As the Big East announces the addition of Memphis to the conference for 2013, the other hot conference expansion rumor of the week is that the Big 12 is targeting Florida State and Clemson. Honus "The Dude" Sneed (hint 1) from the Mountaineers (hint 2) blog EERinsider has the report.
"The Big 12 conference will put its expansion plans on hiatus while Clemson and FSU decide to apply for membership or stay with the ACC.
Talks between the two schools and the Big 12 began late last fall and continued after the completion of the 2011 season. Recently both schools have formed committees to examine the advantages and disadvantages of leaving the ACC for the Big 12 and expect to reach a decision by late summer."
Could this be even remotely possible? I suppose there's a non-zero chance of this happening, with the fact that Clemson has recently formed an Athletic Advisory Committee fueling the expansion rumor fire. But this also doesn't seem very plausible.
This rumor seems to fall in the general trap of thinking like a fan and not like a University president. While the Big 12 may ultimately be able to offer more money to both Clemson and Florida State, that's chump change compared to the overall institutional revenue that comes with the academic association with schools like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest and BC.
I find it even harder to believe that Clemson -- a founding member of the ACC -- would be willing to trade in existing rivalries with the other original ACC members for increased travel costs and membership in a tougher football conference. Same goes for Florida State (minus the whole "original ACC member" thing), whose road to the BCS would prove much more difficult in a conference with Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and TCU at the top.
While the ACC's football product pales in comparison to the Big 12's, in terms of academic prestige, there is no comparison between the two conferences. The Big 12 has the lowest ranked academics of the BCS AQ conferences, while the ACC is one of the premier conferences in terms of academic prestige, name brand and market values. Both Clemson and Florida State have benefited greatly from the association.
As far as I can tell, the rumors of the ACC's demise and/or perceived position of weakness are greatly overstated. Take this quote from Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman:
"No. I haven't heard it. And I'm sure the Big 12 has talked to a lot of people. I'm sure the Big 12 called Clemson and said, "Hey, we've got a great idea. How about you, Florida State and" "No thanks." "But wait," the Big 12 responded, "you didn't let us finish. We're talking about you, and" "Not interested." The ACC is solid. Academically and financially and athletically. Let me promise you, while fans get all worked about how Orange Bowls in a row the ACC has lost, the presidents do not."
Personally, I don't think either Clemson or Florida State pose any sort of flight risk for the ACC. But even in the off chance the Tigers and Seminoles did bolt for the Big 12, I don't think the ACC would skip a beat. Sure, the value of the conference's TV contract with ESPN might decrease in value, but so long as the core of Carolina schools, Maryland and the Virginias* stick together, along with the new northern tier of BC, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC will remain one of the "haves" in the college athletics conference landscape.
* It took Virginia Tech 40+ years to finally marry their high school sweetheart (the ACC and UVa). It took way too much political wrangling and effort to get the Hokies into the conference, and I don't believe Tech is going anywhere -- read: SEC, Big 12 -- any time soon.