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How does the death of the BCS affect Clemson?

The Rock
The Rock

A complicated question without a doubt, but this could become a big driver in future events here soon. I think all diehard CFB fans like myself have kept up with some of the happenings with the Conference commissioners and AD’s meeting to discuss the changes forthcoming in the next BCS contract in 2014. The current position is that the BCS as we know it is dead, and will be replaced by some type of 4-team playoff. The bowls will quibble over who gets to line someone’s pockets, and I hope/wish we had an NCAA Commish with the balls to tell them to piss off, but we don’t and they’ll affect the final outcome no matter what, and probably negatively.

The worry in my mind is what happens to us now that the AQ status is gone (though I’m sure some idiot will give Notre Dame a sweet bullshit completely-unfair-to-everyone deal). The ACC and Big East will now not be guaranteed any BCS-level bowls, meaning no BCS-level bowl payout for anyone, and are unlikely to qualify often for the playoff. How many ACC schools can you recall that finished in the Top 4 over the last decade? We looked, and only one would've made it into the playoff: Va Tech 2007. Miami did in 2002, but that was 2 years before joining the ACC. In several years, only two conferences would make up the Top 4. TV contracts aside, this BCS contract is a big deal for conference alignment.

The ACC has a terrible track record in non-conference games, and especially in the Orange Bowl or on national stages. The whole country knows it. Our bowl tie-ins suck already. They perceive the ACC as weak, and your perception is your reality. The number of NFL draft picks the ACC generates every year is solid, but the Saturday viewer doesn’t care about that. We will have the BCS rankings or some type of RPI system to determine the 4 teams, but unless the ACC Champion is undefeated I find it hard to believe they will get into the playoffs consistently. Teams in major conferences aren’t going to schedule us when they want 7-game home schedules every year either, and we just went through this with the UGA series, so don’t assume we will make up for it there. We can’t even produce a major power now, with Miami stepping on themselves, Virginia Tech always at that 9-3/10-2 level, and FSU/Clemson wandering in the forest. Where would we be if SOS or an RPI system was reinstituted in the next BCS formula? And if you don’t get into the playoff with the weak RPI, what reason would the Networks have to guarantee you a payout on par with other conferences?


They will not give us a deal on par if we cannot produce a national contender that draws national eyes, and do we even deserve one with our conference leadership choosing basketball additions over football? The ACC offices knew that football eyes drive the deal and they went out to get Syracuse and Pitt, neither of whom have had any football prominence in decades. To me this represented a conscious choice on their (UNC/Duke) part to say "to hell with football, lets make basketball better".

So where does that leave Clemson? We're a football school. How will we keep up with the facilities arms race with a weaker broadcasting deal and little shot to make the Playoff unless we finish undefeated?

Before I go further, I should point out how many readers have looked at our articles on ACC vs. SEC revenue and instantly assume it’s all the TV contract with ESPN and CBS. They get posted on FGF and Clemson boards alike, and usually the reader shows me they haven’t looked at the linked raw figures or thought about them once. They always state that the SEC makes $20 M more than we do per year just from TV to explain the $20M difference. This is not the case. We put the caveats in the articles or comments in them to remind you that the difference is not just the TV deals, but no one reads them. We’ve pointed out numerous times that schools report standardized numbers because of NCAA bylaw, but don’t report revenues and expenses the same way. Some schools add the equivalent revenue of their donor arms (e.g., IPTAY) into the AD revenue budget (Clemson does not, because our AD does not run IPTAY) and spend every dime of it (IPTAY sits on $30 million in an account). That’s a big chunk for most football schools, and many SEC schools have 2-3x our enrollment and alumni base. Some do different things with the academic transfers and that affects the final numbers they report. The TV difference between what the SEC and ACC make this year is the CBS TV deal, which is 50M divided amongst the schools. Our ESPN deal is actually a little larger. Where they make the majority of the difference is outside deals with local companies and broadcasters. The deals on the side with CSS or other small market broadcasting show up more in their revenue streams as being different from the ACC’s than anything else. For example, the last time I checked, UGA made millions more on radio broadcast than does CU.

But make no mistake, the deal that has come down the pike for the Pac12, and which is coming for the SEC, are going to make a difference. The early words about our renegotiated TV deal next year are that we will not be getting a windfall from ‘Cuse and Pitt, probably no more than $1.5 M extra per school. If the ACC remains under $20M per school annually, and the Big XII gets $20+ with WVU and TCU, with the Big Ten and SEC getting the same or more, then we’re relegated to Big East status in the long-term.

We will not accept Big East status relative to Sakerlina in this state, so it’s time to look out for ourselves and finally tell UNC the ACC to kiss our collective asses.

Now it’s time for some serious hypotheticals.

