ACC and FSU need attitude adjustment lesson from Big 12 and UCF | Commentary

Who knew 100 years ago that late, great American industrialist Henry Ford was actually foreshadowing the mindset of both the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12?

You see, it was Ford who once profoundly said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

In other words, your success (or your failure) is determined by your own self-esteem and your state of mind.

It seems to me that the ACC could learn a lot about attitude from the Big 12.

Amid the current chaos of conference consolidation, the ACC and the Big 12 are essentially in the same boat. Actually, I don’t think anybody would deny that the ACC is still a better conference than the Big 12 when you consider some of its marquee brands such as Clemson, Florida State, Miami and North Carolina. And financially, when you crunch the numbers of their TV contracts, the ACC and the Big 12 are pretty much in the same upper-middle-class tax bracket — living quite comfortably but still at least $30 million per team behind the big shots in the SEC and Big Ten.

But you would never know it from the demeanor and disposition of the two leagues. The Big 12, under commissioner Brett Yormark, exudes excitement and exuberance and is marketing itself as the young, hip, up-and-coming league that’s ready to conquer the world. All for one and one for all!

“You can just feel the excitement in the Big 12,” UCF football coach Gus Malzahn says. “… Brett Yormark is the right guy at the right time. I mean, he’s been in the entertainment industry and you see every year, football turns more into entertainment with everything that goes with it. He’s setting the tone for the future.”

Meanwhile, the ACC seems downtrodden and miserable, carping and complaining about their lack of wealth and resources and — boo-hoo-hoo — how are they ever going to be able to compete with fat cats in the SEC and Big Ten.

“We are seeing large media deals … in the Big Ten and the SEC which in many ways are creating an existential crisis for Florida State University as we will be $30 million per school per year behind in our gap in conference distribution,” FSU president Richard McCullough said recently. “… I believe FSU, at some point, will have to very seriously consider leaving the ACC unless there was a radical change to the revenue distribution,”

I get it. I get that FSU and other ACC schools are concerned about their TV contract and the revenue gap it has created, but why publicly complain about it and portray your conference as inferior? What good does that do? All it does is cause controversy and consternation in the ranks.

As North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham said about Florida State recently on a local radio show in Chapel Hill: “What they want to do and how they want to go about doing their business, that is their business. But it does have an impact on us. And quite frankly, I don’t think it’s good for our league for them to be out there barking like that. I’d rather see them be a good member of the league and support the league and if they have to make a decision, then so be it.”

See what I mean?

The Big 12’s membership is like the Brady Bunch — one big, happy family that has been created among the chaos. If the ACC were a family, their last name would be “The Bickersons.”

Not only that, but the Big 12 seems to have a detailed flight plan whereas the ACC is flying by the seat of its pants. The Big 12’s Yormark obviously could see that the Pac-12 was on the verge of imploding, and — when the Big Ten pilfered USC and UCLA and then Washington and Oregon — he was prepared because he had been planning and plotting for months. And so he swooped in and added Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado to the Big 12.

Meanwhile, the ACC is now scrambling and trying to add the Big 12 “leftovers” — Stanford and Cal — that the Big Ten and Big 12 didn’t want. Even more shockingly, the ACC is also considering adding SMU — another school that no other major conference really wants.

And the only reason the ACC is considering adding these programs is reportedly because they are willing to give up all or some of their TV revenue — money that the existing ACC teams would then split up among themselves.

Sadly, according to ESPN, SMU is willing to take no TV revenue for the first seven years it is in the ACC while Cal and Stanford would take a drastically reduced share during their first few years in the league.

Doesn’t it seem a little bit pathetic that the ACC is considering adding three disconsolate, desperate new members just so existing league teams can suck them dry of their TV revenue?

Under these exploitative tactics, are the new members really going to be happy and content to be in the ACC?


The ACC needs to tear a page from the Big 12’s playbook and start believing in itself and stop acting like a second-tier league.

Throughout history, Henry Ford and other great achievers have excelled because of an age-old philosophical mantra that we all should live by:

“Attitude determines altitude.”

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