Making Sense of Big XII Expansion Rumors
By Garrett Strunk
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Rumors have spread on the internet that a few ACC teams may be looking to move to the Big 12, but is there validity to these rumors?
For the past month or so, the hot topic on the FSU and Clemson message boards has been concerning the future expansion of the Big 12 Conference. It may seem like much of this talk is just internet rumors started by bored fans who are passing the time in the offseason, but who really knows for sure if there have been legitimate talks between FSU, Clemson and the Big 12? If they really want to expand past the current 10 members, both FSU and Clemson would be close to the top of the Big 12's wish list of what may appear to be “get-able” schools.
Big 12 fans who have made the journey to the FSU and Clemson boards have painted a picture that if FSU and Clemson were to join they would be rich beyond their wildest dreams. Most FSU fans seem to be convinced that the switch to the Big 12 would be not only be in their best interests, but would be a necessary move if they want to keep up with the University of Florida and the other SEC schools who surround FSU. There is little doubt that similar expressions are uttered by Clemson fans about their rival: the University of South Carolina.
It is disconcerting to me that in the modern state of college athletics a team's conference affiliation now goes to the highest bidder. FSU has established a history and tradition with the other ACC schools for 21 years now. The overall state of their athletic programs has never been better. What keeps fans happy and coming to the games? Winning! In the ACC, across all sports, FSU does just that. It is possible that FSU could pick up right where they left off if they were to make a move to the Big 12, but we don't know that for sure. Why would FSU take that chance unless they absolutely had to?
As a fan of either of these two schools, you may get caught up in thinking that expansion would equal more marquee games. Instead of playing Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College every year, they could potentially be replaced with annual contests against Texas, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, to go along with West Virginia. If those three schools were in the same division with FSU, Clemson and WVU, then fans of FSU and Clemson may have a point. The reality is that the likely division opponents would be the three with a combination of TCU, Baylor, Kansas, K-State or Iowa State, which is not much of an upgrade.
Sure FSU and Clemson will eventually get to host Texas and Oklahoma, but they will have to make a return trip at some point. Is that really a good trade off for fans, alumni, students, parents of the students and student-athletes who live right in the heart of ACC country? Let's also not forget the ACC Championship Game is an easy two hour drive to Charlotte from Clemson. The honeymoon will eventually end and the novelty of being in a new conference and playing new schools will become humdrum.
Assuming that the rumors of FSU and Clemson considering relocation to the Big 12 are true, then those teams must consider the real possibility of having to drop their secondary rivalries with Miami and Georgia Tech, respectively. The Big 12, and soon the ACC, will go to a nine-game conference schedule, which leaves little wiggle room to regularly schedule another out of conference rivalry game of lesser importance than that of UF or USC.
Here is where the latest internet gossip takes a convenient turn for the FSU and Clemson fans who are for leaving the ACC. It has been said that the Big 12 wishes to make a legitimate Eastern Division comprised mostly of current ACC schools, as they would accept Georgia Tech and Miami, amongst others, in a package deal with FSU and Clemson. That would be ideal, but it would only take one of those schools backing out for the whole process to come to a halt.
Getting Georgia Tech and Miami to go along with this plan seems like a long shot. Both of the schools' administrations enjoy the academic prestige that is offered from the ACC. The only way I can see Georgia Tech moving to any conference is if it were to get an invite to the Big Ten, which has a similar academic reputation as the ACC. If Georgia Tech were to accept, it would give Clemson less incentive to remain in the ACC.
Let's assume the stars align on this joint venture with FSU, Clemson, Miami and Georgia Tech selling out to the conference out west. Each school would still have to come up with $20 million for their severance to the ACC. Maybe the defectors as a group could tie up the ACC in court and get the conference to settle for less, but the schools would not be stupid enough to defect before they are sure that they actually can get the severance money reduced or have the Big 12's members absorb some of the cost.
The only thing real about these expansion rumors so far is that West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is pushing for it. The rest of the Big 12 seems to be happy with the idea of keeping the 10 schools they now have and ditching the Big 12 Championship Game.
Perhaps the most revealing bit of information came in an interview back in February on TigerNet (a Clemson fan site) with Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips. He went on to squash the Big 12 rumors involving Clemson, saying, “There is no substance to that. None.” He was also questioned if the Big 12 had any contact with Clemson. TDP answered with a short reply of “No”.
You will never hear me say “never” when it comes to conference expansion. It was less than a year ago the unthinkable happened when Texas A&M just got up and left for the SEC. Even though crazier things have happened recently, it does not seem like FSU, Clemson and the majority of the Big 12 have any sort of interest in moving beyond where they are now.