On Saturday, the never-ending Ferris wheel ride that is college football realignment took another spin, when more rumors surfaced about a heavy flirtation between Florida State and the Big XII Conference. The news hit with a flash, and only got flashier when a high-ranking Board of Trustees member as well as FSU head football coach Jimbo Fisher both made public statements supporting the school’s effort to look outside the ACC. And when those comments hit, well my goodness did it cause an uproar; on Twitter, message boards, and every strange internet outpost in between.
There was one place that the news fell on mostly deaf ears though. That place? My house.
That’s right. You better believe I saw the news, and rather than sprinting to my computer to learn the facts, instead let the news roll off my back like water at the local pool. I didn’t click on any links, didn’t read any message boards and didn’t call up any friends in Tallahassee looking for the inside scoop. Instead, I caught a couple of Josh Hamilton’s at-bats that afternoon, readied for Game 7 of Nuggets-Lakers, and spent the rest of the evening enjoying life’s simple pleasures, like purchasing an overpriced drink at Starbucks and battling a couple haggard, middle-aged men for the last few Mother’s Day cards at Walgreens. To quote the movie “Old School” it really was a “nice, little Saturday.”
And ironically my apathy to the whole situation wasn’t planned. It wasn’t some deep-rooted, passive-aggressive stand against the powers that be in college football or anything like that (like they would’ve cared), but instead, the truth lies in a simple realization I came to while sipping on the mocha-frappa-whatchamacallit I bought at Starbucks.
That truth? I simply don’t care about college football realignment anymore.I’ve seen it all, read it all, lived it all, and at this point, I just don’t see the need to get worked up about it anymore. I physically and emotionally can’t expend the mental energy anymore. Sure I’ll still gather the facts when they come out, and I’ll still make mental notes of who is going where, if only to be prepared for the start of the season. But if you expect me to dig deep, pore over TV contracts and massage the egos of the masochists running college football, well, unfortunately, you’re looking at the wrong guy.
The funny this is, it hasn’t always been this way. I started this website back in September of 2009, meaning that I’ve been there from the beginning of the modern realignment push. And believe me, when Colorado and Nebraska left the Big XII and Utah the Mountain West in 2010, I was all over it, like Will Muschamp jumping down the throat of a linebacker who missed an assignment or something. It was all so new, so fresh, and in a lot of ways, actually kind of interesting. Granted, it wasn’t the stuff I planned on writing about, but it was relevant, was important, and if anything kind of became a necessary evil of the job. As the great Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel once told me, “Well, the easiest thing to cover is the game in a lot of ways. They have a scoreboard right in the middle that tells you what happened.” That’s the easy part. The hard part is writing about all the off-the-field stuff; the court cases, realignment and TV contracts, adding some perspective and still making it interesting to the readers. Wetzel is one of the few writers who capable of doing that, and I give him all the credit in the world because of it.
Me, on the other hand? Well, I’m not sure if I am capable of writing about realignment or not, if only because at this point I refuse to even consider the subject (well, except for today, obviously). Somewhere along the path of Texas A&M and Missouri’s to the SEC, Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, West Virginia and TCU to the Big XII, and Houston, SMU, Boise and Shanghai U to the Big East, I just lost interest. I just don’t care.
The tipping point officially came this weekend, but looking back, the first time I really noticed my apathy was a few weeks ago when I was on vacation. At that point, all the conference re-shuffling seemed to be settled… until news broke that San Jose State and some other school (I swear, I don’t know what school it is, only because I never bothered to take the time to look it up) were leaving the WAC, for the much greener pastures of the Mountain West (and yes, I’m being sarcastic). Like Saturday, the news rolled off my shoulders, and for the first time, I really didn’t care how it shook out, or where anyone ended up. I didn’t click through for details, didn’t read the reports and didn’t argue with anyone on Twitter.
