Clemson, FSU ‘Have Explored’ Drastic Move To Leave ACC That Would Leave Them Conference-Less

Clemson and Florida State players lineup across one another at the line of scrimmage.

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Conference realignment talks continue to surround the PAC 12 and ACC, sparking a feeling of uncertainty throughout college sports. One outlet has given insight into Clemson and FSU’s thought process.

The two most notable ACC programs, at least on the football field, are reportedly growing “stir-crazy” as they mull options on leaving the league.

Brandon Marcello of 24/7 Sports states that the schools have explored a drastic measure that would leave them without a conference in the near future.

These realignment moves have been made for one reason. Money.

Television deals have driven teams to jump ship in pursuit of greener pastures. The PAC 12 is currently without a media rights agreement for the foreseeable future after swinging and missing with the major networks.

The most recent update suggests that Apple is the most likely partner but at a price much lower than Power Five competitors. The streaming service supposedly offered somewhere in the range of $20-$25 million annually for each team, which falls well short of totals in the Big Ten and SEC.

For that reason, we saw USC and UCLA make the decision to join the B1G last offseason. This season will be their last in the Conference of Champions.

Colorado joined suit this summer as they’ll be headed to the Big XII in 2024.

The loss of those three members has seemingly caused a domino effect as Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Stanford have each been linked to other leagues.

The loss of one or more members could signal the end of the PAC 12 as we know it.

The ACC, on the other hand, is on the opposite side of the spectrum. While the PAC 12 has no TV partner, the ACC is locked into a contract through 2036.

At the time that deal was struck with ESPN, it seemed like a win for the conference. Now, as media rights revenues skyrocket, the long-term agreement is turning out to be a mistake.

ACC teams debate a departure.

Earlier this summer, a group of ACC members joined forces in order to send a message to the league. Clemson and FSU led that charge as they looked for ways to either leave the conference or change its revenue structure.

The Tigers and Seminoles aren’t happy staying put while they watch other less notable programs earn boatloads of cash. As a way of appeasing the big boys, the ACC amended its model to reward its top performers.

Plans for the new model, which is set to start during the 2024-25 academic year, haven’t been finalized, but the “success incentives” are expected to reward schools with postseason success with a far larger piece of distribution.

That change still might not be enough.

Florida State leaders were heard this week saying that an exit is imminent.

The issue with leaving comes in the form of a grant of rights agreement that would force defectors to revert moneys made outside of the ACC back to the conference. That GOR was signed as part of the media rights deal.

FSU is on record saying that the document won’t stop them from taking action.

Clemson and FSU ‘have explored’ independence.

Brandon Marcello spoke about the Tigers and Seminoles growing stir-crazy in the ACC. He suggested that the schools have looked into going independent a la Notre Dame.

“One option Clemson and Florida State have explored is independence, much like Notre Dame in football,” Marcello wrote. “For over a year, the two schools have teamed with seven ACC schools to explore how and whether they could break the conference’s grant of rights.”

Being independent was something often seen in the old days of college football as it gave flexibility in scheduling.

Unfortunately, it’s become much more difficult in today’s college sports landscape. With only four current independents (Notre Dame UCONN, UMass, and Army), it’s actually tougher to fill the slate as everyone else is tied to an eight- or nine-game conference schedule.

It’s also much less lucrative, unless you’re Notre Dame who holds a TV deal with NBC, while it also places teams at a disadvantage when trying to secure postseason bids.

For those reasons, it seems unlikely that FSU and Clemson would realistically consider independence. Still, it’s apparently something they’ve looked into.

Whether that’s a legitimate option or just another threat for the ACC is unknown.

The teams have until August 15 to notify the league should they plan to play elsewhere in 2024.