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SOURCES: Florida State exploring leaving ACC for new conference

There are two options on the table for the Seminoles.
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In case you've been living under a rock, there's an ongoing shift in college football that will dictate the future of the sport. For years, the Power Five conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12) have dominated the forefront of college football. In the near future, it appears that two megaconferences are being developed to compete with one another on the football field and the negotiation table.

Last week, it was announced that USC and UCLA would become members of the Big Ten in 2024. That was the conference's response to the news of the SEC adding Oklahoma and Texas in 2025, which broke last fall.

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Neither conference is done with additions and programs from the ACC have made their way to the plate.

Sources tell NoleGameday that Florida State is in the process of exploring a move to a new conference. The Seminoles have had discussions with the SEC and Big Ten since last summer. Both conferences have displayed an interest in adding the university to their group of current members, along with other schools in the ACC.

The SEC is trying to do whatever it can to stay ahead of the Big Ten's expansion plans. There has been some discussion around the conference pushing to get Oklahoma and Texas in the fold as soon as 2023 to leapfrog the Big Ten's addition of USC and UCLA. The SEC does not want to let the Big Ten creep into the southeast TV markets and will do everything in its power to stop that from becoming reality.

While the SEC would represent more regional matchups for Florida State, the Big Ten offers a tradition of excellence that could boost the university's academic reach.

NoleGameday has been informed that the conference is considering a concession to offer the Seminoles membership despite the fact they're not an AAU (Association of American Universities) school. This isn't something that all of the current members of the conference are necessarily privy about.

13 of the 14 programs that are currently in the Big Ten are affiliated with the AAU. Nebraska was previously a member of the organization but the school was expelled in 2011 for not meeting certain requirements. Alas, that didn't stop the Cornhuskers from departing the Big 12 for the Big Ten that same year. 

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reported last summer that the conference was only interested in adding schools that are members of the AAU outside of Notre Dame. To this point, that's been true as USC and UCLA both are members of the organization as well. If the Big Ten is ready to make a special designation to land Florida State, it would be interesting to see how the higher powers navigate through that decision.

Notre Dame is a wildcard in all of this as neither conference is quite sure where the school will end up yet. With that being said, the Big Ten makes a lot of sense with Notre Dame being located in the midwest. 

With the SEC and Big Ten poaching other conferences for their top programs, two megaconferences that could boast as many as 20 programs each are being pieced together right in front of our eyes. TV Deals from ESPN (SEC) and Fox (Big 10) during the next round of media negotiations are expected to net each conference in the range of $100 million annually per program.

The "leftover" ACC teams are expected to remain in the conference and form a partnership with the remains of the Pac-12. There have been other reports that the Big Ten is looking at adding multiple schools from the Pac-12. Depending on how that situation shakes out, the remaining programs from both sides will combine to make up a "mid-tier" conference.

Even with the interest from the SEC and Big Ten, Florida State has to find a way to legally circumvent the ACC's Grant of Rights, which isn't set to expire until 2036. In 2013, each president or chancellor signed a deal to surrender their respective schools' media rights to the ACC with an original expiration date of June 30, 2027. However, the agreement was extended for nine more years in 2016 to provide increased television revenue and to get the ACC Network launched.

The Grant of Rights is to be executed based on ESPN's agreement. For instance, if new teams are added to the conference via a PAC-12 merger, the current ACC Grant of Rights would be invalidated. In that same scenario, a new GoR would have to be drafted and that would allow Florida State to freely leave for a new conference. The reality is that ESPN has all of the power here. Technically the company could reverse course on its deal with the ACC if the profit margins from the SEC expansion outweigh the cost of abanding the ACC Network. And they probably will.

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Considering the SEC's massive deal with ESPN, the sources went on to state that they believe the ACC's Grant of Rights will only be invalidated if premiere programs such as Florida State agree to join the SEC instead of the Big Ten. If worst comes to worst, the Seminoles can put a team of lawyers together to scour through the details and find a loophole.

The numbers being tossed around don't give the Seminoles much of a choice in the matter. Either join the SEC or Big Ten to gain the funding to climb back amongst college football's elite or risk competing with the two megaconferences while holding a dwindling budget that will pale in comparison to what the big names in the sport will be able to provide.

Stick with NoleGameday for more coverage of this developing situation.

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