We've been talking a bunch recently about the new 10 year agreement just signed by the Presidents of the ACC. Many people have talked about how FSU was talked into staying with the ACC, instead of leaving the door open to move to the Big 12 or other conference...thus keeping the Big 10 at it's current incoming level. Here is an article that came out today in the Tallahasee Democrat, that detailed how FSU was convinced to stay. I posted the whole article(which is limited number free), as it can be hard to bring up it you've previous read articles from them.
Obviously if the Bens or Pete want to remove the article, I have included the link.
Swofford's Tallahassee trips helped sell FSU on ACC deal
More than two years of passionate, rampant speculation about Florida State University’s future with the Atlantic Coast Conference came to a screeching halt Monday with the announcement that the league’s presidents had unanimously agreed to a pact that effectively locks in all 15 through at least 2027.
The agreement, called a of media rights, requires any university leaving the ACC to forfeit all of its television revenue – hundreds of millions of dollars – through the length of the contract.
While some FSU fans claim to feel betrayed by President Eric Barron and the university’s board of trustees – the ACC is an inferior league, they say, and there’s far more money and prestige to be gained in the football-powerhouse Southeastern Conference – Barron and his board did not agree to stay put in a last-minute, dark-of-night deal.
Quite the opposite.
The wooing of Florida State and its rich football tradition was vital to the recently expanded ACC’s ability to renegotiate a top-dollar, long-term deal with ESPN, that holds broadcast rights to most of college football. ACC Commissioner John Swofford needed buy-in from FSU, so he and the league’s TV consultant, Dean Jordan, made two previously unreported trips to Tallahassee during a six-week period before the conference sealed its deal with ESPN last week.
Anatomy of the deal
Here’s how it unfolded:
Barron and the trustees were scheduled to discuss FSU’s future with the ACC during a March 7 workshop at the university’s marine lab in St. Teresa, Franklin County. The conference landscape had been shifting constantly for more than two years. The ACC had added Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame (as a partial member). The Big East was imploding, and rumors were circulating non-stop that FSU was being courted by the Big 12, the Big Ten or the SEC.
Barron knew his trustees were hearing it from various stakeholders on a daily basis. He understood they had questions and concerns.
Rather than try to provide answers himself, Barron decided it might be better if Swofford could update the board personally and clarify the many misconceptions circulating on Internet blogs and message boards.
Swofford was happy to oblige, but instead of attending the public workshop in St. Teresa, he and Jordan opted to meet one-on-one with any trustees who might be interested the day before, on Wednesday, March 6, at FSU’s Turnbull Center. By meeting individually, those discussions were kept private, legally circumventing the state’s Sunshine Laws.
It is believed every trustee except Dr. Joseph Camps and the faculty and student board members came for individual meetings with Swofford and Jordan.
Camps, a urologist, is a former FSU football player and a past chairman of Seminole Boosters Inc., the fundraising arm of FSU athletics. Because his busy medical practice would not permit him to stop by that Wednesday, Barron brought Swofford to Camps’ home in north Tallahassee for dinner the night before.
It was that important to Barron and Swofford that Camps receive an opportunity to question the commissioner and share his concerns about FSU’s future with the ACC.
"The trustees were hearing a lot of stories that this school might bolt or that school might," Allan Bense, chairman of the board, said. "I thought the commissioner provided us with a lot of good, useful information."
Andy Haggard, a Miami attorney and former board chair who a year earlier fueled speculation that FSU might be eager to explore offers from other conferences, came away from the meeting with Swofford and Jordan feeling much better.
"It all came down to what was best for Florida State. I wanted to make sure he (Swofford) was investigating the possibility of getting the best deal he could with ESPN," Haggard said.
By the morning of Thursday, March 7, the agenda for the trustees’ workshop had been revised. Discussion of the ACC had been removed, without mention of the individual meetings during the previous 48 hours.
"This actually preceded the notion of any grant of rights, or anything else," Barron explained this week. "It was me merely trying to keep my board informed."
While the ACC’s negotiations with ESPN – and its efforts to create a separate, lucrative ACC Network – were ongoing, Swofford’s meetings with the FSU trustees came at a fortuitous time. Less than six weeks later, on Saturday, April 13, Swofford and Jordan were back in Tallahassee for FSU’s spring football game, which coincided with a meeting of the board of Seminole Boosters.
