I was sitting pretty secure in the thought that despite the rumors swirling around, Florida State was not a legitimate option for Big 12 expansion. The ACC has more academic clout (one of the big factors in those Texas-to-ACC rumors last summer), a shared time zone, and the money would be about comparable (the ACC deal is worth less than the Big 12 deal, but not by that much, I thought). Then this happened, and suddenly the Big 12 seems like it's on the mind of Seminoles everywhere, with commentators seeming decidedly in favor of a Big 12 move. This comes just after Florida State's AD issued a statement "We're in the ACC, we're committed to the ACC." and so forth, but as we have just seen from our friends in College Station, an AD against the wishes of the fanbase and board of regents becomes an ex-AD. So there is enough smoke coming from the Seminole camp to warrant taking a good look at just what the factors are for Florida State to make the move, whether the Big 12 should be interested and what could possibly get in the way of the switch (if both parties are receptive).
Despite the signing of a huge new TV contract, things are not all well in the ACC land- The ACC makes significantly less per school than the other major conferences apart from the Big East, and that difference is likely to escalate as the SEC renegotiates its deal with the Texas A&M/Missouri additions. As many ACC schools have fierce rivals in the SEC (Georgia Tech-Georgia, Florida State-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina), this disparity is a significant cause for concern. Additionally, there appears to be some growing resentment between the traditional basketball-centric schools- North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest and NC State in particular- and the football-centric schools (Florida State, Miami, Clemson) that the current conference commissioner favors the North Carolina schools over the other members, which is borne out by the fact that the ACC signed over all of its tier three rights to football over to ESPN, but let members hang on to their tier three rights for basketball. For a school like Florida State, that could easily make millions of dollars worth of difference to their athletics budget, as a lot more Seminole fans are likely to pay to see FSU play football than play basketball- and it's important to note as well that Florida State's athletic department is having some financial difficulties thanks to the relative struggles of its football team the past decade and the general downturn of ACC football in the BCS era- less good opponents coming into Doak Campbell Stadium means less fans who want to see their former powerhouse team struggle against the inferior competition. Additionally, unlike schools like Clemson, Maryland and Virginia who tend to be a bit more football-minded, Florida State is not a founding member of the ACC, joining in 1991 which means that the in conference rivalries and ties haven't necessarily taken hold of the fanbase (apart from Miami, who wasn't even a part of the ACC for the majority of FSU's stay)- Florida State vs. Georgia Tech isn't likely to be confused for Florida vs. Georgia any time soon. Their primary ACC rival Miami is also facing possibly the biggest scandal since SMU stopped playing football for two years, and looming NCAA sanctions could lower the Hurricanes to the point where not even they can coerce a sellout from Florida State's mediocrity weary fans.
So, Florida State has problems with the ACC, hasn't been a member of the conference for all that long (relatively speaking), the fanbase seems in favor of a move, and they aren't upsetting any century old rivalries in making a move. So what does the Big 12 get out of Florida State joining the conference? A team that has two national titles in football (like us), is in an extremely fertile recruiting ground, adds significant value to any TV contract (take that, Louisville), and a third national brand name to go along with Texas and Oklahoma- which the conference has lacked since Nebraska took its talents to the Big Ten. Florida State and 12th school to-be-named would also allow the Big 12 to hold a championship game, which would further add to revenues for all schools and give the conference a marquee event- Having games like Oklahoma/Oklahoma State the last week of the season worked out great... this year. If the Okie schools slip, or Texas doesn't right the ship quickly instead of a top ten showdown you're looking at a national championship contender trying to avoid being upset by a team fighting for bowl eligibility.
So, Florida State. As you can probably tell, I'd be all over this (even if it does make it harder for TCU to win Big 12 and national championships in both football and Baseball), but there are a few red flags which could stop the move from happening. First of all, it's easy for a fanbase to see the appeal in having Oklahoma and Texas making regular appearances in your home stadium- the flag comes up when you realize that those visits are balanced out by having to visit Manhattan, Lubbock and Waco in all sports. The Big 12 also only has one partner in the eastern time zone at present (though that could change with the likely addition of partner school 12) and Florida State would have to pay a significant buyout to the ACC to make a move (though lawsuits will likely flow like in the West Virginia move that would bully the total down significantly). The biggest flag of all though is that ESPN has absolutely no interest in seeing harm come to the ACC- in stark contrast to their alleged involvement in the move of Syracuse and Pitt from the Big East. ESPN controls the ACC- Football, basketball, baseball and everything else had their rights signed away (apart from those tier three basketball rights) to the four letter network, and ESPN has little to no interest in seeing the only league whose rights they entirely own lose its most valuable football member. As to what ESPN can do to coerce Florida State to stay now that the deal has been signed short of paying an exhorbitant sum to try to force Notre Dame into the conference and renegotiate from there it's hard to say, but at the very least expect any and all ESPN announcers to spew vehemently when the topic of FSU relocation comes up.
If the smoke signals from Tallahassee continue, we'll start taking a serious look at the schools that might become team 12 and get the Big 12 back up to full strength- and the challenge of divisions when nine teams are in the middle of the country and three are on the East coast.