Analyzing how the dueling FSU-ACC lawsuits could be the league's death knell

On3 imageby:Sam Gillenwater02/27/24


Of all the storylines surrounding college athletics, realignment has been one that has started to slow down compared to others. That could very much change, though, if we get the eventual outcome in the legal battle between Florida State and the ACC.

On3’s Andy Staples and Pete Nakos drafted their top headlines from this offseason so far during Staples’ show on Tuesday. In those selections, Staples eventually picked the staredown between the Seminoles and Atlantic Coast Conference, which Nakos agreed would be significant depending on its result in the future.

The ACC sues Florida State before Florida State can sue the ACC,” said Staples. “They both end up dueling lawsuits.”

“That’s another one that could be number one in, like, two years,” Nakos concurred.

Staples then dove into the details of why he thinks this is as notable as it is. For one, assuming they actually take it to trial, the outcome would deal a brutal blow to the other from either standpoint. However, for two, they may never actually make it to court based on potential ways for Florida State to regain their rights.

“We don’t know how this is going to end. We do know that neither side wants to take this thing to trial,” said Staples. “The results of losing a trial are pretty disastrous, actually more disastrous for the ACC than they are for Florida State. Florida State being stuck in the ACC until 2036 would be viewed as a disaster by them. So I think they will settle eventually and it will allow Florida State out. Which will allow Clemson out, which will allow North Carolina out.”

“There’s a number somewhere. I didn’t say the number was low. The number is very high but the ACC had to admit there’s a number,” Staples continued. “They have to say it’s a commercial possibility. It’s just an alternative – you could pay for those rights back. I get that but you have to understand that they spent 10 years pretending that there was no number, that there was no price. There’s a price. We know there’s a price because Texas and Oklahoma bought their way out of the Big 12 one the last year. There’s a number and Florida State may get to that number. Private equity may plow in enough money or there may be a way that they get to the number as the ACC sees it now.”

From there, either outcome could spell the end of the ACC as we know it. If they lose the case, it becomes a free for all with every member up for grabs. If they just let the Seminoles settle, it then shows the rest of the schools that they’re willing to budge.

Neither result would provide an optimistic outcome for the future of the league according to Staples and Nakos

“The ACC, the second they actually set a number? The clock ticks on the conference,” Staples said.

“The minute Florida State leaves? You’ve got to consider, like, how big of a brand that is, what it means to ESPN who has the grant of rights. Then, also, how, like, then there’s precedent that Clemson or North Carolina or Virginia or Miami could leave,” Nakos added. “You lose two of those? Like, it’s over for the ACC.”

Plenty still has to play out between those in Charlotte and those in Tallahassee in regards to this matter. Still, considering what’s at stake for the ACC specifically, Staples suggests that they cut their losses in some sense in order to try and avoid an all-out collapse.

“They’re going to take this as far as they can go,” said Staples. “If there’s a non-zero chance that they might lose? They have to think about a settlement. If they lose, everybody can leave for free.”