— Cory Fravel (@CoryFravel) May 20, 2012
There it is. Late Saturday night while much of the nation was away from Twitter, Cory Fravel reported monumental (if accurate) news. It’s vital to understand that “in principle” means nothing in writing. That, coupled with the lack of sourcing leaves room for doubt, but Fravel has been out in front on the matter. His Clemson blog, Cemetery Hill, was one of two sites originally reporting these enormous Florida State and Clemson-to-Big 12 rumors two weeks ago. The other was EerInsider.com.
Friend of the Blog Jug of Snyder is also reporting a deal agreed upon in principle between Clemson and the Big 12.
Clemson, on the other hand, has remained surprisingly quiet, aside from Board of Trustees chairman offering David Wilkins offering the usual public statement of commitment. Does silence speak volumes? Remember, all reports thus far are completely unsubstantiated and all sources are anonymous. I advocated skepticism when these rumors first surfaced two weeks ago.
That said, a lifetime’s worth of activity has occurred in those same two weeks. Here’s a brief timeline:
Friday, May 4: Cemetery Hill and EerInsider.com report the Big 12 has pursued both Florida State and Clemson and will announce them as new members shortly.
Tuesday, May 8: The Big unveils a new television deal with ESPN and FOX worth a reported $2.6 billion over 13 years.
Wednesday, May 9: The ACC’s renegotiated contract with ESPN gives the network exclusivity for first through third tier broadcasting rights. The deal spans 15 years, and after splits among the 14 conference members, comes out to roughly $3-$4 million less than the Big 12. The third tier rights are the most notable facet, as ESPN’s retention prevents the universities from shopping those broadcasts around to make more money.
Friday, May 11: An Orlando Sentinel story quotes FSU AD Randy Spetman as saying the university is committed to the ACC and denies negotiations of any kind.
Saturday, May 12: FSU BOT member Andy Haggard lambastes the ACC in a story published on Warchant.com, citing the new TV deal as continuing “the perception that the ACC favors the North Carolina schools.”
Tuesday, May 15: In an interview with Tim Brando, former FSU linebacker and BOT member Derrick Brooks says the Big 12 has sought out talks with the university, a contradiction of previous reports.
Thursday, May 17: Former FSU football coach Bobby Bowden advocates remaining in the ACC.
Friday, May 18: Interim Big 12 commission chuck Neinas tells the Austin Statesman plainly that the conference has had no talks with Florida State.
And that brings us to Saturday night’s unsubstantiated yet weighty tweet by Fravel. An interesting question is if the Big 12 did indeed offer Clemson first, why? The Tigers inhabit a smaller television market and offer less of an established brand name than FSU. CU boasts impressive attendance figures, drawing over a half-million in 2010 and 6,000 more on average than FSU.
Clemson is also an attractive option for the SEC, and action might be a preventative measure. The headaches a 14-team schedule have caused the SEC are no secret, which would suggest its expansion isn’t through.
Lining up to invite the Tigers first would behoove any expansion aspirations the Big 12 might have. CU could prove easier to woo initially than FSU, the latter of which has a $2.5 million budget shortfall to address before considering any rash changes. Adding one of FSU’s current and more financially attractive conference mates first increases the league’s appeal to FSU.
How the Big 12 restructures should it make these additions is an interesting topic. A North/South split that existed up until last season would make sense: Clemson and FSU join the four Texas programs to form the South, while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State join West Virginia, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State in the North. Of course, somehow the schedule would need to be worked around Oklahoma and Texas drawing a guaranteed intradivisional contest.
Would the hypothetical newbies go along with entering into an otherwise all Texas club? And keeping West Virginia with the other easterners makes geographic sense for them, but not the other nine. That then brings up the possibility of expanding to 16. Could it really happen? Could the Big 12 become the Big 16 by adding six members in one swoop? Certainly enough names have been tossed out that if the conference is pursuing even two-thirds of them, 16 is a possibility.
Such chatter is all idle. Of course, we’re working off presumptions. The first is that talks between the Big 12 and Clemson/FSU truly exist, and the second is the ACC has stopped expanding. A major selling point of the Big 12 is the reported caveat to its TV contract increasing the payout with added members. If the ACC has a similar stipulation, there are plenty of possibilities for its sphere of influence to grow.