The college football world was turned on its head this week, with news that Texas and Oklahoma are seeking membership into the SEC.
From Burnt Orange Nation:
More than 24 hours after the explosive report from the Houston Chronicle rocked the college football world by breaking the news that the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners are ready to abandon the Big 12 in favor of a move to the SEC, the forward momentum hasn’t stopped.
But one key detail about what prompted Texas and Oklahoma to pursue options beyond the 27-year conference emerged with Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman reporting that the Big 12 asked its member institutions to sign a five-year extension of their television rights. The Longhorns are expected to formally decline that request next week.
Then, in an important development on Thursday evening, an emergency Big 12 conference call discussing Wednesday’s news did not include leaders from Texas and Oklahoma, seemingly a strong indicator of how close the schools are to making the jump to the SEC.
The result of that, of course, would be a conference that featured not just some of the richest programs in the sport, but the majority of the biggest “names,” forcing the rest of the sport to adapt to a new reality.
If teams want to be relevant, conferences are going to have to make moves — and fast.
The Tomahawk Nation team talks the possibilities for FSU below.
The ACC should exist for non-revenue sports and basketball
From a macro level, the only thing for FSU to do is stay relevant and good enough to be included in the 48 or so teams that eventually break off their football programs from the current structure as we know it. Conferences, as we think of them today, will be for hoops and non-revenue sports, and the ACC is a great fit for FSU in that regard—both from a competitive standpoint and a travel standpoint. The women’s programs, in particular, have seen a tremendous rise during FSU’s ACC membership.
With as fast as the college athletic landscape is evolving these days, my hunch is the football split will happen sooner rather than later. (It’s critical to keep in mind that the conferences already control much of the college football bowl and playoff format, as opposed to basketball where the NCAA Tournament is directly controlled by the NCAA). Those 48 (or 40, or 54, or whatever) schools will just form their own schedule structure, playoff, and an advisory board of sorts and just tell networks to start making football-specific deals with them.
With streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu fully grasping that live sports are the last bastion for big-time advertising dollars—especially in the 18-50 demographic—there is ample room for creative and competitive TV contracts. These schools’ football programs would play in the “American College Football Independent League,” for example, and their hoops and non-revenue sports would compete in one of the regional conferences, essentially like Notre Dame and BYU operate now.
So as long as FSU stays relevant for the next 7-10 years, all of this short term conference stuff is interesting to talk about but ultimately not significant for the LONG term. If the ACC is to do anything, in the short-to-medium term, it would be to find a way to lure Notre Dame in as a full-time member, and perhaps kick the tires on West Virginia joining should the Big 12 completely collapse.
ACC needs to expand
New ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips was asked during the ACC Kickoff media event if he had heard the news of realignment. Staying coy, he danced around the answer though made sure to say he was open to the idea of expansion.
Unless college football transitions to a Champion League-type sport, featuring only the “top” programs in the country, FSU’s best bet is expanding the ACC to include teams that will up its revenue.
The AAC, considered the “top” Group of 5 conference, would likely be where teams start to get plucked from first. UCF and USF are the natural immediate suggestions that come to mind, given their status as Florida schools, but it’s hard to imagine that Miami and FSU would want to cede any territory in the state. Memphis, located in the south and in a state ravenous for football, would also be a good idea. Houston and SMU also offer appealing additions in name recognition and location. In fact, most AAC schools make a lot of sense geographically to add to the league — the main issue is the perception from the overlords of college football who determine the worthiness of each conference.
FSU and the ACC need to make a move — and fast
Superconferences appear to be here. The ACC's Grant of Rights (GOR) TV deal through 2036 really hurts FSU, especially since the TV deals of nearly all the other leagues will have to be renewed in the next couple years. That opens the door for moves like the one Texas and OU are attempting right now. It raises the chances that FSU could get "locked out" of big-time money.
If Texas and OU do move to the SEC, I suspect the ACC will look to expand by poaching remaining Big12 teams. However, those teams may seek out the Pac12 instead, with the exception of West Virginia. I suspect that AAC teams will not bring enough eyeballs to bridge the gap with the $80M per school the Big 10's TV deal is likely to distribute annually by the end of the decade. Currently, the ACC projects to bring in $30M-$50M per school per year by then. If so, FSU would probably want to move to the Big 10, but again, is stuck because of the GOR. By the time FSU could move, it could be too late.
Collegiate athletes will likely, some day down the road, collectively bargain. I agree with Matt that it would make sense for the super conferences that are forming to then split away from the rest of the FBS and come together, pool all their TV revenue, and distribute it like a semi-pro league. Regardless of what happens now we'd like to think FSU is enough of a national brand to ensure its spot in such a conference.
A Big 10 and ACC Merger on the Horizon?
My, my, what an interesting 24 hours! I’ve never been shy of my disdain for the ACC and it’s former commissioner but OU and Texas just opened the realignment floodgates again, so it’s time to dream a little.
FSU won’t be in the SEC, of that I’m confident. If the SEC poached from the ACC it would target UNC (may settle for NC State) and Virginia (may settle for VT) to expand the footprint.
The GOR really complicates a lot of this but if the ACC is serious about keeping up with the SEC, it needs to be in contact with the Big Ten Conference right now. It seems as though the era of the Mega Conference/Super Conference (whatever you want to call it) is quickly approaching and in my mind, a B1G/ACC merger makes a lot of sense. The B1G will have to abandon its sanctimonious academic requirements to expand and a merger between the two conferences might also be what it takes to finally add in Notre Dame.
What remains to be seen with a merger like this is whether full inclusion happens or only the cream of the crop are included. Universities like Boston College and Wake Forest could be on thin ice and if they’re left out, the AAC may become an option for the lower-tier schools. We’ll see how much academic standards and past alliances mean once all that money starts talking...
Can you imagine FSU traveling to Michigan or Wisconsin in November? It could become a reality…
From the readers
If there’s true orange smoke about Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC, this could be our chance to become “Independent” again and re-imaged. Now we lose a LOT, like Matt said. But in a 40yd dash, why are we training for a marathon? Should we be trying to to leave the ACC when we just get our President and the new ACC Commissioner?
Will the ACC give us what they’ve always given us, even when we were leading the conference? If so, pass, eject and fight for the best deal.
Big 10: Ohio State, Indiana, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois
It has 14 members and getting a FSU & another powerhouse (say a Georgia Tech or a Virginia Tech) in a great market area would help in the money game. However, you are no longer in the southern footprint and impact logistical things such as travel, brand notoriety, and easier path to division championships/playoffs.
Big XII: Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas
Currently 10, will have 8 after losing Texas and Okey. They will be scrambling for members, but after losing the Longhorn Network, Texas boosters, and Oklahoma’s annual CFP expectations, who could they bring in to match that economical build, as well as create a better audience? We know from history that a Big East disappeared because of the sucking chest wound the other conferences riddled it with from taking the talent. Obviously if your two top providers of conference money in football leave said conference, does FSU want to leave a stingy conference for another one, with the possibility of conference shuttered in the near future?
American: Cincinnati, Tulsa, Memphis, UCF, SMU, Houston, Navy, Tulane, East Carolina, Temple, South Florida
11 current members, but predominantly G5 members. This keeps up in some Southeastern footprint and you play the Sailors and Marines of the Navy football team. As the American conference, you add: FSU; Army, Liberty, and BYU from the Independents; and Air Force from the MW. While this seems like a 16 conference of misfits, you can pitch it as ”The American Conference”, brought to you from the purchase of the freedom to watch by the dedicated service of the many. With Army and Liberty playing some good football lately, this might pose a different spotlight than greedy-as-sin businessmen. But will it match SEC funds? Not even close.
Or we can remain Independent and push for a package deal with ND to the SEC once they push an Arkansas or a Kentucky out to the Big 10 because of footprint, or to the XII because of the hemorrhage.
I didn’t mention Conference USA, PAC-12, MAC, SunBelt, or the MW to go to, because we are in Florida and/or aspiring for better situation rather than worse.
After all of this talk, I’m going to go listen to the awesome rendition of Nearer, My God, to Thee by Wallace Hartley…