And since then, my attitude has stayed the same, even as the rumors only continue to swirl, circulate and change by the day. One day those rumors have Louisville trying to backdoor their way out of the Big East, the next, it’s Boise debating whether or not to stay in the Mountain West, and the following Pitt is suing to get out of the Big East. Guess what? I don’t care.
I don’t care.
I don’t care.
As for the actual realignment itself, while I don’t care (I mentioned that, right) admittedly, I do understand why these decisions are being made. Just like everything else on this big blue marble we call Earth, these moves are all motivated by money: Those who don’t have any want some, and those who have plenty want more. It’s no different than the bubble that you live in, and the one I live in too. Heck, if ESPN offered me a contract to give up this site and write for them tomorrow, I’d be crazy not to take it.
What’s maybe most interesting is that in the specific case of Florida State though, their motives for looking away from the ACC actually make sense. They aren’t perfect, but they are logical.
First off, let’s forget the fact that geographically Florida State and the Big XII don’t mesh, since we learned a long time ago that geographical convenience means little in these negotiations. Nope, at Florida State, like at everywhere else, it’s all about the Benjamin’s. Straight cash, homey. If you will.
In the case of the Seminoles specifically, the devil is in the details. For starters, you should probably know that, like so many other schools in college sports right now, Florida State is operating in the red. Reports seem to indicate that the Seminoles athletic department is looking at as much as a $2.4 million shortfall in the 2012 school year. That’s all obviously a big problem, but one that was expected to be solved when the ACC signed their new TV contract.
Well, the contract went final this week, and on the surface, all seemed well for the ACC’s schools. The contract was for 15 years and 3.6 (cue Dr. Evil voice) billion dollars, netting each conference school a cool $17.1 million per year, a total of $4 million more per year, per school than they’re currently making. Granted, it’s not exactly SEC or Pac-12 money, but it still ain’t so bad, right?
Well, to quote Florida State alum Lee Corso: Not so fast friends. Again, the devil is in the details, and the details came out in another well-researched, well-reported, article by Dan Wetzel on Saturday night.
Remember when I told you Wetzel is the best? Well, here’s why: On Saturday, Wetzel dug up some info on the new ACC TV deal that hadn’t been previously reported anywhere else. According to Wetzel, the contract is heavily back-loaded, meaning that when the new deal kicks into place, each school will only get about $1 million a year more than they are currently getting right now. Sure, that number will eventually get up closer to $4 million per year in additional revenue, but according to Wetzel, that money won’t be until closer to 2021. Yikes.
“Yikes” also seems to be the reaction at Florida State, where they’ve quickly come to a pretty big realization: That contract might be all well and good in the long-term, but in the short-term, it’s a train wreck. Because honestly, if Florida State can’t operate in the black now, how are they going to hold on for another nine years? And even then, can you imagine how much it’s going to cost to run an athletic department? Can you imagine how much a good football coach and staff of assistants can cost? And the worst part is that unless the ACC expands again, that contract seems pretty much set in stone.
It’s also caused panic in Tallahassee, where Florida State officials weren’t afraid to publicly discuss a move to the Big XII. The biggest bombshell came from FSU Board of Trustees Chairman Andy Haggard, who told the website WarChant.com on Saturday:
"How do you not look into that option? On behalf of the Board of Trustees I can say unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer. We have to do what it is in Florida State's best interest."
Alert the presses and cue the violins: We’ve got ourselves a public outcry.
Also, thanks for ruining my weekend Mr. Haggard.
But to take this thing one step further, and to get back to the point of my column- how much I hate conference realignment- Haggard’s comments touch on another “big picture” issue I have with the whole process. That problem? Haggard is an academic man, with a career in law and no tangible insight into athletics, other than a few fundraising projects he's worked on. He's not a coach, not an athletics administrator and as best I can tell, never played any type of sport at any kind of high level. Yet for some reason, he’s decided to take it upon himself to speak on the good of the entire Florida State athletics department. Why, I’m not exactly sure.
