Friedlander: Why the ACC needs FSU to beat Louisville and get to the payoff, err, Playoff
Florida State didn’t make a lot of friends around the ACC last summer when its Board of Trustees held a public gripe session to complain that the conference is preventing its football team from being nationally competitive while threatening to leave if its school isn’t allocated a disproportionate share of the league’s revenue.
Those hard feelings may have softened over the past 3 months.
But it’s likely they haven’t completely disappeared.
That’s why it would be easy to assume that those around the conference will be pulling, if not outwardly then under their breath, for Louisville to serve FSU a heaping portion of humble pie when the teams meet in Charlotte on Saturday for the ACC championship.
That’s not the case, though. Or at least it shouldn’t be.
Because unless you have a specific emotional attachment to the school or Jeff Brohm’s surprising Year 1, you should be all in for the favored Seminoles.
That’s not a knock against the Cardinals and it shouldn’t disparage anything they’ve accomplished. Their meteoric rise from 8th in the league’s preseason poll to a well-deserved spot in title game is remarkable.
Their 10-2 record (7-1 ACC) and No. 14 Playoff ranking are anything but a fluke or the product of a soft schedule, as some have suggested.
Just ask Notre Dame.
It’s just that as far as the ACC is concerned, this isn’t the time or place for warm and fuzzy feel-good stories.
Given the circumstances, the conference desperately needs No. 4 FSU to win Saturday and do it impressively enough to convince the College Football Playoff Committee that it deserves a spot in its national championship bracket.
And not just because a victory and the potential reward that comes with it would go a long way toward debunking the Seminoles’ claim of being competitively disadvantaged by their conference membership.
Or to remind the folks in Tallahassee of why the late, great Bobby Bowden convinced them to choose the ACC in the first place in 1992. That it was and continues to be the path of least resistance toward contending for national championships.
“They did invite us to join the SEC,” Bowden told Brandon Marcello of 247 Sports in an interview shortly before his death in 2021. “It would have been hard wading through that SEC. Too many good teams in there.”
It’s not that the ACC doesn’t have its share of good teams. It does. Of the 4 national championships won by programs outside of the SEC over the past 17 seasons, 3 belong to the ACC – FSU in 2013 and Clemson in 2016 and 18.
While getting the Seminoles into the Playoff in the final year of its current 4-team format isn’t likely to change the negative national perception that continues to hang over the conference like an annoying black cloud, it would provide the league with a benefit that’s even more beneficial.
And badly needed.
Even more important than the competitive statement it would make is the significant financial windfall having a team among the final 4 would provide. With Louisville having suffered its 2nd loss of the season and dropping out of contention last week against Kentucky, undefeated FSU is the ACC’s only realistic hope for cashing in after moving back up to No. 4 in the latest Playoff rankings announced Tuesday.
The difference between getting in and not getting in is $6 million. That’s the amount conferences will receive for each team they send to the national semifinals, held this year at the Sugar and Rose Bowls on Monday, Jan. 1.
There’s also a $4 million payout for those selected to the non-Playoff New Year’s 6 games, of which the ACC has a tie-in with the Orange Bowl.
That’s a huge chunk of change for a conference facing a growing multi-million revenue gap — potentially as high as $20 million or more per tam — behind its 2 main conference rivals despite bringing in more money than it ever has from its media rights and other deals, with another infusion of cash on the way once it adds 3 new schools in 2024-24.
The bad news for FSU is that the extra $10 million comes a year too early. The ACC’s new performance-based revenue distribution model doesn’t go into effect until next year when the Playoff expands to 12 teams. So the Seminoles will have to share the spoils of their accomplishment with the other 13 members of the league.
Still, it should at least help them – and everyone else, for that matter – from falling any farther behind the SEC and Big Ten in the college sports arms race.
It’s also a much better source of income than courting new members. Especially since it comes without all the logistical nightmares associated with expanding all the way to Texas and California.