Tallahassee, Florida (USA TODAY) -- As Florida State's future in the Atlantic Coast Conference continued to fuel plenty of rumors and speculation Monday, FSU President Eric Barron spent at least part of his day trying to deliver a message to the university's alumni, fans and other stakeholders.
"I tried to let them know that this is a complicated issue," Barron said.
That's why Barron crafted a bullet-point response to answer the dozens of emails he received this weekend lobbying him to lead FSU's move from the ACC to the Big 12 Conference. He said he began responding to the emails Monday morning "and after I sent the fourth one it had already been posted on the Internet somewhere."
"There are definitely some people who said, 'Don't comment. Just ignore it all,'" Barron said. "But I made a habit of whenever alumni write to me, to write right back. Of course, I think a lot of people in the university are frustrated this gets so much attention and all the terrible things that have happened to our academics on campus get so little attention."
The Big 12 speculation jumped into the national news on Saturday when Andy Haggard, the chair of FSU's Board of Trustees, expressed his displeasure in the new television-rights contract the ACC signed with ESPN. That deal is expected to pay FSU at least $17.1 million per year, but it will not jump to that total payout in the first year of the contract and will instead escalate annually beginning with a $1.2 million increase this year.
Even when the ACC deal reaches the $17.1 million payout, the Big 12 contract is believed to be worth as much as $2.9 million more annually for its schools. According to various media reports, the conference is expected to sign a renegotiated contract in the near future.
"At least half of the emails I'm getting are saying that this $2.9 million is too much to give up," Barron said. "This was my attempt to explain that there are a lot of factors to consider. You have to realize all the travel costs that would come in the Big 12. We don't have to fly to every game now in the ACC. We would have to in the Big 12. With the costs there, it may not be as big an advantage as others might think."
In his emails, Barron also listed other factors he wanted stakeholders to consider, including an exit fee from the ACC that he said would be "between $20M and $25M."
"We have no idea where that money would come from," Barron wrote. "It would have to come from the Boosters which currently are unable to support our current University athletic budget, hence the 2% cut in that budget."
Barron said he was forced to amend his original email response, which he said he cut-and-pasted to various recipients and tried to add personalized messages at the bottom. His early versions contained fact errors about the Big 12's payoff structure and the methods of travel for various FSU teams to ACC games.
"After about the 10th email, I corrected that," Barron said.
But Barron also said he was surprised to hear that people think he has now made up his mind on FSU's conference affiliation.
"I have no idea what the next few weeks or even days will bring," Barron said. "I know I have alumni irritated because they think I made up my mind. What I am trying to say is this is not some simple thing.
"It's amazing how many people will say to me, 'You don't understand. If you go to the Big 12, Clemson will go with you and so will Miami and you can play them.'
"How do you know that? How can you say that? This is quite complicated. I have no idea how people will react to what I said, but I'm just trying to get the facts out there."
Barron also said that he believes FSU has done the proper due diligence should any major conference be willing to discuss a possible move.
Though he wouldn't pinpoint an exact time when the research was done, he said he felt comfortable last summer when rumors circulated about FSU possibly joining the SEC that his staff was prepped in case the league contacted him.
"There is no way that the university wouldn't at least do its homework," Barron said. "That wouldn't make sense otherwise. But that happened last year and I didn't believe there was any truth to the rumors then. And I don't believe there is any truth to these rumors now.
"It would have been strange for us not to think about it. To do a study and issue a report? No. But of course you think about it."
Jim Lamar, Tallahassee Democrat