Florida State And The Latest Conference Whirlwind

By now you have no doubt heard about Florida State stirring the pot a little bit when it comes to conference expansion. Maybe we just need something to talk about during the offseason, maybe they really are contemplating a move, who knows. All I know is when it comes to my speculation I am a solid 10% accurate at best, so I figured it was time to give my analysis on the latest on conference expansion so that you can all be prepared for what is no doubt never going to happen.

Let’s recap. Florida State’s higher ups have hinted that they are open to overtures from the Big 12, which basically means they are open game to any major conference, even the Pac 12 as we have seen Larry Scott’s complete disregard for geography in his previous expansion attempts. This set off a whole chain reaction of what is happening, what could be happening, what will never happen and all that good stuff.

So in the spirit of fueling the speculation fire, here’s what I think of this whole situation. The ACC has been hammering out a new TV contract for their conference. With Syracuse and Pitt joining the ranks soon, it makes sense they could get a better contract than in times past. However, things didn’t pan out all that well.

For one, the ACC is not like the Big 12. They have an equal distribution model. So even thought Wake Forest and Florida State don’t bring anything close to equal benefits for the conference’s TV contract, they both get the same payout from said contract. The Big 12 basically gives everything to Texas, most of the rest to Oklahoma and let’s the others fight it out for the scraps. This makes sense since it is basically Texas and Oklahoma that bring in all the revenue. When people tune in to the Texas-Kansas game, I can guarantee you they aren’t tuning in to watch Kansas.

So the ACC does things differently, and it seems fair, at least to the Wake Forest’s and North Carolina State’s of the conference. But what about Florida State? What about Miami? Clemson? Georgia Tech? All of them surely realize they bring all the value to the conference from a football perspective. Florida State was probably not super satisfied that their in-state rival’s in the SEC, the Florida Gators, will get millions more in payout from TV revenue each year.

This no doubt caused unrest and that’s why we got the comments we did from Florida State. They simply are not happy with the revenue distribution and rightfully so. I certainly don’t blame them. But as soon as they said they were open to the Big 12, you know some ears perked up in the Big Ten and SEC.

First, let’s talk about the possibility of Florida State in the Big 12. Before we get there, we have to talk about the ultimate plan for the major college conferences. Major college sports is headed to four super conferences of 16 teams. Plain and simple. They know it, we know it, it’s just a matter of timing. Slowly but surely they are getting there. So everyone wants to make sure they have the right pieces to have a great TV contract as well as a balanced conference.

So what do we have in the Big 12? Currently there are 10 members, as Texas A&M and Missouri left but TCU and West Virginia took their places. First things first- the Big 12 wants, no, needs, to get to 12 teams. The lack of a conference championship game is hurting. They need the exposure, the revenue, the competition, all of it. So their first move is no doubt going to be getting up to 12 teams. With Florida State saying they are available, you know they are all ears. They have to be feverishly putting together a proposal at this very moment.

But who comes with? You’re a new and improved Big 12, you’re stable, you have big name schools, you can basically have your pick of the lot. So who do you pick? Florida State would probably be at the top of the list. Great school, great athletics, and located in Florida. It really doesn’t get any better than that. But who else do you go after?

There are a few good choices here. You could go after Miami (FL) so that Florida State has a partner coming in and a natural rival. You could go for Georgia Tech or Clemson for similar reasons. You could go for Virginia Tech because that also fits in with West Virginia. You have a lot of options.

I think at the end of the day they would want Miami. Not so much because the Big 12 wants Miami but because Florida State would likely make Miami part of the deal. And the Big 12 would probably not mind one bit.

But wait, what about the SEC and the Big Ten? The SEC has Florida already, and you know they don’t want to see another school in their state in their conference. Kills a big recruiting advantage. And the SEC has an interesting rule. It takes 25% of the membership to veto any new member. In the past that was only 3 schools since they had 12. So what happened? Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all agreed to veto the admission of the rivals of each other. So no Florida State, no Miami, no Georgia Tech and no Clemson. They all saw to that.

But now you have Texas A&M and Missouri. In order to get 25% they need 3.5 schools, so the conference likely will round that up to 4. Does anyone join the gang of three? Perhaps they can get Texas A&M in on the action if they agree to keep all other Texas schools out. Who knows, all I know is, the possibility of Florida State finally getting in (after turning them down years ago by the way) is coming together. But all in all I would say this is extremely unlikely.

So how about the Big Ten? I’m sure they would love to get a foothold in Florida but Delaney strikes me as too conservative to make a big play here. The Big Ten will get to 16 teams, no doubt about it. Then instead of the B1G they can be the B16. But I have a feeling they are expanding east, not south, and they are all converting to Catholicism in an attempt to woo Notre Dame into the ranks.

The most likely spot for Florida State to land is really going to be the Big 12, and their most likely partner in expansion is Miami. I think it is more likely they both stay home in the ACC to be honest. But let’s follow this line of thinking in supposing they do move.

Should this happen, the ACC gets into Big East mode. Survival, plain and simple. Since Uconn and Rutgers have basically begged the ACC for invites, they will get them. And in order to keep a presence in Florida, I believe they would add South Florida from the Big East as well. Since that puts them at 15 they would probably have a plan for 16, so I would expect that final team to be, and this might sound weird, Vanderbilt. Fits in academically and is a growing market. I doubt Vandy leaves the SEC, but I bet they are the ACC’s top prospect.

If that falls through, Notre Dame is next on the list. If they can’t swing that (which I doubt they can) then I’m sure they settle for the best they can find, probably a Cincinnati or Louisville. If they can get Cincinnati, Uconn, South Florida and Rutgers all at once to leave the Big East, then the ACC survives and the Big East crumbles as San Diego State and Boise State would have no interest in staying. And the basketball members wouldn’t want to stick around a conference with Houston and SMU bringing them down. Everyone scatters and that’s a wrap.

