At the head of these threats were Florida State President Rick McCullough and other Board of Trustees members, who don’t believe that the conference is doing the university justice when it comes to revenue distributions.
The projections that McCullough announced see FSU losing up to $30 million a year, compared to schools in the Big Ten and SEC. They argue that they deserve a bigger piece of the revenue that the conference generates compared to other schools because their “brand” and success in different sports.
The ACC changed the way it distributes revenue recently, where they reward teams for success in football and men’s basketball. FSU wants to generate more money in ways outside of team performance, like marketing and television revenue, which again, the school claims to do better than the others in the conference.
This isn’t the first time that Florida State has threatened to leave the ACC, nor are they the only ACC school to do it. Clemson and Miami both have done so in the past year, again arguing much of the same as Florida State.
FSU, if they are to leave, has to give the conference notice by Monday, Aug. 15, which would allow them to leave in 2024.
The issue ACC schools are running into by trying to leave the conference is the Grant of Rights, which started in the 2012-13 season, just prior to Pitt joining.
The Grant of Rights agreement gives the ACC broadcasting rights for its members’ home games through 2036. It also contains extremely high exit fees, in order to provide long term stability for the conference.
Conference realignment most recently has seen teams challenge this grant of rights agreement. USC and UCLA left the Pac-12 for the Big Ten and Texas and Oklahoma left the Big 12 for the SEC. The biggest difference between those schools leaving and the potential for an ACC school doing so is that the Pac-12 and Big 12 grant of rights ends in 2024 and 2025, respectively, creating more havoc for the conferences.
UCLA and USC will leave once the Pac-12 grant of rights expires prior to the 2024-25 calendar year and Texas and Oklahoma will pay out what they have to as they leave a year earlier than the Big 12 2025 end date.
This complicates Florida State’s desire to leave the ACC and go to another conference. If they chose to forfeit their TV rights, the SEC and Big Ten would not want to take on a school that they couldn’t sell their tv rights to a network.
Other ventures they could explore are trying to bargain an exit fee or, the even more ambitious, sue the conference for the rights back.
The first option would be less risky, but the ACC and ESPN, who the conference has a TV rights deal with as well as the ACC Network, have no real reason to go and allow one of their more “prized” teams to leave for the SEC or Big Ten.
The amount of money that FSU would have to pay for that exit fee and then breaking the grant of rights is unknown, but presumably, it’s an insurmountable amount of money.
Suing the conference for the rights back is a risky venture and one that neither Texas nor Oklahoma chose to do when they left the Big 12. Florida State would have to figure out what they are suing in the grant of rights, how that would work in the state that they are fighting this in court and then have, essentially, a fool-proof case of winning. If they don’t account for all of these factors, then they’ll end up in a long court case that will require lots of money tied up in lawyers and a low success rate.
FSU has complained about the ACC not bringing in enough money prior to Wednesday’s board of trustees meeting. It’s what they’re best at really. Complaining without having a real solution to go forward.
Now, that’s not to say that complaining and whining doesn’t work to some extent. The ACC will work to try and make sure they don’t end up like the Pac-12 and continue to stay a strong conference. ESPN also won’t want to lose a team that brings in great ratings to FOX/NBC or another station/streaming service.
The issue is that, with the situation that FSU and other ACC teams find themselves in, leaving right now is incredibly risky financially. It also means that the team potentially leaving might potentially not find a landing spot in the highly coveted Big Ten or SEC, leaving them independent, or even more terrifying, a part of the Group of Five.
The best option likely for Florida State, and other potential ACC schools that want to leave, is that they all do it together. Again, that is something that a large number of schools would coordinate together, which if it happened, would lead to the demise of the ACC, like the Big East in 2012.
While the FSU administration, board of trustees, boosters, alumni and fans alike complain, cry and moan about their position, they should spend more time looking at the poor state of their top programs in recent years.
Florida State football, which many fans consider the top program at the school, hasn’t won the ACC since 2014, which is the last and only time they made the College Football Playoff. They’ve also gone 36-36 overall since the start of the 2017 season, which includes a 21-27 record in the ACC.
Drew Weatherford, a former starting quarterback for the Seminoles and current member of the board of trustees, spoke on the team leaving the conference on Wednesday.
“Unless something drastic changes on the revenue side at the ACC, it’s not a matter of if we leave, in my opinion,” Weatherford said. “Not everyone may agree with that, but I feel really strongly about it because I don’t want to play games. I want to go compete for championships moving forward. That’s what Florida State is about.”
What makes his statement so interesting is that Florida State currently has a three-game losing streak to Wake Forest and hasn’t beaten them since 2018. Weatherford also started against Wake Forest in 2006. completing four of 15 passes and throwing two interceptions in an embarrassing 30-0 loss at home.
The men’s basketball program has also missed the last two NCAA Tournaments and finished with an abysmal 9-23 record last season. The baseball program, which had a streak of 45 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, had the worst record in the ACC last season, 23-31 overall and 9-21 in conference play.
Now, Florida State does have a solid head coach in Mike Norvell, who should lead the program back into national relevancy. Head coach Leonard Hamilton dealt with injuries throughout last season with men’s basketball and the baseball program shouldn’t be this poor for long.
The thing is that leaving the ACC doesn’t really solve the problems for FSU. They need to win football games to really prove to people they are back, and this year is one that many fans are looking to see if they’ll rejoin the elite in the country. Bragging about how many primetime games you’ve played in or how “big” your brand is means nothing if you’re irrelevant or poor on the field. Nebraska is a great example of this in recent years.
The expansion of the College Football Playoff means that teams have more ways to win National Titles and will rely less on what conference there in to prove their worth on the national stage.
Florida State, Clemson, and Miami, highly unlikely despite their fans’ beliefs they are a top program, can stay in the ACC and win National Titles with the expansion. Clemson, a team that has actually seen success in recent times, has won it all twice in 2016 and 2018.
It’s up to Florida State and the other ACC teams to figure out their decision going forward. Still, it’s quite clear for anyone to see, that right now, FSU is more akin to the tiny dog that barks and barks to assert its dominance than a force to be reckoned with. At the end of the day, the dog is harmless and only wants to make itself known, rather than cause any real chaos.