Can the ACC avoid this scenario? Yes. They’d have to get Notre Dame. For whatever reason, ND still has national draw despite sucking for twenty years. In a perfect world, we’d make a run for Penn State, but I see no reason for them to want to say goodbye to BTN money, despite the rivalry interests we could give them. Getting ND would almost guarantee we got a deal that was at least on par nationally. One could see a scenario where ESPN and NBC split rights like CBS does now.

What if FSU gets the offer from the Big XII? That would leave us with one less visit to Florida for recruiting and one less prominent draw nationally. That would force ESPN to renegotiate the deal and lower the payout if they were not replaced with significant viewership. Our only ability to get attention from Florida recruits would be playing Miami every couple seasons, and Miami has no fans. Clemson would be the favorite to win the Atlantic pretty much every year, but would get even fewer talented recruits relative to the SEC teams surrounding us and the Big XII teams that would make in-roads to S Ga/Florida as a result.

The converse would be true if Clemson left the ACC, without quite as much negativity for them in recruiting, but I think we all know that Clemson isn't leaving unless someone else does first. Barker loves the blueblood affiliation too much.

Its my understanding that no matter what FSU or Clemson want to do individually, one school will follow the other if a decision is made to leave the ACC. We're a package deal for any conference. We’d have to pony up a big buyout, $20 Million, but that money can be made up within 4-5 years of the better TV deal in the new conference. Several ACC teams wanted to make that buyout significantly higher (you can guess who), but FSU helped argue it down to $20M from $34M.

What if Clemson and FSU were both offered spots in the Big XII? While I'm old-school, and would prefer regional conferences, this possiblity is on the table. Aside from Texas, the other schools there are concerned about the money. Texas is just so greedy that they want every dollar on the planet. Texas would be more concerned with the SEC making inroads into Texas for recruiting purposes with A&M leaving. The conference renegotiated a deal last year for $130 M per season, and will be doing it again this season with the additions they're making. That renegotiation is ongoing.

If Clemson and FSU were to go, we'd just hate Texas instead of UNC. They were so arrogant that they pissed off 3 schools and sunk the old Big XII. UNC and Duke just keep everyone under their thumb here and no one has the balls to tell them to piss off like Nebraska did to Texas. My only insistence if that were the case is that the Big XII offices contain plenty of non-Texas people and a Commish without strong ties to anyone. We've been down that road.

We'd also have a conference that spans half the country. Road trips would be longer and the fan presence would diminish. I imagine some, including myself, would make the occasional trip just to see us play in Austin or Norman, but doing it every year? Not so sure.

Clemson's travel costs would skyrocket, especially for minor sports that lose money already. Any gain in conference revenue would have to offset this expense at a minimum. If it breaks even, then the real gain would be in conference prestige and SOS/RPI arguments.

The home slate would not be lined with the thrilling BC vs Clemson game, or the Wake Forest game you are all dying to get tickets to, or take-your-pick of 6-5ish ACC teams. We would host Texas, Oklahoma, FSU, West Virginia, along with Baylor, Iowa State, the Kansas's, etc.

Then what would the conference look like? I think its fair to assume Texas and OU would be in separate divisions, but theres not a big regional division here in the current form and travel cost would be prohibitive. We would need others and just go to 14. If Louisville joined, then WVU, Clemson, and FSU would be put together. We'd need to really push for Miami, in my opinion, because eventually they will get back to the top. The talent in their backyard is too immense for them to stay pitiful too long. I suppose Maryland would be a reasonable choice because of the area TV market and possible rivalry with WVU. Maryland has not always been fond of UNC and Duke either.

A 12-team conference would possibly be: CU, FSU, Texas, TCU, Baylor, WVU, TT, Oklahoma, OK State, Kansas, K State and Iowa State. Throw in Miami and another, and you get 14. Two more on the east side and the travel costs are no longer an issue at all. The downside is that 14-16 is unworkable in my mind.

And would you care about any of these opponents in other sports? Clemson baseball would actually be in a weaker conference overall, but with several powers remaining. Clemson basketball would probably benefit.

What about our recruiting? We will be on more TVs nationwide, so that helps. We'll be going back to Texas, with the local coverage there that we didn't have when Ken Hatfield tried it 20 years ago, but our base is here. If we focused too much on that area then it would hurt Clemson. Beating Texas for kids it wants in-state would be as painful as it is beating Georgia. I think it would come down to the coaching staff in this respect.

I don't know whether or not I'd like to join the Big XII if the finances were right even though I hate the ACC, but I can't stomach us being left in the cold. My ideal situation would be the 8 team playoff with Conference champs who finish in the Top 10 along with any BCS-selected teams to fill it up every year. Otherwise, I'd rather have the SEC going to 16 and taking both Clemson and FSU. We are a SEC-like fanbase. We have natural rivalries next door to stimulate interest every year. Our people are the same culturally. If the SEC wanted to keep Texas and OU out of the recruiting footprint, then they'd have to make an offer to us.

I think that would work best for myself but can't speak for all Clemson fans, and maybe I haven't considered everything possible.

What would you choose?