But something much more intriguing could happen if any conference commissioner has the foresight or the balls to make it happen. And Notre Dame is the key. At some point I believe Notre Dame has to join a conference. If they think the Big East is headed for disaster they will bail and the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 are all candidates. At the end of the day, the Big 12 makes the most sense because of the unequal distribution. They can write their own contract in essence. They can keep their network deal. It just makes the most sense.

BYU has made no secret that they are only independent as long as Notre Dame is. Should Notre Dame join a conference, BYU wants to join the same one. The Big 12 would have no problem adding both and getting to 14. If they do, they will be eyeing 15 and 16, and it will be in the ACC once again. My guess is Georgia Tech and Clemson make the most sense. At 16 teams you need four pods of four teams each. Florida State and Miami would need two partners, and Georgia Tech and Clemson make perfect sense. If they feel the ACC is unstable, they will bolt. But to keep West Virginia happy it’s possible Pitt gets a look too.

At this point the Big 12 has built the first real super conference and it will be sustainable:

Pod 1: Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson
Pod 2: Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Pod 3: Texas, TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech
Pod 4: BYU, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Iowa State

It’s only a matter of days before others follow suit. If the ACC teams suddenly become up for grabs, the Big Ten will get in on that action. If they want to add 4 to get to 16, here are some candidates, in order of likelihood of joining:

Duke
North Carolina
Rutgers
Virginia Tech
Maryland
Uconn
Wake Forest
Virginia

There’s really no telling which schools they would be able to get as they would be directly competing with the SEC. But the SEC only needs to add two schools. Who do they go after? I think there’s no doubt they want to get into North Carolina and/or Virginia if they can.

So the real question is, which schools stay together? Which conferences do they prefer? I think at the end of the day North Carolina and Duke stay together and since the SEC probably wouldn’t want both, they prefer the Big Ten. Better fit with academics as well.

With what is left, I think the SEC goes after Virginia Tech hard. And I think they get them. A crumbling ACC doesn’t look very good at this point. After that they go with the best that’s left and I think that is North Carolina State. I know that sounds weird, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State in the SEC. But Mike Slive knows how to adapt and he will do what he needs to keep his conference on top.

Where does that leave us? That leaves two more teams for the Big Ten. And they can really have their pick. But since academics is important as well as location and all that other stuff, I think the Big Ten settles on Rutgers and Maryland. The Western teams of the Big East then drop out and the remaining football members join what is left of the ACC and the Big East goes all basketball only.

Boy that sure would be crazy. Where would that leave all the conferences? Unfortunately for the Pac 12 it leaves them at 12. There just aren’t enough schools that fit for them outwest. They just have to hope UNLV and Nevada pick things up.

For the Big Ten it adds North Carolina, Duke, Maryland and Rutgers.

For the Big 12 it adds Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Notre Dame and BYU

For the SEC it adds Virginia Tech and North Carolina State

The Big East loses Boise State and San Diego State back to the MWC.

The ACC brings in Louisville, Cincinnati, Uconn, South Florida, Memphis and UCF to join remaining members Wake Forest, Virginia, Boston College, Syracuse and Pitt.

Would this be good for college football? I guess, why not. Anything that gets rid of the Big East is good in my book. And if the ACC is collateral damage, so be it. This makes the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC the powerhouse conferences left, with the ACC and MWC/CUSA merge thing being second tier and all others being posers who belong in the FCS. At that point our four team playoff may very well be the conference champions from the big four conferences.

Of course, none of this will probably happen. Chances are Florida State stays put and nothing changes. But there are a few things you can get from this.

1. Conferences are headed to 16 teams. More teams in more markets means more TV revenue, a lot more. Conferences cannot ignore this and will pursue to get there. It probably won’t happen all at once, but 16 team super conferences are coming.

2. When the big conferences all start expanding past 12 members, Notre Dame will finally join a conference. BYU has tied itself up with Notre Dame, so the likely landing place for both would appear to be the Big 12 at some point.

3. The Big East is only going to keep going down hill. Conferences will expand, and the Big East will lose membership. Chances are they will become a basketball only conference.

And now, since I’ve already established that conference commissioners are reading this blog, let me give some advice to these guys.

1. If anyone from the ACC is reading, invite Uconn and Rutgers. Now. Without delay. Put an end to any rumors of your conference going under. Show some strength and resilience. Lead the way in going to 16 teams. We all know you are holding out for Notre Dame and waiting for them to decide on a conference. It’s never going to happen for you. Stop waiting. Get to 16 teams. Now. Make four pods:

Pod 1: Syracuse, Uconn, Boston College, Rutgers
Pod 2: Pitt, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Pod 3: North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest
Pod 4: Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson

Every team plays the other 3 in their pod and 2 from each of the other pods, one at home, one on the road, on an alternating basis. Two top teams play in conference championship at season’s end. Do this. And do it now.

2. If anyone from the Big Ten is reading, expand. Now. If you wait, all the good teams that might have been willing to move will be gone. You’ve got Rutgers and Uconn already who would be more than willing to join. Make a play for Vanderbilt. Pressure Notre Dame. Do anything possible to expand or when you try everything will have settled and you’ll still be stuck at 12 and your cable channel won’t have anywhere to expand.

3. If anyone from the Big 12 is reading, go get Florida State and Miami, now. Set everything in motion so you can position yourself well to take the cream off the top of the ACC. If you wait things will settle down and you’ll be stuck at 10, waiting for Notre Dame and BYU to make it 12 and that can take who knows how long.

Basically, whoever acts first right now is going to position themselves the best. It’s going to be interesting to see how things all play out.

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