No real reason for this post, other than that I have been travelling a lot the last couple weeks and haven't been able to comment much on the subject. Some people seem to like to know what I think, and because I'm having some changes in my thoughts, I just wanted a place to throw them out there.
First of all, obviously, we know very little for sure, all I can do is the best with what I have to work with. And I think I've been able so far to have a pretty good handle based on leaks, rumors and reading between the lines. Not many people here believed a few months ago that the FSU and Clemson BOT's would openly be discussing a move to the Big 12 these days.
First, let me say, I still believe in the concept of FSU to the Big 12, and that there is a scenario in which that could generate a tremendous amount of money and compete on nearly equal footing with the SEC. I don't buy for a minute that the money is not there, or that the academic impact would be devastating, or that the travel is insurmountable. And the decision makers at both FSU and Clemson have made it abundently clear that not only will they discuss the Big 12, but they would be open to and consider absolutely any offers.
What I'm beginning to have a problem with is the significant change in tone from where this thing was a few months ago. I don't want to "just join the Big 12." I want FSU, along with Clemson and others, to be part of a grand vision for a national mega-conference that goes toe to toe with the SEC on the field and in the checkbook.
That seemed to be the tone of this rumor mill at the outset, and I was (and am) totally on board with that vision. Most Big 12 fans seemed to be as well initially. But that seems to have changed significantly, thanks to the Champions Bowl I'm afraid. The original tone was, let's the Big 12 and the ACC football schools get together and guarantee ourselves that we are one of the top four conferences that will be the future of college football.
Now, the prevailing attitude seems to be in the Big 12 that they ARE the fourth super conference, and FSU and anyone else needs to come begging on bended knee to survive, and does Clemson really pay for itself, and do we even need to go beyond 10? Any talk of FSU being able to bring Miami seems to have dried up, and the Big 12 seems to have expressed little hurry in regard to GT or VT or anyone else. There seems to be no prevailing appetite to go past 12, let alone 16.
If that's the case, it might be time to stop dating and take a break, until the Big 12 and FSU's visions are more on the same page.
I absolutely believe that a Big 12 with FSU, Clemson, GT and whoever else, kicks the crap out of the ACC on the field and in cash. If that's on the table, it shouldn't even take a second thought.
However, the idea that the current 10-team Big 12 is just going to run away from the ACC, that doesn't scare me much. Yes, there is no question that ACC football sucks. And there is no question that the Big 12 is clearly a better football conference and had a great year last year. But I am not willing to concede that the ACC can't catch the Big 12 as things stand.
Based on teams currently in conference, Big 12 teams, since 1980, have all of three national championships split between two schools. In that same period, the ACC schools, as crappy as it has been, have six national championships among four schools. The Big 12 only has two programs that have shown the ability to recruit year in and year out at the level required to be national championship contenders, while the ACC has three.
And the Big 12's TV contract, while better than the ACC, isn't going to run away from the ACC schools (outside of TX and OU who we aren't catching anyway).
My point is that the current Big 12 is being bouyed by an OSU team playing well above it's historical standard, and an absolutely aberrant Baylor run (not unlike Maryland's back to back 10 win seasons). I love WVU, and wish they were in the ACC, but they are living off a single crazy blowout, or else they would barely have considered last year a success. This is a program that has been beaten out for the Big East by the likes of Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, etc. in recent years.
Let me be clear again...am I trashing the Big 12? Do I think the ACC is better? HELL NO!
But do I think the difference is so desparate that FSU should go by themselves with BYU football only, and ND's Olympic sports, as some rumors suggest? Or that FSU should come running without a commitment to further Southeast expansion? Not really.
Rumors now are kicking around that Swofford may be coming up with a way to bridge the gap financially for some of us. It won't put us in SEC territory, but it might put us in "to-the-Big 12-by-ourselves" money.
What I want to see out of a Big 12 move is a grand, sweeping vision that includes a strong Southeast presence, including FSU, Clemson, Miami, GT and others (if they are interested). That is the only way that either we or the Big 12 (outside of TX) compete with the SEC, even though the Big 12 doesn't seem to see it that way.
If they don't have that vision now, I don't see the problem with kicking back and letting this play out after this season. We'll see how things look if Baylor and OSU come back to earth this year, and FSU and Clemson are top ten teams.
Let's see how the SEC Network actually materializes, and how much more it monetizes markets over viewer interest. There are several models it could take right now, and it's not totally clear they would all value potential targets the same.
If the Big 12 isn't jumping to take us and Clemson and GT now, I'm not worried about them giving our spot to Louisville or Cincinnati. Maybe it's time to revisit this next year and see if we can really do this right.