Time to throw a little more accelerant on the expansion fire, folks.
Tom D’Angelo of The Palm Beach Post is reporting this afternoon that Florida State “is forming a committee that will explore the university’s options concerning conference realignment.”
Andy Haggard — the chairman of FSU’s board of trustees — said that the school should be prepared for any scenario, “whether it’s moving to another conference or staying in the ACC and having a say in who else may join the conference.”
He also said that FSU has not been approached by the SEC and he said that the school “is very happy” in the ACC.
* First, Florida State is the best “name” get that the SEC could land at this point. While the Big Ten’s last two expansion moves have been Penn State and Nebraska (and they’ve talked with Texas and Notre Dame as well), the SEC’s last three expansion moves have been Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas A&M. Those are good schools, but they are not national television draws like Nebraska and Penn State. Florida State would be. Adding A&M and FSU, the SEC would be adding television markets and recruiting ground to the west and a major brand name to the east.
* Some believe there is a “gentleman’s agreement” among SEC schools that the league will not pursue a school from within a current member’s state borders. At MrSEC.com, we’ve been told by two SEC sources that no such agreement exists. Now, might some schools band together to block another school during the voting process? Possibly, but we don’t believe there is a definitive guideline on this topic.
* While some say SEC representatives haven’t forgotten that FSU spurned the league in the early 1990s, we point out that FSU spurned the league in the early 1990s. Meaning the school had an invite to turn down in the first place. If Florida didn’t jump in the way 20 years ago, would Florida — and others — jump in the way now?
* There’s also a pretty widely held belief that Alabama, Auburn and Georgia would also be anti-FSU because those schools have to recruit against the Seminoles. Well, they have to recruit against them now, too. And while the SEC might be a lure for some recruits, there are still plenty who would probably love to play for an FSU squad that can own the ACC and play for BCS titles every season. That doesn’t happen in the SEC. So we don’t buy the “they’d block ‘em for recruiting purposes” argument. If FSU would bring the league more money, I think the presidents at Alabama, Auburn and Georgia would convince themselves that it’s better to bring the Seminoles in and beat up on them… than to leave them out and let them own the ACC.
* Over the weekend, word emerged that the ACC was considering upping the exit penalties for schools looking to depart the league. Could FSU’s decision to form an expansion/realignment committee have anything to do with the ACC’s strong-arm tactic? Or might the ACC have gotten wind of FSU’s exploratory committee and then decided to press for bigger exit fees? The timing is certainly interesting. And why is FSU announcing the formation of this committee anyway? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just form the committee and meet in private? Why throw Chief Osceola’s headdress into the expansion ring?
* FSU officials have been awfully quiet regarding expansion. Earlier this summer, when it was reported that representatives for the school had talked with representatives for the SEC, the school president said that no conversations had taken place and that FSU was happy in the ACC. That’s a far cry from the numerous, pointed, no-two-ways-about-it denials that have come from Virginia Tech officials each time their school has been connected to the SEC via rumor or messageboard post.
* It’s certainly possible that SEC and FSU officials have had no contact. But it’s also possible — as we carefully spelled out in the last paragraph — that representatives, third parties and go-betweens have had some chats. It’s also possible that FSU’s decision to announce the formation of its committee is akin to Texas A&M announcing that it would start to look around for new conference options. We believe the announcement was clearly made for legal purposes. If FSU moves to a new conference, that conference is now protected from cries that it raided another league.
* As we have stated before, of all the schools located in the current SEC footprint, Florida State is the only one that brings value — real cash, dollar, money value — to the SEC. Not via new television markets. The SEC can claim the Florida markets as is. But through its overall clout and overall viewership draw. A Florida State game would draw more eyeballs from all across America, not just in SEC states or Florida markets. People from Boise to Topeka to Albany watch schools like Texas, Notre Dame, Penn State, Alabama, Florida and Florida State when they’re on TV. Disagree? Get back with us after the ratings are posted from this weekend’s Oklahoma-FSU matchup.
* The SEC might have zero to do with today’s announcement. But the odds suggest otherwise. If FSU leaves the ACC, it will be for the SEC, not the Big Ten, Big East or Pac-12. So flip a coin, people. Either FSU wants to have a say in what the ACC does next… or it’s eyeballing a departure to the SEC. And if it’s just wanting to have a greater say in the ACC’s future, why announce to the press that it’s formed an exploratory committee?