Friedlander: If Florida State is that eager to leave the ACC, let it take the financial hit and go already
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Florida State’s Board of Trustees has scheduled its emergency meeting for Friday.
The day before Festivus.
Even if you’re only remotely familiar with the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld, you know that one of the traditions of that fictitious holiday is the “airing of grievances.”
And man, do the folks in Tallahassee have their share of grievances. Most of them centered around the conference with which their athletic teams are affiliated.
The list has gotten even longer since the Seminoles were snubbed by the College Football Playoff Committee to become the only undefeated Power 5 conference champion to be left out of the 4-team national championship bracket.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 am and is available to the public via the school’s video link.
The Florida State Board of trustees have an emergency meeting tomorrow morning
They are expected to explore a legal challenge to the ACC’s Grant of Rights, per Pete Thamel, a big step towards leaving the ACC pic.twitter.com/MF133UHmrx
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) December 21, 2023
There will be some new twists to the agenda, including possible scenarios on how the FSU administration plans to fight the ACC’s binding media grant of rights in an attempt to set themselves free from the shackles currently holding them back from greatness.
But beyond that, the session will primarily be an opportunity for board chairman Peter Collins, university president Richard McCullough and others to let the world know that they’re still mad as hell about the $30 million-plus annual revenue gap between the ACC, the SEC and Big Ten, and they’re not going to take it anymore.
So if you’re expecting any seismic announcements that will change the face of college athletics as we know it, at least in the here and now, you’re going to be disappointed.
That doesn’t change the fact that FSU wants out of the ACC.
The only questions are: How long will it take, and how much the Seminoles will be willing to spend to make it happen before the seemingly ironclad document keeping the exit door bolted shut finally opens in 2036?
It’s eventually going to happen. So why fight it?
That doesn’t mean commissioner Jim Phillips and the rest of the league should let them off scot-free by making a deal similar to the one the Big 12 made with Texas and Oklahoma in allowing them to join the SEC a year before their grant of rights expired.
That would only encourage others to leave, setting the ACC on a path similar to the one that led to the imminent extinction of the Pac-12.
But if FSU is that eager to leave the ACC, let it pay up and go.
The price is steep. There’s an exit fee of 3 times the league’s annual revenue (approximately $120 million) right off the top. That, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Because the ACC owns the broadcast rights to all its schools’ home games through the length of the grant of rights, leaving before it expires would cost the Seminoles countless more millions over the next 12 years.
I’m not very good at math, but that doesn’t seem like an efficient way to make up any kind of revenue gap. Let alone one as big as a weekly PowerBall jackpot.
That’s why it will be interesting to tune into Friday’s meeting to see how the Board reconciles that potential problem to make the numbers work out in FSU’s favor.
Among the ideas likely to be floated is a partnership with a private equity investor with enough cash on hand to offset the loss. Conveniently, former Seminoles quarterback and current board member Drew Weatherford – one of the most vocal critics of his school’s association with the ACC – just happens to be a partner in a private investment firm owned by his family.
Another avenue to be explored is a legal challenge to the grant of rights.
It’s worth a try, especially since by filing in Florida, the Seminoles would enjoy a literal home court advantage. But it should also be noted that lawyers from every current ACC member have been going through that contract for months – if not years – looking for an out.
And they haven’t found one.
Even if that changes and a judge ultimately declares FSU free from the grant of rights, it could take years before the case – with its subsequent appeals – is finally resolved.
In the mean time, the Seminoles might find out that their path to future College Football Playoffs might be much less difficult once it expands to 12 teams next year in a much-less top-heavy ACC than it would in the SEC or Big Ten.
That is, assuming those already bloated leagues are even interested in taking on even more mouths to feed than they’ve already added.
Staying put, however, doesn’t appear to be an option.
Given the rhetoric that’s already been used and the lengthy list of grievances that are about to be aired, the differences between FSU and the ACC are already too irreconcilable to mend.
A divorce is inevitable.
All that’s left to decide is when the split will take place. And how much it will cost the Seminoles to walk away.