Now we know why he didn't go for a better job; he was waiting for a better conference. (No disrespect, CAA. You know I love you.) (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Before the Innuendo, Actual News: Although George Mason opted to remain in the CAA late last week, Virginia Commonwealth took a different tack. The Rams will be joining the Atlantic 10 in 2013, along with Butler. Obviously, this is a good move for VCU, as it opens up their chances of landing at-large bids considerably. Taken in a larger view, however, there's a good chance that the realignment wave will be a big win for all three of the CAA's four big-gun basketball schools. In addition to VCU's upgrade, Old Dominion may yet move to CUSA. That actually increases both school's chances of reaching the NCAA tournament, since they no longer have to win the conference title or play lights out all year. It also reduces the CAA to effectively a two-team league based on recent performance, thus also enhancing George Mason and Drexel's chances of reaching the tournament in a given year (although it will now be nigh impossible for them both to get on the dance card).
For the Atlantic 10, however, this realignment cycle has been nothing short of complete victory. Yes, losing Charlotte cost them a large media market. Yes, they lost what had been their flagship program when Temple departed (but they still have Philadelphia presence thanks to St. Joseph's and LaSalle). But what they got in return were two teams responsible for three final four appearances covering two of the last three years, and for a basketball-only league you simply cannot do much better than that. The losses, even considering Temple's spiritual importance to the conference, are easily offset by the gains.
And Now For the Innuendo: The Florida State/Big 12 story exploded like the Hindenburg Friday afternoon, and it's been a dizzying whirlwind of what-the-hell ever since. On Friday afternoon Andy Haggard, the chairman of Florida State's Board of Trustees, lit the match by complaining about the new ESPN deal the ACC agreed to and outright calling for the school to investigate the possibility of joining the Big 12. That was shortly followed by Dan Wetzel tweeting a comment from a Big 12 source which threw kindling on the fire by indicating the obvious: "I can't imagine how we wouldn't be interested in Florida State." FSU coach Jimbo Fisher accidentally knocked over a can of turpentine, basically supporting the move, or at least the idea of it.
And then the firefighters arrived on the scene.It started on Twitter, with a wave of opposition based on the fact that Haggard had the mistaken idea that the ACC schools retained their third-tier men's basketball rights (they didn't). (Of course, even this reasonable objection to Haggard's position was nearly drowned out by people trying to correct his idea that different schools had different rights under the new contract -- itself a mistake, as Haggard had never made that assertion.) Saturday morning, FSU President Eric Barron arrived on the scene with a full pumper and began spraying water on the conflagration by insisting that FSU was neither seeking nor considering alternatives to ACC membership; the remainder of the weekend consisted of every columnist on the planet weighing in. This morning, an unnamed member of Miami's Board of Trustees downplayed the possibility of the Hurricanes making the move, and this afternoon we have Jimbo Fisher making it very clear that he makes no decisions, and we have reporting (!) from ESPN's Joe Schad indicating that Barron has, in fact, thought this position through; Barron acknowledges that the Big 12 contract would be better for the Seminoles, and that there's a perception that Tobacco Road controls the ACC, yet still objects to the move on grounds both (short-term) financial and academic, and at least from the street it looks like the fire may be out... but you know how it is when a tenement goes up in flames. There could be something still burning in a closet which could bring the whole thing down.
There are two paths down which we can go at this point, because the bottom line is that we have learned one lesson during realignment: until there are official statements which are completely unequivocal from the top of the ladder -- meaning the governing board, not the school president or the athletic department -- nothing anyone says about anything means anything. On the one hand, Barron's short-term financial point is not something we can ignore lightly. The main reason, financially, why this move would seem to make sense for Florida State is that they need money, badly. The thing is, they need it now, and the expense of moving to the Big 12 for a larger payday down the line may simply be an investment for which they do not currently possess the wherewithal to fund.
On the other... bringing up their funding issues in the context of the move may well be a cattle-prod to Florida State donors to get them to fund the move. The fan base is utterly up in arms over the ESPN contract, and think they deserve better. That fan base, obviously, includes many of those donors. And they are mad, and they want to be in the Big 12. Judging by message boards, at any rate, the Florida State situation is now nearly equal to the Texas A&M and Missouri situations in that fan irritation may well force the school's hand regardless. Just as with A&M and Missouri, it doesn't matter whether it's the "right" move for FSU; what matters is that money talks, bullshit walks, and people have a tendency to want to keep their jobs. If this doesn't die down soon, Florida State's not going to have any real choice in the matter.
There are lots of other unsourced rumors floating around, by the way, which have damn near every ACC school "south of New York but not in North Carolina" on their way to the Big 12, too. I'm not giving them any credence until there's actual news reporting involved, but they're out there, percolating, ready to burst into flames themselves at any moment.
What do I think?, you're probably not asking. Unfortunately, I just don't know. I think that it's nowhere near as much a fait accompli as the A&M and Missouri moves felt after the first weekend of serious uproar. Gun to my head, I will say that right now I think it's 50/50 that any current ACC team becomes a Big 12 member by summer's end, and you can take that to mean I think it's less than 50/50 that Florida State will.
Not Exactly Diablerie: A local judge spiked the slander suit filed against Jim Boeheim and Syracuse by two men who accused Bernie Fine of molestation. The suit, you'll recall, was filed because Boeheim called them liars and extortionists. ... Sean Woods, who led Mississippi Valley State to the NCAA tournament and that crazy comeback over Western Kentucky, appears headed to Morehead State. ... Cincinnati basketball players went and got in another brawl, this time at a local club. ... Arkansas took one look at TCU's seemingly insurmountable lead in the Fulmer Cup, laughed, and blew right past them, reaching the second-highest score in Fulmer Cup history. ... Paul Dee, former AD at Miami, passed over the weekend at age 65.