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Florida State playoff snub could destroy the ACC, completely reshape realignment again

The snub of Florida State in the College Football Playoff was, first and foremost, a playoff story. Who is in and who is out? That was the most immediate drama on Sunday. If Florida State had been included, it would have been a much quieter Sunday than what we actually had. Because a 13-0 Power Five conference champion was excluded from the playoff, however, a true firestorm erupted. This was unprecedented in the playoff era, which dates back to 2014. The selection committee crossed a bright red line.

The fact that the snubbed team just happened to be from the ACC, and that the SEC benefited from the ACC getting snubbed, is an explosive event not just in the realm of the playoff and the bowl schedule, but in the realm of realignment. There’s a lot to talk about here.

Let’s dive in:

FLORIDA STATE FED UP

USA TODAY Sports Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat
USA TODAY Sports Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat

Let’s start with this: Florida State already wanted out of the ACC before this playoff snub. Now? Oh my. FSU has had it. The Seminoles were previously willing to wait a few years so their exit penalty fee from the ACC grant of rights could be significantly reduced.

Now? FSU wants out right away. Immediately. This minute.

Will Florida State be in the ACC in 2024? Maybe, but the playoff snub has thrown this matter into question. It is once again a legitimate debate. It seemed to be a settled matter, but not now.

ACC AGAINST PLAYOFF EXPANSION

Dec 4, 2021; Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2021; Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC isn’t solely responsible for this, but it did play a part in delaying playoff expansion until 2024. If the playoff was 12 teams this year, Florida State would have been in. It’s a small but real part of the larger picture.

ESPN

USA TODAY Sports Syndication: Greenville
USA TODAY Sports Syndication: Greenville

ESPN has TV deals with the SEC and ACC, and yet it used the ACC Championship Game broadcast — in which Florida State was involved — to stump for an SEC team getting into the playoff. Florida State — the school and its fans — has even more reason to want to leave the ACC.

Beyond leaving the ACC, FSU would love to leave specifically for the Big Ten, so that it can become a Fox school and not an ESPN school after this betrayal from Bristol.

TV DEAL

USA TODAY Sports Syndication: Nashville
USA TODAY Sports Syndication: Nashville

The ACC TV deal with ESPN is ESPN-friendly to begin with. The reality that ESPN used its airwaves to lobby for SEC teams over Florida State (with some exceptions, such as Dan Mullen Booger McFarland) will only anger FSU even more. FSU is past the point of wanting a higher-revenue TV deal. The Seminoles simply want to end their association with the ACC as soon as possible. Patience isn’t just running thin in Tallahassee; it is now fully exhausted.

MONKEY WRENCH

Oct 15, 2022; Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2022; Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought Florida State was mad this past summer, FSU is even more outraged now. The school has a chance to throw a monkey wrench into the ACC’s future and into the larger structure of realignment. One obvious question is how much of a coalition FSU can create within ACC membership to form a bloc which might leave or — short of that — create political obstacles for the conference on various levels. You can be sure all options are being explored right now.

ORANGE BOWL BOYCOTT?

Jan 4, 2005; Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2005; Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will Florida State boycott the Orange Bowl against Georgia? Probably not, but such a move is not out of the question. Doing so could rock the college football industry and serve as a warning shot which might be a prelude to bigger actions by FSU.

PRIVATE EQUITY

Apr 9, 2017; Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2017; Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in 2023, reports emerged that Florida State was considering the possibility of accessing private equity funds by partnering with a private equity firm. These funds would pay the large grant of rights exit fees attached to an abrupt, immediate departure from the ACC. One can reasonably expect this pursuit to intensify at Florida State after Sunday’s playoff snub.

DOMINO EFFECT

Sep 4, 2023; Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 4, 2023; Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

If Florida State decides to stand and fight and make life very inconvenient for the ACC, the Orange Bowl, and other entities in college sports, one wonders how quickly other ACC schools might try to move or get caught up in the crosscurrents. Clemson obviously stands out as one example.

The Tigers, though, seem like more of a fit for the SEC than the Big Ten. This is one of the more interesting and prominent dominoes in a potential ACC shakeup.

MIAMI

Sep 24, 2022; Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2022; Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Miami wants out of the ACC almost as much as Florida State does. Would a Florida State rebellion shake loose the Canes, and if so, where would it push them?

STANFORD AND CAL

November 27, 2020; Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
November 27, 2020; Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford and Cal become obvious points of intrigue if the ACC splinters and shrivels sooner rather than later. This ACC home would be built on a foundation of quicksand. Could the Big Ten reach out to these schools and welcome them as refugees? At any rate, Stanford and Cal should not feel comfortable in the ACC. This arrangement seems doomed to fail, or at least to not endure in its current form with current ACC membership.

SMU

Oct 5, 2019; Timothy Flores-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 5, 2019; Timothy Flores-USA TODAY Sports

If the Stanford-Cal ACC move feels tenuous, it’s even more so for SMU. Florida State could undo what the Mustangs had hoped to achieve, another part of this multi-pronged drama.

NITTY GRITTY

USA TODAY Sports syndication — Tallahassee Democrat
USA TODAY Sports syndication — Tallahassee Democrat

What is actually going to happen here? What is the likely outcome?

Florida State leaving the ACC before the 2024 college football season is unlikely, if only because of all the many realignment moves which have just occurred. The complications attached to scheduling, logistics, travel, and other matters would be too tangled to sort out in one year. Litigation, exit fees, and other obstacles will probably keep Florida State in the ACC for 2024, though that’s not a stone-cold guaranteed lock.

However, by 2025, Florida State might be ready to orchestrate a departure. The school really does not want to spend one more second in the ACC than it absolutely has to. We really could be looking at a reality in which Florida State has just one year left in the ACC. That’s not a wild statement to make right now. It might not be the likely outcome, but it demands consideration as a legitimate possibility.

THE BIGGEST POINT OF ALL

Jan 10, 2022; Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2022; Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After the 2025 season, the 12-year ESPN arrangement with the College Football Playoff ends. You will see ESPN, Fox, NBC, and CBS divide the 11 College Football Playoff games, ending ESPN’s exclusive hold on the playoff. It is an obvious point of interest for all of these networks if Florida State is in the ACC, the SEC, or the Big Ten by 2026. That could have a domino effect on other schools’ choices.

If Florida State isn’t able to exit the ACC before 2025 due to various legal and logistical entanglements, the Seminoles would probably be able to orchestrate their departure before the 2026 season and the new playoff TV deal attached to it.

Bottom line: FSU is likely to exit the ACC within three years at this point. That could undercut Stanford and Cal in the ACC, along with so many other realignment moves we have seen over the past two years.

Buckle up. The realignment scene just became a lot more chaotic and fluid thanks to Sunday’s Florida State playoff snub.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire