Drawing a play in the dirt that will stun the college football world and keep the league from becoming a chummy little club of basketball elites once again? Or is he doing that deer in the headlights thing, kicking back in Greensboro like Nero while Rome burned?
IF the Big 12 and FSU, Clemson and perhaps other ACC schools are in super secret negotiations, then Swofford is in the hot seat as much as any underachieving head coach.
Act swiftly and decisively to solve some major issues shared by FSU and the prominent football schools and you're a hero. Or, put more bluntly, it's time to earn that $1.5 million per paycheck*, John (the second highest salary of any conference commissioner).
For example, a few of the creative, earth-shaking ideas that could make Florida State and others stop and listen include:
• Division Realignment - Putting the Noles in a division with natural geographic opponents like Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami, as detailed here, not only makes incredible sense, it solves part of the budget problem by reducing travel costs for all sports.
• Revised Revenue Sharing - Football is the league's cash cow and FSU is the main teat. The Noles are on TV every week, including nationwide prime time games with millions of viewers. Duke is lucky to be on those regional games at noon more than once. So Swofford must find a way to ensure a measure of fairness. It could be simple incentives, like a bigger share of bowl profits.
We're not saying FSU should throw its weight around like Texas in the Big 12. But now's the time to use the leverage the Noles have built as one of the best known brands in the game.
• Give Back - Who knew that the ACC office claims a full $16-mil share of the latest TV contract? By scaling it down to a 3/4 bite ($12 million), as proposed by the ACC Football Rx, $4 million in new incentives could be made available.
• Nail Down Notre Dame - Nothing would shake up the college football landscape and pump up the ACC TV contract more than bringing the Irish into the fold. And there's a pretty good argument why the South Bend school would be a nice fit (strong academics, for example). Git 'er done, John.
• Think Waaay Outside the Box - Or outside the region. After Notre Dame, what school not already anchored to a conference might consider a move to the ACC? None other than Boise State. Sure, the geography doesn't make sense. But the marquee football reputation does (and it's as logical as West Virginia joining the Big 12). Because of the distance, the Broncos could be a football-only member. Working out all the details would take some effort -- starting with luring Boise away from a 2013 jump to the Big East. However the addition of BSU and Notre Dame makes the ACC a football conference that can't be overlooked in the national playoff scheme. Yeah, it's crazy, but that's the kind of fresh thinking the league needs from its commissioner right now.
Those are a few of our ideas. We hope you have some even better ones, John.
*According to research done by USA Today's Steve Berkowitz, in calendar 2010 total comp was as follows: Larry Scott (Pac-12) $1.9 million, Jim Delany (Big Ten) $1.8 million, John Swofford (ACC) $1.5 million and Mike Slive (SEC) just over $1 million. Dan Beebe (former Big 12) was paid nearly $1.7 million and John Marinatto (former Big East) received just over $600,000. Britton Banowsky (CUSA) earned nearly $900,000 and Craig Thompson (MWC) earned slightly over $600,000.
Update after the jump.
"Perhaps my greatest miscalculation on this story was in assuming the ACC wants FSU and Clemson as members and would fight for them if it ever began to look like they had wandering eyes. It doesn’t appear to me from the outside as if the ACC and its leadership is even interested in FSU staying in the league. This is suicidal. The primary instinct of any organism is to survive and the ACC’s actions – and lack of action – in this situation run completely counter to the survival mechanism."
Even more disappointing (again from Scott):
"Commissioner John Swofford’s inability or unwillingness to adequately and ambitiously leverage his leagues’ considerable assets to maintain a prominent position in college athletics stands as an historic failure and if the ACC’s momentum continues in the direction it’s currently headed the conference will be brought to ruin around him and his legacy will be that of the worst conference commissioner in the history of college sports – the man who killed the ACC."
And depature fever appears to be spreading like a bad cough in a pre-school classroom. A column today in Gobbler Country is tinged with the fear of being left behind:
"However, if Florida State does indeed opt to join the Big 12 in the coming months, Virginia Tech will have a potentially volatile, but unmistakably clear decision to make. It must get out of the ACC. No, it must get the hell out of the ACC."