Wiedmer: FSU checks out Big 12 - really?

Wiedmer: FSU checks out Big 12 - really?

May 16th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel (3) scrambles as he is pressured by Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (5) during the first half of the Champs Sports Bowl NCAA college football game, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Poor Florida State. The Seminoles aren't feeling the love they thought they'd receive from the Atlantic Coast Conference when they joined America's Cockiest Conference back in 1991.


FSU is a just-win-baby football school stuck in an image-is-everything basketball league. To make it worse, it's been seven years since the 'Noles have won the league they were supposed to dominate.

In fact, over the last 10 seasons FSU football has averaged more than four losses a year, has had 12 victories officially stripped for academic wrongdoings and now is running more than $2 million in the red each year as an athletic department.

Heck, the ACC had two schools in BCS bowls last season, and neither of them was FSU.

So last weekend the school's brass did what disillusioned bullies tend to do when they no longer get their way: They threatened to take their ragged reputation elsewhere.

Or as FSU board of trustees chairman Andy Haggard told Warchant.com, the board unanimously favored "seeing what the Big 12 might offer."

This is the same Big 12, by the way, that has 10 members. When a conference can't even count, is it really a step up from the ACC?

Truth is, FSU should have joined the Southeastern Conference instead of the ACC all those years ago. The Seminoles were preparing to win the first of their two football national championships (1993), were putting together SEC-caliber basketball programs that were heavy on athletes and light on coaching and were nationally renowned in both baseball and golf.

But FSU coaching legend Bobby Bowden had grown up in Birmingham, Ala., in the shadow of Legion Field. He knew the outrageous strength of the SEC and he wanted no part of it.

So the Seminoles went to the semi-tough ACC for continued football glory. And it worked for a decade. But the last time FSU won it all in 1999, J-Lo and P Diddy were dating, the euro was born, Bill Clinton was acquitted in impeachment proceedings and gas was $1.10 a gallon.

Beyond that, for all the Seminoles Nation justifiably trumpets its glorious gridiron past -- 14 straight seasons finishing in the top five from 1987 to 2000 -- it is fair to ask if it was a dynasty built on a program or a single coach: Bowden.

True dynasties outlast coaching changes. Alabama has won 14 football national championships under five different coaches. Kentucky has won eight NCAA basketball crowns under five different coaches. Notre Dame has won 13 football national championships under five coaches. North Carolina has won five NCAA basketball titles under three coaches.

There are dynasties and there are dynastic dictators -- of UCLA's 11 NCAA hoops crowns, 10 were won by John Wooden, for instance -- and until FSU wins something big in football post-Bowden, their standing as a national football power is on increasingly shaky ground.

However, there is one solution that both the SEC and FSU should consider.

The SEC should immediately begin wooing four current ACC members -- Clemson, Georgia Tech, FSU and Miami -- to join the nation's most powerful league.

Such an 18-team conference would actually provide a number of advantages beyond pretty much locking up the entire Southeast in a way the GOP can only dream about.

Think about it. The East Divison becomes Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Miami, South Carolina and Tennessee. The West becomes Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

In football, you play division games only until the SEC title game. In basketball, you play division rivals twice, with two extra games (for 18 total) against two teams from the other division every year, rotating two of the nine out every third season.

All other sports return to the football format of division foes only until league tourney play begins.

As for the basketball tournament, the division winners get a bye to the conference tourney semis. The rest of it's a mess, but it should be entertaining.

Beyond that, the so-called minor sports would benefit from having reasonable travel issues regarding finances and academics by playing division foes only.

And the only notable football casualties would be Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia, which are huge but an understandable victim of expansion.

None of this may happen. FSU already is backtracking from its weekend threats. The Big 12 doesn't seem in any hurry to make its membership count match its name.

But if continued expansion is inevitable, an 18-team SEC containing Clemson, FSU, Georgia Tech and Miami would be SECond to none. Assuming no other conference thinks of it first.