We sat down with Florida State athletics director Stan Wilcox this week to discuss the future of the Seminoles and the ACC. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
In Part 2, Wilcox talks about revenue distribution in the ACC, the future of the league's championship game, and the potential of pay-for-play for student-athletes.
Q. Florida State has always viewed itself as the preeminent football program in the conference, and its recent success has certainly helped the ACC, both in terms of perception and financially. That leads a lot of FSU fans to wonder why the revenue sharing in conference is split evenly. What's the upside to that distribution model for Florida State?
A. There are good arguments for both sides. It depends what side of the fence you’re on how you feel about that issue. But I would say that one of the things that helps keep a conference stable is, as long as everybody is pulling their weight and contributing, when you start having divisiveness and an institution feels they’re not getting their proportionate share. When I was in the Big East it did create a different kind of way of revenue sharing that wasn’t even across the board. That eventually caused that conference to have problems.
Eventually things can shift and a school that got more of a share eventually gets less of a share, and what that does to your program on a year-to-year basis, trying to budget, it throws your budget off. You might be expecting to get a bigger share because you’re thinking your team is going to be better and things don’t work out. If you know exactly what you’re making every year at minimum, and that amount could go up, it makes it easier.
It all depends what side of the fence you’re on, but for conference stability, the way we currently operate -- which is the same way the SEC operates, revenue sharing across the board evenly -- it helps with conference stability.
Q. In 2012, Florida State lost money by playing in the ACC title game. The ticket allotment was lowered this year so that wouldn't happen again, but financially, is there a concern about the cost-benefit balance following what was such a successful season on the field?
A. We were able to make sure we don’t lose money in the end. This year, I don’t know the final numbers, but we’re definitely not going to lose money. What you’re probably getting to is the [national] championship, and that’s a different animal.
Again, we’re not losing money in the long run, because as a conference, we’re making a lot more money and those dollars are filtered down to the institutions. The issue has to do with the amount of expense allotted to go participate and what your expenses end up being. In that case, because -- if the championship game was at the Orange Bowl, not an issue, but when it’s on the opposite coast, and you have to charter flights for your band, for your team, for the VIPs of the university, that’s where your expenses can outpace the actual allocation dollars that you’re given.
So this year, we didn’t lose very much but when you compare that to what we’re going to get from revenue sharing, it’s really a no-brainer. We’re going to make out well this year.
Q. Avoiding financial losses in the ACC championship game is one thing, but actually filling the seats and making money is another. There have been some suggestions that the league might adjust its format, including switching to a single division to improve the championship game matchups. What is Florida State's take on those ideas?
A. There is discussion about potentially changing the NCAA rule that says in order to have a championship game you have to have two divisions. The issue we grapple with has to do with new schools coming into the conference, then you factor in Notre Dame [which will play five ACC games per year]. The issue is trying to get schools to play everybody at least once over a certain time period. When you have the two divisions, it becomes a little more difficult. If you’re a new school, you want to play everybody in the conference and figure out who’s going to be the new rival school. When you’re in divisions, it’s a little more difficult.
I understand the argument. But until the legislation is changed, we can’t really do anything. And with the change in restructuring of the NCAA and giving a little more autonomy the BCS conferences, it may occur sooner than later that that legislation is changed. Then we can look at not having divisions.
Q. Would it be possible to simply reshuffle the divisions to create some better matchups, for instance getting Florida State to play Georgia Tech more often?
A. There are some schools that want to. But I think at this point that we’re exploring and talking about all different options until we can come up with one that really makes sense for the entire league and that the majority of the league feels really comfortable with.
Q. Athletes at Northwestern are considering unionization. Is that a situation you've monitored? And what could be the long-term ramifications of unionization for players?
A. It’s something that’s always been on my radar, the whole pay-for-play issue. My position has always been that I don’t think student-athletes should be paid more money financially, but that they should be paid maybe more from an academic perspective. However we determine the value of the education in terms of credit hours, years of scholarship — that’s what should be negotiated here, and not money.
The money aspect of it gets too sticky. They’re trying to unionize. In order to unionize, you have to be considered an employee of the university. I don’t think student-athletes really want to go down that road. You become an at-will employee that can be hired and fired at any time. Your argument is that it gets you benefits, but you kind of have that now. If you become an employee, every employee has to pay X amount of dollars into a health care program. I don’t know if they’ve thought the whole thing through as to what it really means to be an employee of the university.
But I always felt that they should be negotiating about the education side of it. Not to say the health care and all of that isn’t an issue, but the best thing you can have is the ability to really compete in the classroom. If that means to have less hours during the season in which you’re participating and you still have those hours maybe after your eligibility is up, you still have time to make up those credit hours so you can get your degree. Or you negotiate for undergraduate degree plus a graduate degree. Something that’s more educationally based, to me, is what student-athletes should be trying to get more of if they think there’s an imbalance.
Q. With the controversy surrounding bullying within the Miami Dolphins locker room and former Missouri star Michael Sam's announcement that he's gay, has Florida State taken any steps to address locker room culture, particularly as it relates to an athlete's sexual preference?
A. We have not had any specific conversations about that here yet, but I guess it’s probably becoming an issue that we need to maybe look at those types of things. We haven’t had anybody come out, but my hope is that all of our coaches, student-athletes and employees are tolerant of anybody who is a good person, whatever their lifestyle is. We’re not forming prejudices against anybody. But as far as doing a formal discussion about that particular issue, we haven’t. We actually do that through our student-athlete welfare and development department that has speakers come in just to talk to student-athletes, talk to staff about Title IX issues, diversity and inclusion issues, all of those are things that we talk about through seminars where we bring in experts from outside. But there’s a big focus on this particular issue because of the two instances that have occurred, but most institutions you go to — we do have those types of seminars where you have specialists come in and talk about inclusion and diversity.
Q. You discussed your work on a five-year strategic plan for Florida State, but what are some of the near-term goals you think fans can expect to see in the coming years?
A. Well we want to continue to be very successful, and I think we will. I think we’re poised to be where we were back in the early 1990s. I’d love to see Mike Martin win a college baseball championship. He’s been there so many times, come so close. He’s so deserving of it. I’d really like to see that happen for him.
As we look at other avenues and ways of generating additional dollars here, I think the sport that we can look at to help would be basketball. I’d like to see that we’re going to continue to improve there and get better facilities so we can have more fans engaged and create the type of atmosphere at our basketball games that are similar to other ACC major programs in basketball. If I can create another Cameron [Indoor Stadium at Duke], that’s the big wish list. But I’d like to see a better atmosphere at our basketball games.
I’d like to see championships on the playing field and our student-athletes graduating and being successful in the classroom. If I can help to get us to accomplish just those two things, those are the two major things I’d obviously love to see.