August 15th is the date anyone wanting to leave the league needs to let the ACC know of their intentions to play elsewhere in 2024. Will FSU formally send the conference documents of making such a move? Do the Seminoles have a plan to get out of a conference they believe doesn't pay them enough to compete with their rival Florida Gators and anyone else in the SEC and the Big Ten?
I truly don't know. I can make silly guesses and throw rumors against a wall like many are currently doing. But there are some real things in play here. First, there's the $120M exit fee. That's a lot of money for any program, even FSU.
"Well, they can just negotiate that down."
Says who? No one spends someone else's money like clowns on social media platforms. And don't get me wrong, there have been times the red clown nose sat on my face, but I've stepped away from that game because there's many who play that role these days. There is no motivation for the ACC to negotiate with FSU, Clemson, Miami, the New York Yankees when it comes to money since the league is now, in some ways, fighting to survive.
Then there is the $360M(rounded figure) that pertains to the Grant of Rights that also connects FSU to the ACC. Again, no shortage of people are out there telling you things like:
"Well, they can just pay that off over the next decade with the money they would be making from the Big Ten or SEC."
Says who? Again, the ACC is not going to go out of its way to help anyone leave the league that would weaken their own value.
Yes, FSU could pay the $120M to exit the ACC and go to another conference. But they would bring no media rights with them to that new league. That means no league would take them. Can they go to court and fight the exit fee and Grant of Rights? Sure. There's always a lawyer willing to charge billable hours for anything.
I would think by now, at least through a 3rd party, FSU knows if the Big Ten or SEC would want/take them if they were a true free agent without litigation hanging over them for years. And if they knew there was at least one invite from one of those leagues, I guess FSU would be less public about their feelings to leave the ACC. It's as if FSU felt they needed to let everyone know they wanted someone to reach out about changing leagues.
But what if SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is telling the truth? What if he and the presidents of the schools in the SEC are happy with their 16-team makeup and their media partners are content as well? What if the Big Ten jumped at taking Washington and Oregon because they were for the taking as the Pac 12 fell apart but their media partners have said that's it? What if those media companies say the faucet is slowing or moving to paying for the NBA and other live sports they want to own?
If the above is true then FSU may have no choice. Which leads me to the latest ACC rumors that plenty of people with no real sources have been running with. That would be everything from the ACC/Stanford/Cal/SMU rumors to the Pac 4/MWC/AAC rumors.
You have to love Notre Dame openly campaigning for the addition of Stanford and Cal to the ACC. The Irish are expansion voting members but they won't bring their football team to the league. ND AD Jack Swarbrick, who is retiring, says the rich traditions of those two west coast schools make it sad they have been left behind and need a conference home. Thanks Jack. And while no one has won more national championships in all sports than Stanford, where were the tears of concern when the ACC left Cincinnati, UCONN and Rutgers behind in the Big East? You know Army has won five national titles in college football and people seem to be ok with them as an independent today and not in a major conference.
There doesn't appear to be enough votes to add Stanford and Cal. While they might bring a few dollars to the table they don't close the gap that FSU, Clemson and others want. SMU? The idea that donors will just pay a school $40-50M dollars in lieu of taking media money is insane. Maybe it's true. I have called games at SMU and the school sits in one of the most expensive zip codes in the country. But what are you doing? What is the return on that money to the people that would put it up? Who knows what's true in this one.
The craziest stuff thrown against a wall the last few days is the game twitter crazies have played taking the Pac 4 schools and then adding AAC schools to form a partnership. It's not that such an idea is not possible. But people, you don't just throw schools out of a league as many did all weekend when coming up with a new 20-team league. There are contracts, bylaws, media buyouts etc and no one is getting thrown out of a league. And then the silliness of people making up media values and projecting such a plan would pay schools anywhere from $12m-$20M per school. WHAT??? STOP THE INSANITY!!!!
The best move the Pac 4 schools made was bringing in Oliver Luck to help. How embarrassing for soon-to-be-former Pac 12 commissioner George Kliavkoff to watch his remaining schools ask someone else to help them with their future. Luck is respected throughout the industry and may end up being a commissioner of whatever emerges but let him figure it out because the way most are just tossing around hundreds of millions of dollars are just comical. But the remaining schools from the Pac 4 and a combination of the MWC and AAC can fight all they want for a plan to keep P5(or autonomous) status. And plenty of people on social media platforms just assume they would, it is not their choice but the choice of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and most people who understand the structure of this group do not believe the Pac 12, or whatever they might build, will get support to keep such a status.
So let's get back to FSU and what the Seminoles might do today, tomorrow, next week or next year. My guess is FSU has wanted to voice their displeasure and let the SEC and Big Ten know they want in. They are hoping one of those leagues sees them as too good to pass up. I do think both would not be opposed to adding FSU but timing and litigation are all factors. The Big Ten and SEC will be careful about legal contact. Those emails can be used in court when other conferences sue you for your role in impacting their business. I am guessing FSU does nothing by tomorrow's August 15th deadline to announce plans to leave the ACC. But I am also guessing FSU keeps their opinion public about their desire for more money and a different conference. I also think the attention of FSU is on those things and not about adding Cal and SMU to their travel schedule. I do think other ACC members are open to hearing about an additional $3-5M per school by adding members. But the ACC is split like the Pac 12 was. There are groups looking to leave, some wanting to leave but know the Big Ten and SEC likely don't want them and then the bottom feeders who know they live off the brand value of the bigger schools. The difference with the ACC and Pac 12 is the Pac 12 media deal is expiring in less than one year. The ACC's media deal has more than a decade left.
Finally, the other conference realignment nugget came from Nebraska AD Trev Alberts. In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star Alberts said "we are moving to a 35 to 40 top brands being part of something." Others have thrown this idea around for a while. Could it happen? I don't know but I hope not for many reasons. But I do not doubt the passion of Nebraska fans and their support for their football program in a state with no pro teams, does that make them a lock to be part of something like he mentions? Would such an idea be about success and tradition or just tradition? Who makes that call? Does Rutgers, Indiana, Vanderbilt and Maryland football make that cut just because they are in the SEC and Big Ten?
I know..some of you right now reading this are thinking:
"Geez Marc, do you think UCF should be part of such a plan? Serious?"
Fair question and I would say if you were picking the top 32 brands in college football today, I would understand if you left the Knights out. But let me ask all of you this question: If such a plan evolved by the year 2030 and UCF won 5 conference titles in the next seven years and consistently made the college football expanded playoff and competed by winning games and continued to grow in enrollment and its ever expanding alumni base continued to multiply at its record level and Nebraska averaged 6 wins the next seven years, who would be more worthy? My only point is this idea of a 32-team or 40-team super league is not as easy as you think.
And so goes another week in conference realignment and who knows what's in store this week. Oh, games start one week from Saturday...
Final note: Army won national titles in college football in 1945, 46, 47. Georgia will try for its three-peat this season.