This week has seen a number of fresh rumors about Florida State and Clemson possibly jumping ship from the ACC to the Big 12. They've been remarkably persistent, and by today they've hit our mothership and are being mentioned by a 24/7 Sports staffer.
Here's what I've been able to find for the curious among you. I am putting this in a FanPost rather than a front page post because this is a summary of message board chatter. It should all be considered as rumor at best.
This is not a report, nor is what's here the official opinion of Team Speed Kills, SBNation, or our lawyers, etc. Got it?
All right. Let's dive into the goo.
FSU and Clemson and the Big 12
(This section has been updated in light of the ACC's new TV contract)
Let's get this out of the way first: it's all about money.
The Big 12 as it is stands to make more money off of regular season TV rights than the ACC. This much is not speculation: the Big 12's TV deals add up to almost $20 million per school per year, while the ACC's are around $16 million per school per year (more on this later). The Big 12 contract would go up from $20 million per team per year to at least $24 million (an extra $2 million/team/year for the new entrants, like what the ACC got). That's only part of it, though.
There is a playoff coming, if you haven't heard, and the majority of its proceeds are likely to go to the conferences of the schools who actually participate in the playoff. A message board "insider" on a West Virginia board (remember: buyer beware! All of this is message board-level sourcing!) posted an interesting shot at what the revenue splits might look like based on the last decade. Even if you ignore the figures, you can't ignore that the ACC will be badly left behind the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12.
Add it all up. The ACC starts $4 million per team per year behind the Big 12 thanks to the regular season. The ACC contract covers all of the schools' TV rights, though. The Big 12 contracts don't cover tier 3 rights, which schools can get market value for. That's an additional advantage for being in the Big 12, and for reference, Florida gets roughly $10 million for its tier 3 rights. FSU could get up to an extra $3.5 million or so (it already gets $6.5 million per year for some of that stuff like radio rights), so that's around $27.5 million a year for that school instead of $16 million in the ACC.
Throw on top of that discrepancy a lot more playoff money for the Big 12 than the ACC, and you're left wondering why this deal hasn't already gone down. All the rumors agree on the timing for FSU and Clemson to bail on the ACC: late June after the details of the playoff are finalized.
Down the rabbit hole even further.
A person going by the handle "FromTheInside" has been posting on this thread on a UConn message board for months. He/she claims to be a valuation analyst for TV networks on rights deals. Either this person is one, or he/she has done an extraordinary amount of research just to be an "insider" on a UConn message board. The sourcing should still be considered suspect, but this person spins a good yarn, as they say.
The following is all according to this message board poster. Focus in on those last three words: message board poster. Now, continue.
ESPN has a big interest in the future of the ACC because it's the only league that it owns all the TV rights for. It has been guiding the conference over past couple years (a notion accidentally leaked by BC AD Gene DiFillipo) and hand-picked Pitt and Syracuse for the conference last summer. The end game is harpooning college football's great white whale, Notre Dame.
Unless Irish football turns around in a big way soon, this person says it'll be stuck in a substandard TV rights deal after its NBC deal runs out in a few years. While the ND brass value independence over money, it will be left far behind the other power schools around the country if it doesn't join a conference.
Notre Dame has three choices for a conference: the Big Ten, the Big 12, and the ACC. This person says ND's leaders hate the Big Ten because the Big Ten's precursor league rejected the school in the early 1900s due to anti-Catholic sentiment (see here). The Big 12 wouldn't be a top pick because Notre Dame doesn't have any history with any schools there.
That leaves the ACC. Notre Dame has history with a number of ACC schools (BC, Pitt, Georgia Tech, Miami). Notre Dame also has been of late trying to get more into the New York market, and oh hey look, it's Syracuse! Basically, he says the ACC picked Pitt and Syracuse to court Notre Dame down the line. Adding Notre Dame may be a Hail Mary (no pun intended), but it's the only way the ACC can catch up to the big four conferences in prestige and TV payout.
What's in it for ESPN? If Notre Dame goes into the ACC, then ESPN owns all of Notre Dame's TV rights across the board.
So that's what I've found by checking around. Believe whatever it is of this you want to or not, but this is why the chatter has gotten noisy this week. I remain skeptical on all of it, but these aren't wild rumors that are completely unconnected from logic. If they were, I wouldn't have spent the time to write this.