While more than 25,000 fans flooded into Doak Campbell Stadium to get a sneak preview of the 2013 Seminoles, few if any could have known that the conference’s commissioner was actually in their midst, trying to convince one more faction that FSU belonged in the ACC for the long haul.
"We’re all concerned about being able to compete with the other conferences from a revenue standpoint," Andy Miller, president and CEO of Seminole Boosters, said. "He (Swofford) assured the board that the moves they’ve been making have put us in a competitive range of other conferences."
ACC vs. SEC
While it hasn’t been a popular opinion, Barron has never hid his belief that the ACC is Florida State’s right home – at least in the current environment.
In September 2011, the Democrat published a series of emails Barron wrote to frustrated fans, demanding a move to the SEC. The hot button topic then was the lack of excitement surrounding ACC football, while the SEC was in the midst of a record run of national championships.
Then last May, after Haggard set off a firestorm by blasting the ACC’s new television contract and saying FSU officials owe it to the school to see "what the Big 12 might have to offer," Barron sent out a widely circulated email outlining the pros and cons of such a move.
"We can't afford to have conference affiliation be governed by emotion – it has to be based on a careful assessment of athletics, finances and academics," Barron wrote. "I assure you that every aspect of conference affiliation will be looked at by this institution, but it must be a reasoned decision."
Since that time, Barron and FSU officials apparently have done just that, including exploring the possibility of joining the likes of Florida, Alabama and LSU in the SEC.
While it’s difficult to confirm how far those talks advanced, FSU officials came away with the understanding that the SEC saw little financial incentive to adding the Seminoles. Bringing on FSU would neither expand television markets nor open recruiting territories.
"If you go look at all the realignments that have occurred, with maybe one exception, (they have) been to add a new state – a new territory," Barron said. "You look at what the SEC did; they go for Missouri and Texas. You look at the Big Ten; they hit Nebraska first, then Maryland and Rutgers in the New Jersey/New York market. So basically, they added contiguous real estate."
Even if the SEC or another conference had turned up the heat, Barron never was convinced that the dollars would have piled up the way the public believes.
"Typically, when we hear about the SEC’s numbers, it’s every apple and orange (factored) into that pool," Barron said. "And typically, when you hear about ACC numbers, you’re hearing about what people are speculating about the TV contract, the details of which are not public information."
When asked about Swofford’s trips to Tallahassee, an ACC official described them as an effort to provide facts and answer questions – to make sure FSU’s leaders had correct and current information when forming their opinions – not necessarily to sell a plan or grease a squeaky wheel.
Either way, that apparently was the end result.
In separate interviews, Barron, trustees and boosters said Swofford’s visits helped smooth over lingering concerns about the conference’s future.
The trips were unique but not unprecedented. Within the past year, the ACC confirmed, Swofford made similar visits to Clemson and Virginia – two of many schools rumored to be flirting with other conferences.
With Jordan leading the ACC’s efforts to establish its own lucrative cable channel, similar to what the Big Ten enjoys, Barron is convinced the revenue coming from the conference could grow by leaps and bounds. But he added that ESPN would not even pursue that as long as the ACC was viewed as unstable.
"The huge differentiator is a network," Barron said. "The Big Ten Network is the biggest differentiator in finances going into a conference budget. I believe the SEC is busily working at it, and so is the ACC."
No more speculation
FSU Trustees Joe Gruters and Mark Hillis came away from their meetings with Swofford in agreement with Barron’s decision last week to join the other ACC presidents to the new pact.
"What is on the minds of a lot of people is, is the ACC the conference that gives us the best opportunity to compete over the long term?" Gruters, FSU’s youngest trustee, said. "At the end of the day, I think the ACC negotiated a good deal with ESPN and levels the playing field with the rest of the conferences."
Before last week’s deal, FSU and other ACC schools each received about $17 million annually in TV revenue. That number is expected to increase by at least $3 million with the new deal; the pending ACC Network would add untold additional millions.
Hillis, a retired bank executive who has long been active with the FSU Foundation and Boosters, is glad to see the ACC stabilized at last. He also is delighted to see the revenue heading in a better direction for his alma mater.
"I was in concert with President Barron that this was the best thing that could happen," Hillis said. "It ensures that we don’t lose any members. Nobody can afford to leave now."
Barron said he knows the new deal will not appease all FSU football fans, but he acknowledged that it’s a relief to have resolution to an issue that has occupied much of his time during his three-plus years as president.
"We’ve had a lot of speculation for a couple years now about what Florida State was going to do," Barron said. "I believe we’re done talking about this."
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