And at the end of the day, that’s what might bother me more than anything else about all this realignment crap: We’re not letting the people with athletic backgrounds make the decisions which are best for the athletics programs and teams.
There are a million examples, but the most egregious one came from Texas A&M, in a scenario that I have yet to write about, but one that still irks me to this day. Actually, “irks” might not be the best word, since the whole thing quite literally made me sick to my stomach. And it signifies the current climate of college athletics better than anything.
What am I talking about? Well, in College Station, every major decision the athletic department has made over the last few years has hinged on the whims of some punk administrator named R. Bowen Loftin. Yes, he’s a punk, and yes “Bowen Loftin” is his real name. To which I have to ask: If the old saying goes “Never trust a guy with two first names,” how do we even begin to approach someone with two last names? Especially when he seems like twice as much trouble?
It’s a question for another day, but as I’ve continued to read about the mess at A&M, I’ve continued to realize that every big decision related to A&M’s athletics future has had Loftin’s grimy, greasy fingerprints smeared across it. Loftin was the one who forced the move to the SEC, despite very strong proof that indicates Athletics Director Billy Byrne (you know, the guy who was hired to make these kinds of decisions) wasn’t in favor of it. Loftin also forced Byrne’s hand in firing Mike Sherman, a move that- as you may remember- was made in such haste, Sherman was actually fired on a recruiting trip, in a player’s driveway (Texas A&M football everyone!). And finally, there’s also plenty of reason to believe that Loftin was behind Byrne’s “retirement” announcement last week. Funny how every major decision for the athletics department wasn’t actually made by an athletics administrator at A&M, huh?
But truthfully, I want to go back to that last paragraph, and to the point I made about Byrne objecting to A&M’s move to the SEC. While only a select few people actually know how it all actually went down, Byrne had a very interesting quote in his “retirement” press conference on the matter. He said:
“Those are decisions that are made above my pay grade,” Byrne said. “My dad was a soldier, my mom was an Army nurse, and you’re taught to salute and carry on. That’s what we’ll do.”
Bill Byrne, you sir, are a G.
More than anything though, you know what Byrne’s comment told me? That Bill Byrne “gets it.” He “gets” that this whole process is about money yes, but that at the end of the day, there are certain things about college athletics that you can’t put a price tag on. Bill Byrne “gets” that all the money in the world can’t replace wins on the field. He “gets” that money can’t replace fan frustration. He “gets” that money can’t save 100-year rivalries which end overnight. He gets that college athletics are more than just zeros at the end of a TV contract, which is something that folks like R. Bowen Loftin and guys like him will never will.
Unfortunately though, those decisions are still being made, and the crazy part is, I don’t know when- if ever- it’ll all stop. I already mentioned the Boise, Louisville and Pitt news that has surfaced in the last few days, and those are just minor blips compared to what could happen if Florida State bolts for the Big XII and brings another ACC team with them.
And if were to happen, well, it would just mean more spinning on the never-ending Ferris wheel that is realignment. If Florida State (and another ACC school) left, you do know what would happen, right? Simply put, the ACC would just grab a few more teams from the Big East, which would lead the Big East to raid Conference USA, which would mean Conference USA would then steal a few clubs from the Sun Belt, and then the Sun Belt… well, who the hell knows what would happen exactly. But something would happen. And even when that was all said and done, someone else would end up unhappy, somebody else would feel slighted, and someone else would want more money, and the whole cycle would start all over again. What indication do we have that tells us otherwise?
We don’t have one, and going forward just do me a favor and please don’t ask me to write about all this non-sense. I checked out on conference realignment a long time and I don’t plan on checking back in. Well, unless something really crazy happens, like Alabama joins the NFC South or something.
Until then, I’m not going to stress, and instead will sit back, relax and enjoy the good about sports, and enjoy all else that life has to offer. I may even grab myself another mocha-frappa-whatchamacallit from Starbucks.
All I do ask is that you wake me up when the games start out in September.
I’ll figure out who is playing in what conference at that point.
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