While the Big Ten and SEC both inked major media rights contracts in the last couple of years, the ACC remains locked in a deal with ESPN that doesn't expire in 2036. That has some of the conference's bigger brands feeling antsy as they watch many of the sport's top programs continue to separate themselves financially. During a board of trustees meeting Wednesday, Florida State president Richard McCullough lamented on the gap in revenue projections between ACC schools and the country's top two conferences.
"We are seeing large media deals that have been made like the Big Ten and the SEC, which in many ways -- and perhaps it's an exaggeration -- have created an existential crisis in many ways for Florida State University," McCullough said during Wednesday's meeting. "We will be $30 million per school, per year behind in our gap in conference distribution with contracts that are said to go through 2036. This current situation presents a very difficult situation for us. ... Without increasing revenue, we will face major challenges in being able to compete in football, as the landscape is changing dramatically, with our ability to compete in NIL, coaching salaries and attractive facilities to continue to build our brand and be competitive."
McCullough went on to say the Seminoles "will at some point consider leaving the ACC" barring "radical change in revenue distribution." Other trustees were even more candid on a potential exit from the conference. FSU trustee Drew Weatherford stated, "it's not a matter of if we leave [the ACC], but how and when we leave." FSU trustee Justin Roth additionally called for an exit to come within the next year.
Wednesday's meeting is hardly the first time FSU officials have publicly aired grievances regarding the revenue gap. During a previous board meeting, Seminoles athletic director Michael Alford vowed FSU, "must do something, because we are a brand" in regards to the impact of media rights deals in college athletics.
Under the ACC's current deal, member schools reportedly received a total distribution of approximately $39.4 million for Fiscal Year 2022. SEC and Big Ten schools, in contrast, reportedly received payouts around $49.9 million and $58.8 million, respectively. The numbers for those two leagues are only set to balloon as the Big Ten enters this season with CBS, NBC and Fox Sports worth more than $1 billion annually. The SEC, meanwhile, enters an exclusive 10-year deal with ESPNworth an estimated $3 billion in total value in 2024.
Oklahoma and Texas set off the latest wave of conference with their decisions to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. USC and UCLA announced in 2022 that they would leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. The most recent move came July 27, when Colorado announced it will leave the Pac-12 for the Big 12. All five moves are set to take effect July 1, 2024.