Florida State University has called a special board of trustees meeting for Friday morning, with multiple reports indicating that FSU's athletic future in the Atlantic Coast Conference will be discussed.
As reported by CBS Sports, the board could approve a legal filing against the ACC, which would be the first true step in trying to break the so-called "ironclad" grant of rights that tethers its members through 2036. Several ACC members have spent the past year examining the conference's grant of rights, though Florida State has been its most vocal critic.
Florida State is a mere weeks removed from becoming the first undefeated power conference team to be left out of the College Football Playoff. That decision incensed officials around the state of Florida.
In previous public settings, the university has publicly acknowledged its desire to explore options outside of the ACC. At a board meeting in August, Florida State president Richard McCullough presented to the trustees the challenges of staying in the ACC while the league falls as much as $30 million per year in payouts behind the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten.
Said FSU trustee Drew Weatherford: "It's not a matter of if we leave [the ACC], but how and when we leave."
Should Florida State extricate itself, the ideal landing spot would be the SEC, according to Shehan Jeyarajah of CBS Sports, writing, "The league has established itself as the top dog in college football and the Seminoles fit neatly into the league footprint. However, there's plenty working against them. In-state rival Florida would almost certainly do anything in its power to block FSU from entering the league. For many SEC members, adding Florida State would be more of a threat than a benefit both in recruiting and on the field."
The Big Ten could be a reach as Plan B. Should both conferences reject the Seminoles, it would leave FSU in an unenviable position.
Meanwhile, the ACC has attempted to be aggressive in finding further compensation for its top members. In May, the league introduced "success incentives," allowing schools with postseason success to receive a larger piece of the distribution, Jeyarajah reported. "The new plan would have greatly benefitted Florida State had it made the CFP as it would have kept a large chunk of the conference payout — a difference that could get into the eight figures," he wrote. "But after the CFP snub, the additional money may not be enough."
Further complicating FSU's exit is the fact the ACC has the longest television contract and grant of rights of any FBS conference, having signed a 20-year agreement with ESPN in 2016. At least seven ACC schools have looked at the procedures for breaking the grant of rights but have all ultimately opted to stay put after investigating the details.
Buying out the TV contract would cost north of $120 million, per multiple reports. It would be a separate negotiation to break free of the grant of rights that would push well into additional hundreds of millions, according to Jeyarajah's report. Even then, industry experts told CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd in May that it's unlikely that any ACC schools would be able to join one of the two big conferences without taking a partial share, making for a shaky benefit.
Oregon and Washington took approximately 50 percent shares to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten through the end of its media rights deal. SMU is notably not taking television payout for seven years to join the ACC. Florida State might have to take a similar short-term cut make its case to another league.
Also in August, Florida State contemplated turning to private equity to raise funds. The school was in contact with JPMorgan Chase and private equity firm Sixth Street to consider options. Florida State could essentially raise money up front to pay for a potential grant of rights buyout and compensate the private equity group with money from future television rights deals and sponsorships, Jeyarajah reported.