Florida State’s Board of Trustees took the first step of leaving the ACC today, with members voting unanimously to legally challenge the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Grant of Right agreement.
“Today we’ve reached a crossroad in our relationship with the ACC,” FSU Board of Trustees chair Peter Collins said. “I believe this board has been left no choice but to challenge the legitimacy of the ACC grant of rights and its severe withdrawal penalties”
FSU outside council David Ashburn laid out what FSU will argue to challenge the Grant of Rights, among them:
- The ACC’s exit fees and Grant of Rights penalty violate Florida antitrust law
- The GOR presents an unenforceable penalty
- Breach of contract
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Violation of Public Policy
- Fundamental failure of contractual purpose
Several new bombshell pieces of information came to light during today’s meeting
- The ACC is not guaranteed any television revenue after 2027 — something that was unable to be known unless members took the time to fly to Charlotte and review the locked-down contract. ESPN has a unilateral right to extend the ACC’s media deal after 2027 but hasn’t exercised that option yet. The ACC also extended the window for ESPN to pick up that option until 2025 without a vote of the schools or conference directors as was required by the conference bylaws.
- Ashburn stated that FSU signed the 2016 Grant of Rights agreement because ESPN gave an ultimatum that it would not enter into any additional media agreements unless the GOR was extended through 2036. He immediately followed that with “We don’t believe that holds water.”
Speculation began stirring when reports surfaced earlier this week about FSU exploring its future in the ACC. ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that Florida State will likely partner with Sixth Street Partners to help fund the ACC exit.
Florida State’s relationship with the conference has become increasingly strained over the last year. Florida State Athletic Director Michael Alford gave a presentation to the FSU Board of Trustees last February outlining the growing financial gap ACC schools will be facing compared to those in the Big Ten and SEC. Alford gave a blunt summation of the situation with “Something has to change.”
Just prior to the annual ACC meetings in May 2023 news of the “Magnificent Seven” in the ACC sent shock waves across the college football landscape. It became known that Florida State, Clemson, Miami, UNC, NC State, Virginia, and Virginia Tech had explored possible avenues to leave the conference.
The ACC then undertook a controversial western expansion adding Cal, Stanford, and SMU despite objections from Florida State, UNC, and Clemson. This was speculated to be a move to act as a buffer against future defections.
Florida State’s snub from the College Football Playoff was the straw that broke the camel’s back. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips was largely absent while SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was on ESPN constantly lobbying for a spot for his conference. FSU becoming the first undefeated Power 5 conference champion to be left out of the playoffs confirmed the ACC’s spot as a 2nd tier league going forward.