Florida State, Clemson’s Exit Plans Meet Stiff Resistance From ACC at Spring Meetings

Florida State, Clemson’s Exit Plans Meet Stiff Resistance From ACC at Spring Meetings article feature image

Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images. Pictured: A pylon with a Clemson and ACC logo.

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — A quick recap from Wednesday’s final day of the ACC’s spring meetings: Florida State and Clemson desperately want out, but the ACC isn’t going down without a fight: preferably a long, exhausting drawn-out melee.

Florida State and Clemson want to skip off to greener pastures and larger media rights paydays in the Big Ten or SEC as soon as possible.

However, the ACC is using a strategy from an ACC legend — former UNC coach Dean Smith’s four corners offense — to take the air out of FSU and Clemson’s attempts to leave the league.

Using stall ball at its finest, the ACC is in no hurry to reach a settlement with either school. It realizes if FSU and Clemson exit, they might start a conga line out the door.

ACC sources said the league will fight the Florida State and Clemson lawsuits to the “Nth degree.” Can you force a school to remain in a conference? No. But you can refuse to settle and make it as costly as possible.

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said he’s “optimistic” the FSU and Clemson relationships can be salvaged but added, “Am I going to fight and protect the ACC? Absolutely.”

It’s already been nearly six months since Florida State filed its lawsuit against the ACC on Dec. 22, 2023 — time flies when you’re getting sued — and Clemson filed a lawsuit vs. the ACC on March 19.

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Have the Magnificent 7 schools been reduced to Double Trouble?

“It’s [the dueling lawsuits] difficult, it’s disruptive, it’s harmful, but that’s the world we live in,” Phillips said.

Ironically, the conclusion of the ACC’s 2024 spring meetings was exactly a year to the day that news broke about the Magnificent 7 schools that had been talking behind the scenes about how to improve their situation and potentially create their own conference.

All seven of the Magnificent 7 — Clemson, FSU, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech — fully participated in the spring meetings, along with soon-to-be new members Cal, Stanford and SMU.

There never seems to be a dull moment at these meetings, and this year was no exception.

On Day 1 of the meetings, UNC Board of Trustee member Dave Boliek said he was “advocating” for the Tar Heels to join a higher-revenue league like the SEC or Big Ten.

“That’s what we need to do,” Boliek said in a board meeting back in North Carolina. “We need to do everything we can to get there. Or the alternative is the ACC is going to have to reconstruct itself. I think all options are on the table.”

Phillips downplayed those comments as “campus discussions and politics.”

Meanwhile, Florida State’s Board of Trustees previously said they wanted an exit plan from the ACC by August 2024. Florida State athletic director Michael Alford said this week “that’s a legal proceeding that I can’t cover.”

Alford was asked how long an exit from the league might take.

“If you go back to the president, myself, we’ve never come out and said, ‘Hey, we want to leave the conference,’ ” Alford said. “We have not notified the league we are leaving.”

Actually, they have.

In FSU’s December lawsuit vs. the ACC, buried on Page 32 of FSU’s 38-page complaint, item No. 151 says: “FLORIDA STATE be deemed to have issued its formal notice of withdrawal from the ACC under Section 1.4.5 of the ACC Constitution effective August 14, 2023.”

ACC sources said even though it’s in FSU’s lawsuit, it considers the written notice of withdrawal “a legal maneuver.”

college football-odds-picks-predictions-previews-betting-cheat sheet-week 0-saturday-august 27-2022
Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Renegade and Osceola, Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL.

So, for now, FSU remains an ACC member. But for how much longer? Both Phillips and Alford said everything remains professional and both parties are working together. I cannot confirm if either one of them had their fingers crossed or not.

As far as the ACC’s desire to settle with Florida State or Clemson, the percentage chance is between zero and a number less than zero. Multiple ACC sources said this week the league has “absolutely no incentive to settle” with the two schools.

FSU’s general counsel has estimated it would cost $572 million to exit the ACC and break free from the league’s grant of rights that runs through 2036.

However, FSU claimed in a lawsuit that the ACC’s deal with ESPN includes an option that the network must execute by February 2025 to extend the deal through 2036. If not executed, ESPN could walk away in 2027.

“We’re working with [ESPN] on a piece of the contract,” Phillips said. “The partnership is not going away or being affected in a negative way at all.”

Florida State’s position is that “we’ll just wait” and let the court proceedings play out.

“We have great partners in this conference, great relationships,” Alford said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to do what’s best for Florida State and look at the changing environment of collegiate athletics and make sure we’re there to be successful.

“[Clemson and FSU] are two institutions that want success and see a changing environment and want programs to compete at the very top level. [Schools] that understand to compete at a top level, we need to have our options available, and want their programs to compete at an elite national level.”

Florida State officials have said they expect the school to be at about a $40 million annual disadvantage compared to schools in the SEC and Big Ten. That number increases to closer to $50 million, including the new College Football Playoff revenue distribution model that begins in 2026.

Despite the estimated $572 million price tag to leave the ACC, Florida State’s trustees want the ACC in its rearview mirror as soon as possible.

“The alternative for us staying in this conference for the next 13 years is death by a thousand cuts,” FSU Trustee Justin Roth said last year. “Waiting is not the answer.”

FSU Trustee Drew Weatherford was even more direct.

“It’s not a matter of if we leave (the ACC), but how and when we leave,” he said.

How and when? Not anytime soon if the ACC has its way and it's willing to wait as long as possible. The question is, who blinks first?

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