Why Florida State Will Consider a Move from the ACC to the Big 12
It's no longer school vs. school.
It's quickly becoming conference vs. conference.
Conference realignment has become the new craze and continues to cut a swath across the country, ending old rivalries and beginning new ones.
With a playoff system of some sort on the way in the next couple of years, conferences and their schools are battling for the best position.
One of the biggest and most anticipated rivalries would be Florida State vs. current Big 12 member West Virginia.
West Virginia pulled out of its game with Florida State before spring practice and it became clear that the Big 12 and FSU both have a lot more at stake than just one game.
Here's why Florida State will at least seriously consider a move to the Big 12.
The Legend Helps Build FSU-Big 12 Relationship
Legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden coached at West Virginia from 1966-1975 before heading to Florida State in 1976.
Bowden coached his last game for the Seminoles at the 2010 Gator Bowl—a 33-21 win against, you guessed it, West Virginia.
Before Bowden left FSU, he helped set up a home-and-home series with West Virginia that would have begun this year in Tallahassee.
He was also the coach when the home-and-home series against Oklahoma was scheduled for 2010 and 2011.
The 2011 game vs. Oklahoma, a top-five matchup, set an attendance record for FSU—84,392—and ESPN’s College GameDay was on hand for all the action.
(It's noted here that when the matchups were scheduled, Bowden most likely expected to be the coach vs. Oklahoma and West Virginia).
Bowden was also FSU’s head coach and aided in setting up games against then-Big 12 member Colorado in 2003 (in Tallahassee) and in 2008 (in Jacksonville). During FSU's many years as an independent, Bowden would often schedule games against Big 12 teams each season.
West Virginia agreed to join the Big 12 and even decided to facilitate the move for the 2012 football season by paying a steep penalty fee.
Florida State has not joined the Big 12 at this time, although the conference has expressed interest in expansion.
West Virginia only decided to drop Florida State from its 2012 schedule after it joined the Big 12 conference.
It easily would have been the most lucrative home game of the season for the Seminoles.
Despite having to pay a cancellation fee, West Virginia backed out and Florida State was forced to scramble, adding Savannah State to its schedule.
The $500,000 cancellation fee West Virginia paid FSU pales in comparison to the amount of money that FSU and Tallahassee would have earned if the Seminoles hosted the Mountaineers in September.
Jimbo Fisher and FSU Are Not Necessarily ACC Loyalists
Like Bobby Bowden, Jimbo Fisher came to Tallahassee with West Virginia ties.
Only Fisher’s ties are much stronger to his home state.
Fisher grew up in West Virginia while Bowden was coaching there. Which high school star quarterback raised mere miles away from West Virginia University wouldn’t dream of playing or coaching—for or against—the Mountaineers?
Fisher and Bowden have plenty in common, as Fisher finished his college career at Samford in Birmingham, Alabama—the same place Bobby Bowden played.
Much like Bowden played a role in arranging a matchup between the Seminoles and the Mountaineers, the coach also helped set up an FSU football game vs. the Samford Bulldogs before he left the school. The Seminoles prevailed 59-6 over the Bulldogs in Fisher’s first game as FSU’s head coach in 2010.
Although Florida State’s roster will always be stockpiled with players from Florida, Fisher has shown a keen ability to recruit outside the state.
Fisher recruited starting quarterback E.J. Manuel from Virginia, certainly relying on his regional roots in some fashion.
Alabama has also been a prized location for Coach Fisher.
After playing and coaching at Samford, Fisher was the quarterbacks coach at Auburn—when Bobby’s son Terry was head coach—and he also spent several more seasons in the SEC at LSU working with current Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Fisher’s Alabama contacts run deep and third-string quarterback Jacob Coker is a 6’5”, 235-pound redshirt freshman is from Mobile. Jameis Winston, a 6’4”, dual-threat quarterback ranked No. 1 at his position in the class of 2012 is also from Alabama and signed with Florida State.
With recruiting advantages in Florida, Alabama and West Virginia and very few ties to the ACC, why wouldn’t Fisher won’t to leave the conference?
FSU is one of the most junior members of the ACC with 21 years in the 60-year-old league, while Fisher has only spent five of his 24 seasons in the ACC.
Love or Leave It: What the ACC Offers FSU
FSU owes a lot to the ACC.
Or is it the ACC which owes a lot to FSU?
FSU had been a successful independent school but didn’t win a national title in football until 1993, after it joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992.
Yet the Seminoles improved the league’s football reputation, helped develop new recruiting grounds for the league and FSU’s membership was an influential reason that the University of Miami joined the conference in 2004.
There have been two Heisman Trophy winners from the ACC—both from Florida State (Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke).
FSU brought the ACC another national crown in 1999, going wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country.
After FSU made the BCS title game the first three years it existed, no ACC team has made it back to the national championship game. Miami (2001 and 2002) and Virginia Tech (1999) were in the Big East when they played for the national title.
It's safe to say that the ACC offers FSU its easiest, quickest path to a return to dominance.
FSU also won the 2012 ACC basketball tournament and played in the ACC football championship two years ago.
