Why Clemson, Florida State to the SEC ain’t happening

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A thinly-sourced report out Monday linked Clemson and Florida State to discussions about trying to join the SEC, which both schools have not surprisingly denied, in large part because the idea makes little sense.

It all comes down to the grant of media rights that former ACC Commissioner John Swofford extracted back in 2016 ahead of the launch of the ACC Network.

This tethers member schools to the ACC more than even the exit fee that member schools looking to leave would have to also pay.

The grant has to do with that a school makes from the media rights to all of its home games.

We’re talking untold tens of millions of dollars here, through 2036.

I’m seeing it written that, well, there’s a way around this, of course, as there’s a way around everything.

If Clemson and FSU were to leave the ACC for the SEC, and the resulting turmoil would cause the ACC to fold, then, well, the media rights issue is moot, now, isn’t it?

Sure, but that’s forgetting something important.


The Worldwide Leader, beginning in 2024, is the exclusive rights holder to SEC football and men’s basketball.

This is why you’re seeing Texas and Oklahoma beginning the process to make the move from the Big 12, which splits its media rights between ESPN and Fox in a deal that expires in 2025.

Which is when Texas and Oklahoma are signaling that they’re going to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

ESPN already has an SEC Network, and also is the ACC’s partner in the ACC Network, which the broadcaster has been working for the past two years to get carriage on major cable providers like Comcast, which Commissioner Jim Phillips seems to think is imminent at this point.

Texas and Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for the SEC makes sense because the Big 12’s TV deals are expiring, and Texas, Oklahoma, the SEC and ESPN can make tons more money if they all work together.

Clemson and FSU leaving the ACC for the SEC maybe gives Clemson and FSU a chance at more money from the SEC, assuming ESPN ups its payouts in their already ironed-out 10-year deal set to begin in 2024.

Otherwise, you have not two, but four more sets of hands out for a piece of the already baked pie.

Clemson and FSU to the SEC, then, makes no sense for ESPN, which would have to pay out more money to the SEC, and also put at risk its multimillion-dollar investment in the ACC Network.

ESPN’s dream is to be able to charge millions of cable, satellite and streaming subscribers a few bucks a month to watch both the SEC Network and ACC Network.

If Clemson and FSU leave the ACC, pushing that conference into oblivion, ESPN loses a few bucks a month times millions of subscribers.

That’s why Clemson and Florida State to the SEC ain’t going to happen.

The answer, as with everything, comes down to money.

Story by Chris Graham

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