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Noles News: New report details FSU’s pursuit of private equity partner

All the latest in Florida State Seminoles sports

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Football

As the legal battle between the ACC and Florida State heats up, sports business outlet Sportico is reporting that the university has been seeking private equity funding for its athletics department since 2022:

The private equity talks were internally nicknamed “Project Osceola”—after the famous Seminole leader and FSU mascot—and they appear to center on the creation of a NewCo to house commercial rights from the school’s athletic department. That entity could then take on outside capital. This structure has become common for PE investments in sports, including Silver Lake’s backing of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team and CVC’s financing of LaLiga, the top Spanish soccer league.

Sixth Street is still in active talks with Florida State about a possible investment, while Arctos is not, according to multiple people familiar with the negotiations. Representatives for Sixth Street and Arctos declined to comment. Representatives for JPMorgan and Florida State did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The initial discussions between JPMorgan and FSU date back to at least the summer of 2022, the documents show. The parties executed a nondisclosure agreement that August, which was signed by FSU Board of Trustees chairman Peter Collins and Eric Menell, the managing director and co-head of North American media investment banking for JPMorgan. Collins is the co-founder and managing principal of Forge Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in Tampa.

While financial specifics are unclear, both Sixth Street and Arctos went through some form of term sheet review in late May and early June. FSU later put together a document, dated June 8, that compared the two firms’ positions on a possible investment. The version of that document provided to Sportico is heavily redacted, but it does provide some information about where talks stood at the time. It lists Arctos’ initial purchase amount as $75 million (Sixth Street’s is redacted.) The document also suggests Sixth Street and Arctos had differing positions on FSU’s intellectual property license, with Sixth Street wanting the license to be “exclusive,” while Arctos was fine with the school’s desire for a non-exclusive IP license to be granted to the newly formed company.

The school also built out a 28-page financial model, dated August 2023 and marked “strictly private and confidential.” The document projects massive jumps in the Seminoles’ revenue in the coming years, including its conference distribution share going from $44.3 million in 2023 to $84.5 million in 2027, owing to an anticipated “bump” in payouts from the College Football Playoff. The school projected those conference distribution figures reaching $187.7 million by 2043. It is worth noting that the projections were made months prior to the FSU board voting to try and sue its way out of the ACC. That litigation is currently ongoing.

Wide receiver Malik Benson, defensive back Davonte Brown and offensive lineman Terrance Ferguson kicked off the first round of newcomer interviews on Tuesday, meeting with the media to discuss their decisions to enroll at FSU, what they’re aiming for in 2024 and more:

Senior Bowl practices are underway — and Florida State football players are showing out already, with Johnny Wilson, Jaheim Bell and Braden Fiske all turning heads:

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah broke down his top 50 prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft, with defensive end Jared Vese at No. 14 and wide receiver Keon Coleman at No. 38:

Verse is a rugged, twitched-up edge rusher with a thick/powerful build. At Florida State, he moved around the defensive front. Against the pass, he explodes off the edge and tries to run right through offensive tackles, doing so in two different ways: 1) He will stutter to get OTs off balance and then charge right through with his hands; or 2) he’ll simply bury his head into the blocker’s chest and walk him right back to the quarterback. He has also been effective using a chop/swim move and occasional inside counter. He doesn’t have elite bend at the top of his rush. When aligned inside, he relies more on his quickness to work the edge of an offensive guard. Against the rush, he is stout at the point of attack. He closes the back door quickly on runs away from him with great speed and effort. Overall, Verse is not only a productive pass rusher — he’s a violent tempo setter for the defense.

A big, physical wideout with average play speed, Coleman has the versatility to play inside and outside. He is a smooth and fluid route runner with some nuance to his game. He understands how to use his body to keep defenders on his back and attack the ball in front of his frame. He doesn’t have ideal vertical speed, but he can play above the rim and make contested catches. He also might have the best highlight reel in this draft class, with one-handed wow catches littered throughout his tape. After the catch, he is competitive to fight for extra yards and will occasionally hurdle defenders. He’s an excellent athlete. Overall, Coleman lacks ideal speed to separate, but he makes a lot of big plays in crowded environments and should be a red-zone menace at the next level.

