," Swofford said flatly. "I think our group is very pleased, very excited about the contract. … It's unfortunate there was some misinformation put out there about it, because it's an excellent contract for this league."
The television deal, which was adjusted following the league's expansion to 14 teams by adding former Big East programs Syracuse and Pittsburgh, is unquestionably at the heart of the Florida State-Big 12 rumors.
Under the ACC's original contract, which was signed in 2010, each member school was scheduled to receive an average of $12.9 million per year. The new deal reportedly will pay each school an average of $17.1 million per year, over the life of the contract.
While that's a solid gain in just two years — especially considering it wasn't negotiated on the open market — the problem for the ACC is those terms likely won't keep pace with the massive deals being tossed around to other leagues.
According to reports, it already trails the average per-school payouts in the Big Ten and the Pac-12; schools in each of those leagues will receive about $20 million per year. And the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 both are expected to grab at least that much when their new contracts are finalized.
It's unclear when those others deals will kick in — the ACC's new terms go into effect July 1 — but there is no denying that every school administrator and coach is paying very close attention.
"College football's driving that train," FSU football coach Jimbo Fisher said of the booming television contracts. "And that's why there's controversy. Nothing's about money, but everything's about money."
During his conversation with reporters, Swofford said repeatedly that his talks with Florida State have been "positive," adding that he anticipates the Seminoles will remain part of the conference for years to come.
But if ACC officials reach a point where they feel Florida State might be slipping away, they believe they would have some solid bargaining chips — even if the television dollar amounts are not stacked in their favor.
The conference's primary selling point, aside from the fact FSU fits better with the ACC from a geographical perspective, likely would be the exposure offered through its new pact with ESPN. According to the terms, ESPN will televise 30 more men's basketball games per year, 14 more football games per year and many more Olympic sports events.
And because ESPN is leading the charge into web and mobile broadcasting, the ACC believes it will be better positioned than other conferences as technology continues to develop.
"Our contract, for us, is by far better than it's ever been before — both in dollars and in terms of exposure," Swofford said. "With the platforms we are on, there's not a better one in the country — with the partner that we have and the stretch of the exposure for us in all sports across the board. It's really pretty phenomenal."
While other conferences have multiple partners — the Big 12, for example, has deals with ESPN and Fox Sports — the ACC is the only league that is exclusively tied to ESPN.
And that is no accident. When Fox Sports made a strong run at buying at least a piece of the ACC's rights in 2010, the league ultimately decided it would benefit from having all of its programming housed with the self-proclaimed, "Worldwide Leader in Sports."
"It was a very strategic decision to align with ESPN — for the obvious reasons," Duke athletic director Kevin White told the Democrat. "It has tremendous recruiting implications. Not to mention fan interest and fan appeal. That's where we wanted to be.
"It's the right place to be. It's the preferred place to be."
White, who was athletic director at Notre Dame from 2000 through 2008, certainly knows the power of television. The Fighting Irish are the only program in the country with their own national television contract; every home football game since 1991 has been broadcast on NBC.
But White and others in the ACC insist that not every channel is created equally. They believe many sports fans pick up their remote controls and flip immediately to ESPN's cadre of channels before even looking to see what else is available.
And White said that increased exposure translates to branding — for the league and the member schools — that is extremely valuable.
"We are very excited about the fact that we are intimately tied to the 'worldwide leader' and enjoy an exclusive, if not intimate, position with them as we move forward," White said. "I think it gives us the chance to not only help ourselves domestically but globally. … There also are some benefits in association and through relationship. I mean, where do you think the recruits are looking? That's a pretty important piece of the puzzle for all of us."
ACC officials believe that relationship will be even more important in the coming years, especially if networks move to a subscription model that would allow viewers to purchase channels — or programming packages — a la carte.
"If it goes to a subscription-based model, with the eyeballs that we're going to have through the Northeast corridor and up and down the entire East Coast … this is set up for the long term," Swofford said, noting that the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse connects the ACC's reach from Miami to Boston. "It's got this league positioned extraordinarily well for the long term."
In a best-case scenario, ESPN would realize increased revenue from the direct distribution, and the ACC would stand to gain more than any other conference because it is the league with the greatest inventory on the network. And with the new 15-year contract having "look-ins" after five and 10 years, the feeling is the member schools could see a much larger payout down the road.
"We're the only exclusive partner that they have," White said of ESPN. "And I think we have a chance to realize, if not harvest, the lion's share of the benefits in that space. And it's pretty exciting. Everyone wants a larger share of the market and a better ROI (return on investment). But I don't think any of us are thinking in the near term. I think we've got a little bit longer timeline in sight here. And I believe we're going to get a great ROI over the next decade or two from this arrangement with ESPN.
"I couldn't be more excited about the future prospects."
In the end, if Florida State is indeed exploring its options, the decision could come down to whether the Seminoles believe in that vision. And if they can afford to wait.
FSU already is facing a $2.4 million shortfall for its athletic budget in 2012-13, and that's with added revenue from the new television contract figured in.
For now, the ACC's leaders insist everything is business as usual. They say they aren't particularly worried about Florida State or any other school defecting – the conference has lost just one member (South Carolina) in its 59-year history – but Swofford and his staff certainly are monitoring the situation.
"We have paid attention," Swofford said. "We have been proactive — going from nine (schools) to 12 and then from 12 to 14. We may not make a whole lot of noise about it all the time, but in today's world — and I think any commissioner will tell you — it is something that you keep your eye on. Whether there's any obvious reason to or not.
"But I think our schools feel a great deal of stability in this league and solidarity in the league."
Said White: "As our teams get better, we have a chance to be in a very strong position at the next contractual iteration. And God only knows when that will be. These things typically get renegotiated prematurely. So I don't expect it to run 15 years.
"I think in the next 10 years or so, the ACC has got a chance to really upwardly position itself."
The question for Florida State fans is whether the Seminoles will be there when it happens.
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