While the ACC won’t say it, FSU has not been dominant in recent years in the ACC, a conference considered to be the middle of the pack in football. Oklahoma beat FSU two years in a row and the road schedule would be brutal in the Big 12.
The message: If you want to travel far away and play Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and others, have at it.
So the ACC does have some leverage on its side.
The ACC really puts the student in student-athlete. The ACC’s reputation for research and scholarship has been beneficial for Florida State and substantial research endowments, scholarships and grants can be just as effective as the resources wielded by boosters of athletic programs.
And what about FSU's current players? Would they be excited or upset about a conference change?
Fans, alumni and players' parents would have much longer trips to road games.
Florida State’s traditional rivals are the Florida and Miami. Staying in the ACC helps FSU maintain those two rivalries. This works to the ACC’s advantage.
Florida State also has a tradition-rich baseball team along with many other sports teams that enjoy these rivalries.
Any move to another conference besides the SEC would probably mean Florida or Miami would be eliminated from the Seminoles schedule and that’s just… Unbelievable…Blasphemous?
Why the Big 12 Is Interested in FSU
There are plenty of reasons the Big 12 would be interested in adding Florida State to its roster.
The Big 12 has had to replace Nebraska (left for the Big Ten Conference), Colorado (Pac-12), Missouri (SEC) and Texas A&M (also SEC) in recent seasons, diminishing its regional territory and ending decades-long rivalries.
In response, the Big 12 has already added West Virginia and Texas Christian universities.
Here’s where Florida State comes in.
The Big 12 would be able to expand deeper into the rich recruiting territory of the Southeast, home of the last six BCS champions (the Big 12’s Texas Longhorns were the last non-SEC team to win a BCS title).
The conference would add a premier, championship-pedigree football program into its ranks. FSU is also solid in other sports, with all of its sports teams reaching the postseason in recent years.
Florida State already played a very successful home-and-home with Oklahoma in 2010 and 2011.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops—who won the national title game in 2000 vs. the Seminoles—would battle his brother, Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator at Florida State—every season.
Texas head coach Mack Brown played at and graduated from Florida State before winning a national title at Texas in 2005.
A Big 12 composed of Florida State, Texas and Oklahoma might be one of the few conferences with a chance to break the SEC’s six-year streak of hoisting the crystal ball.
FSU Already Looks West in Recruiting
FSU's Jimbo Fisher has already been mining the region for talent and the Big 12 produces its share of stars.
For example, there were three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
All three—Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins and Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins—are products of Texas high schools.
In the 2011 NFL draft, FSU’s own Christian Ponder—another Texas high school star quarterback—was selected No. 12 overall by the Minnesota Vikings.
This year Fisher successfully recruited Mario Edwards, Jr., the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year, from…drumroll please…Texas.
Also, FSU’s star senior kicker Dustin Hopkins—always an important position for the Seminoles—is also from Texas. He pins opponents deep in their own territory on kickoffs and has helped FSU win some important games.
Fisher has already recruited well in the area and wouldn't be intimidated after recruiting in the area for years while at LSU.
While Bobby Bowden coached Edwards’ and Ponder’s fathers at FSU, it's clear Big 12 country—Texas in particular—has played a key role in recruiting for Fisher.
FSU: A Football School in a Basketball Conference
The ACC’s tradition in basketball should be a positive along with its many major cities. ACC territory includes schools in or near Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte and Washington, D.C.—cities with NBA teams.
Other cities in the ACC with a variety professional sports teams in the NFL, NBA and MLB include Baltimore and Pittsburgh. These locales can offer college athletes a professional experience while still in college.
The ACC’s dominance in basketball is unmatched. If one includes the national title Syracuse won in 2003, its current basketball lineup features four teams that have won six of the last 12 NCAA titles.
Florida State has become more of a basketball school after winning the ACC tournament this year, earning four consecutive NCAA tournament bids and producing several first-round picks in the NBA draft in recent years.
To try to appease football-minded schools like Florida State and Clemson, the ACC has added Miami, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Syracuse the past decade. These schools all had strong football backgrounds.
The Main Reason FSU Should Be Interested in the Big 12
Basketball and football are the two primary profitable sports in college athletics and football is the more lucrative of the two.
There is more money for FSU if they move to a football-oriented conference such as the Big 12.
Though the 'Noles won both of their national championships in the ACC, right now the Big 12 also offers the best chance for FSU to make it to the national title game again.
The Big 12 is no also-ran in basketball.
With the NBA’s conference finals in full effect this week, FSU basketball fans would be impressed to see former Big 12 players like 2008 NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce (Kansas) of the Boston Celtics and three-time defending NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant (Texas; Big 12 Player of the Year in 2007) of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Nick Collison (Kansas; 2003 Big 12 Player of the Year) is a key contributor for the Thunder, while Keyon Dooling (Missouri) of the Boston Celtics has had to help replace an injured Avery Bradley (Texas) at shooting guard.
FSU has only been in the ACC since 1992 and not bound by the same generations-long ties that bind other ACC schools to each other.