After months of inflammatory language and complaints about the ACC’s revenue distributions, Florida State University leadership finally made a not-so-veiled threat to the conference of which it has been a member since 1991.
“I believe that FSU will have to, at some point, consider very seriously leaving the ACC — unless there were a radical change to the revenue distribution,” FSU president Rick McCullough said at a meeting of the Seminoles’ Board of Trustees on Wednesday.
McCullough said that Florida State will fall behind its peers in the Big Ten and SEC by as much as $30 million per year by the end of those leagues’ current media deals, and that it frustrated him because “we are one of the best media-valued teams in the United States.”
“We, along with Clemson and others, help to carry the value of media rights in the ACC,” McCullough continued. “No offense to my colleagues. That’s just the numbers.”
He called the situation an “existential crisis” for Florida State and encouraged the ongoing exploration of other options. The trustees seemed to agree wholeheartedly, with several offering concurring statements.
“It’s not a matter of if we leave (the ACC), in my opinion,” said former FSU quarterback and trustee Drew Weatherford. “It’s a matter of how and when we leave. Not everyone may agree with that, but I feel really strongly about it.”
Trustee Justin Roth called for FSU to make and execute an exit plan to get out of the ACC in the next 12 months. He likened staying in the ACC to “death by 1,000 cuts … every cut is a $30 million cut.” Roth also said that when the next media deal came around, the ACC “will be a third-rate conference.”
The Seminoles would need to give the ACC notice of its departure by Aug. 15 to be able to exit the following summer. If FSU were to give notice by next August, it could compete in another league beginning in the fall of 2025.
But FSU does not have an invitation to the Big Ten or SEC in hand. It would also have to pay a great deal of money in an exit fee to the ACC, as well as whatever the cost of breaking the ACC’s grant of rights would be, an unknown at this point. Otherwise, the ACC would own the rights to FSU home games.
Would FSU give notice to leave the ACC without locking in its landing spot? It’s possible. FSU’s board did not vote on anything, but the trustees did suggest they would support the idea of the school betting on itself, even if it didn’t know where it would land when it jumped.
“We have to believe in ourselves and what we have, if this is a game of chicken,” said trustee Deborah Sargeant.
Despite the urgency in the tone and language used in Wednesday’s meeting, there was no formal vote or action taken by the trustees. They and athletic director Michael Alford have talked a big game in recent months, but they have not pulled any plugs just yet.
As trustee Bob Sasser put it, “We’ve been talking about this for a year, and we haven’t made any progress.”
• ACC revenue sharing: Discussing the league’s model and leverage for change
• Seven ACC schools are examining the grant of rights. But can they leave?
• Florida State, Miami and their long — and unsuccessful — courtship with the SEC
(Photo: James Gilbert / Getty Images)