An awesome story from The Athletic’s Chris Vannini on quarterback Jordan Travis, who is well on his journey on bouncing back from a devastating leg injury this fall:

That future is uncertain. Travis was told the injury is a five-to-six-month recovery. He hopes to get back on the field moving and throwing by mid-April, which is right before the NFL Draft. For a player whose draft stock was already questioned, it’s not ideal. He’s a bit undersized, and he’ll soon be 24. And now he’s injured. In late October, The Athletic’s Diante Lee thought Travis could be a Day 3 pick.

But there’s a lot to like, too. Travis completed almost 64 percent of his passes with 27 total touchdowns and just two interceptions this past year. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He got better with each season. He wants to prove he’s not done improving.

It’s why Travis came to the Shrine Bowl, and it’s why he’s going to the NFL Scouting Combine, even if he can’t practice. He plans to get in front of as many NFL teams as he can to talk about his leadership, his football knowledge, his vast responsibilities in the FSU offense and, yes, the status of his injury. In Frisco, that included getting up on the whiteboard to diagram plays.

Travis has been counted out before and has bounced back before, from getting benched and booed early at FSU to becoming a fan favorite and Heisman Trophy candidate. His college career finished at an unfortunate low point. Now Travis is out to prove that’s not the end of his football story.

Want to check in on the Doak Campbell Stadium renovations? Here’s a link to check out a livecam showing the progress.

Basketball

Florida State women’s basketball sophomore guard Ta’Niya Latson has been selected to the John R. Wooden Award Late Season Top 20:

The Miami, Fla., native is putting together another phenomenal season for the Seminoles, backing up last year’s otherworldly freshman campaign. In ACC play, Latson is averaging 22.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and is shooting 42.7 percent from the floor.

Latson leads the league with four 30-point games in ACC play. She recently set the school record for most career 30-point games already with 12, completing the feat in just 52 games played. She is coming off a 33-point performance at Georgia Tech, which means she has four 30-point games against the Yellow Jackets in all four meetings.

Latson repeated as a Top 10 selection to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year Watch List, and does the same with her late season Wooden Award selection.

Baseball

Softball

Box-office Noles — Florida State softball will appear on national television four times in four days as part of its participation in the Clearwater Invitational:

Florida State is the only team in the invitational to have all of their games broadcasted by ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. FSU is slated to play four top 10 teams in four days.

FSU will open up against No. 3 Stanford on ESPNU on Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. Stanford qualified for the Women’s College World Series Semifinals in 2023 before falling to eventual national champion Oklahoma. This will be just the fifth time Stanford and FSU have met and the first time since 2017. The all-time series is split 2-2.

The gauntlet will continue on Friday, Feb. 16 as the Seminoles will take on No. 8 UCLA at 1 p.m. on ESPNU. This marks the third consecutive season and the fourth time in the last five years that the two teams have met in Clearwater. FSU has won nine out of the last 13 matchups against the Bruins.

Saturday, Feb. 17 will be a rematch of last year’s Super Regional as the Seminoles and Georgia Bulldogs will battle once again at 10 a.m. on ESPN2. FSU dominated the Bulldogs in the Tallahassee Super Regional last season with an 8-1 win in game one and a 4-2 win in game two to advance to the Women’s College World Series. FSU has won the last five contests against Georgia.

For the third consecutive season, FSU will play in the primetime slot on ESPN on Sunday night as they will face No. 2 Tennessee at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The two teams met in last year’s Women’s College World Series Semifinal where FSU prevailed 5-1 to advance to the Championship Series. The Seminoles have won three straight against the Volunteers and four out of the last five.

Since the start of the 2022 season, FSU has played 48 games on national television posting a staggering 43-5 record in those 48 games.

All Sports

Florida State men’s track and field distance runner David Mullarkey was named the ACC Men’s Performer of the Week:

Mullarkey set a new school record in the 3,0000-meter run, establishing a new personal best at 7:42.89 at the John Thomas Terrier Classic in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday. Mullarkey erased the time that was set by Ahmed Muhammed in 2022 at 7:51.15. His time is currently the fastest in the ACC and seventh nationally.

Mullarkey also contributed to the DMR that earned a time of 9:36.76 and is now the second-fastest in school history.