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Conference realignment: Would Florida Gators block FSU from the SEC?

DESTIN — As Florida State and the ACC continue their dueling lawsuits against each other, the hypothetical has bubbled up on social media, message boards and, apparently, at least once to Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin.

Would Florida veto an attempt from the Seminoles to join the SEC?

“No school has a veto in this league,” Stricklin said Wednesday during the SEC’s spring meetings at the Hilton Sandestin. “If you get three-quarters of the league to support expansion, we’re going to expand.”

That’s the political, diplomatic, boring answer.

Stricklin’s longer answer is that the Gators would support any addition that improves the league. In previous rounds of expansion, he said, the SEC presented financial projections and heard explanations on how Texas A&M and Missouri, or Texas and Oklahoma, would make the SEC as a whole better. The league’s powerbrokers agreed and voted to add them, with the Longhorns and Sooners officially joining this summer.

Stricklin said if similar conversations played out in the future, the Gators would weigh the rationales accordingly.

“If there are ever opportunities out there — again, no one’s had any conversations — but that is the scenario where somebody would walk in and say, ‘Here’s a school. Here’s what they bring to the table. Here’s how it makes us all better.’ We would be supportive of that,” Stricklin said.

Florida’s school president, Ben Sasse, has not spoken on the issue publicly.

The future of FSU and fellow ACC heavyweight Clemson is one of the biggest unknowns in an industry teeming with them. Both schools are exploring a potential exit from the Atlantic Coast Conference through the courts, with the Big Ten and SEC considered the most likely landing spots. The Big 12 might also be a short-term (but less desirable) option.

The legal dispute centers, in part, on who owns the TV rights of the Tigers and ‘Noles if they leave the conference before 2036. The answer is the difference between leaving for about $140 million (the ACC’s exit fee) or more than half a billion dollars (the exit fee plus withheld TV money).

Until that’s resolved, conference realignment seems to have paused. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said as much Tuesday when he acknowledged his league’s respect for “agreements and situations that prevent a lot of movement.”

Sankey said the SEC is in a “really, really great position as a league” as it formally expands to 16 teams. He also said his members would be “fine if everyone stayed” where they are. But …

“I’m aware of what’s happening around us,” Sankey said.

The Gators are, too.

Gators’ AD on Billy Napier lawsuit

Stricklin addressed the lawsuit filed against his football coach, Billy Napier, by former Gators signee Jaden Rashada. But Stricklin kept his comments brief: “I’ve got a tremendous amount of trust for Billy, not only who he is as a person, but how he conducts himself and how he treats other people.”

Earlier this month, Rashada sued Napier, a top booster and former Gators staffer over a $13.85 million name, image and likeness dispute involving his recruitment to Florida. Rashada flipped from Miami to UF, spent last year at Arizona State and is now at Georgia.

Florida-Georgia update

Expect some clarity on the future of the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville this summer. Jacksonville’s city council is expected to vote on the Jaguars’ proposed $1.4 billion stadium around late June, with NFL approval coming later.

Early plans expect a reduced capacity for 2026 and the Jaguars playing elsewhere in 2027. The annual Florida-Georgia game will have to consider its options, too, if the stadium is unusable.

Stricklin said a home-and-home series is an option, and neutral sites are, too.

“We have a general sense of the direction that (we) might be heading,” Stricklin said.

The game has been in Jacksonville annually since 1933, except for similar stadium construction issues in 1994-95.

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