This is pretty much just MY OPINION, just from absorbing all the insider information as well as actual on the record statements from FSU people. Most of it is just my opinion on what FSU people are thinking.
Clearly, FSU is leaving the door open for any conference destination, including staying in the ACC. They have been very clear on two points:
A. They are prepared to play in the ACC
2. They are willing to listen and consider any alternatives
I take FSU at their word on those points. I think it is clear that FSU has grave concerns about the ACC, particularly about the money disparity/TV contract, and to a lesser extent the nine-game schedule. But for the most part, I think that's where the dissatisfaction ends. Despite what's been said, I don't think FSU "hates" the ACC, and they haven't had a publicly contentious relationship in the past.
But I don't think FSU covets anything about the Big 12 (as a stand alone 11th member) other than the money. Unless some kind of schedule was devised that gave them two out of Texas, Oklahoma, and WVU at home every year, I don't think the attendence would be much better, and frankly, I don't know that Jimbo and Co. actually want to play Texas, OU and UF every year.
I think there are more costs of leaving the ACC than the travel expenses and the ACC buyout. FSU has a huge amount of alumni in the ACC footprint, who are used to seeing FSU once or twice a year, and having FSU as a constant presence in the sports coverage where they live. If you are an FSU fan in Atlanta or Charlotte for example, FSU is on the radar all through football and basketball season. I think there is a risk of some disengagement with those boosters and fans should FSU abandon the region. Remember, there are still huge numbers of people that don't actively pursue their news over the web, but still consume most of their sports through the newspaper and sports radio.
I have heard nothing of the sort, but I suspect FSU is doing some studies about booster membership and support among alumni in the ACC footprint, versus that of alumni equally close but outside the ACC footprint, like Alabama and Mississipi, etc.
I don't think FSU has any concerns about their ability to win national titles in the ACC. Even in this lousy past 10-12 years for the ACC, the strength of schedule of the ACC has varied plenty and is not always the worst. We don't even know how strength of schedule will be weighted...is it more important to beat a couple elite teams and a bunch of awful teams, or to play no elite teams but also play a lot of pretty decent teams. Many years the ACC has sent 8+ teams to bowls, so unless strength of schedule only counts elite teams, the ACC schedule + UF is going to be good enough for a 13-0 or 11-1 FSU team most years. Enough of the time to not really worry about it at least.
I think there is also the question of the Big 12 not being fully on the same page as far as what they want to do expansion wise. For a league with a history and reputation for instability and discord, this isn't good. For all we know, the SEC fought tooth and nail about Texas A&M and Missouri, and the B1G schools went to war about inviting Nebraska. Nothing was ever even leaked or said to indicate dissatisfaction with the ACC add of Syracuse and Pitt, until it came out of Big 12 sources. But as far as anything that ever made public, those leagues moved as one on those expansions with no sign of discord. For a league with several members trying to get out less than a year ago, GOR or no GOR, that belies the claim that all the whiners are gone from the Big 12 and everyone is on the same page. A signature on a piece of paper may not be enough if that's the only thing holding the league together (especially since we haven't seen a GOR challenged yet).
But there's still the money...and that's why I think the Big 12 is still an option. FSU does have a resource problem compared to the SEC schools it competes with. It's totally possible that the money that would come from the Big 12 contract + third tier rights would totally offset exit fees, travel expenses, booster disengagement, possible attendence issues, loss of traditional rivals, possible recruiting difficulty, and basketball disengagement.
It is absolutely possible. But I think that studying those issues is going to take more time than what is left in this cycle. I suspect that considering money is the big issue, that FSU would give the ACC some time to come up with a way to make up some of the difference. Whether that involves ND in some fashion, a larger share of bowl revenues, or the possibility of buying back some third tier rights, I don't know.
I still think FSU to the Big 12 is an absolute possibility, but it's probably too complicated to be resolved in a month.
I don't think the talk of "done deal" was actually fraudulent. I think that both sides probably had representatives talking, and both sets of representatives went in with certain conditions that their parties had indicated needed to happen in order to move forward. I imagine that the reps probably felt they had reached agreement on all the key issues, and the Big 12 and FSU/Clemson would work out the fine print.
However, I think the Big 12 position changed significantly from when talks started. The Champions Bowl announcement bolstered the Big 12, as did the TV contract. I suspect people overestimated schools like Kansas, KSU, and Iowa State's willingness to roll over for just any divisional allignment. Rumors of playoff distribution might have changed what the Big 12 thought they could gain from expansion. And of course ND reared it's ugly head.
If you remember back in February, there was a lot of talk of adding 4-6 teams. Insiders said things like "FSU is insisting on Miami, and that won't be a problem." If you remember back, if you said in January or February that the Big 12 had a chance to add FSU, Clemson, Miami and Maryland, people would have considered that a huge win for the Big 12. The feeling today is decidedly different, and I don't doubt that the Big 12 presidents feel the same way.
I suspect there was also more consideration on the part of FSU and Clemson than early negotiators assumed. Clearly some important people at both FSU and Clemson were a lot less enthusastic about a move than people assumed, at least with the mixed signals the Big 12 was giving off. I think, rightly or wrongly, Clemson and FSU feel like the Big 12 should be bending over backwards for programs of their stature, and to get mixed signals or the slow play may have sent up red flags.
I think the key to this happening this summer would have been if the Big 12 had offered FSU, Clemson, Miami, and GT all at once. That would have allevieated a ton of FSU's concerns. It would have reduced travel concerns, it would have eliminated FSU's fear of being on an island, it would have preserved traditional rivalries, it would have kept a ton of FSU's alumni in the Big 12 footprint. It also would have made the Big 12's intentions clear that it intended to be a Southeastern conference as well, and had an established plan.
Just so I'm clear, I'm not saying the Big 12 SHOULD have done that. They need to protect their own interests and do what they think is best for them. But back in March, that didn't seem that far fetched of a possibility.
I really think that scenario, if it was to happen, could still make this happen before August 15th, but I don't think anyone expects it.
I think the more likely scenario is that evaluation continues between now and next summer, and either the Big 12 decides that they do indeed want or need a multi-team southeast expansion, or FSU determines that the revenue increase indeed makes a move necessary, damn the torpedos. Totally believe either scenario could happen.
The other wild card in this, I THINK, is the SEC. With the SEC contract unfinished, it is unclear exactly how much of a deficit FSU is in. We know it should be bad, but how bad?
The other factor is that I don't think FSU will join the Big 12 unless they are absolutely sure that every possible bridge to the SEC is burned. That would take either the SEC taking two more teams, or Mike Slive telling Barron that there are no possible scenarios in which the SEC would ever consider FSU. I know everyone says that is the case now, but I'm not sure. That is based on the assumption that the SEC could pry away (in addition to VT) UNC, NC State, or UVA. I'm not sure that is going to be easy, or even possible. The revenue the North Carolina schools get indirectly from ACC basketball may very well exceed the difference in money the SEC would offer.
And if the SEC has VT talking, but can't even get the North Carolina schools to pick up the phone, what does the SEC do for 16? Cincinnati? Tulsa?
If Slive tells Barron personally, "Listen, we have no intentions to expand any time soon. Our primary goal is getting into new markets. But if the circumstances don't allow that, you are very attractive to us", that might very well keep FSU in a holding pattern for a couple years.