Certain ACC members are unsatisfied with the conference’s third-fiddle media rights distribution, and several have examined the bonds of the conference’s media rights agreement.
With schools like Clemson and Florida State exhibiting a wandering eye, there can be only two conferences on a waffling ACC school’s dream destination list: the SEC or the Big Ten.
Navigating to either, though, would require clearance of a tall hurdle: The ACC’s media rights deal runs through 2036, and that deal has successfully glued its membership to the conference, so far.
On this episode of “SEC Football Unfiltered,” a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams highlight four ACC schools that should interest the SEC for further expansion, if those schools somehow find a way out of the conference’s media rights agreement.
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Of course, slithering away from that deal would come with multiple barriers, including a steep financial penalty. The deal has shown itself to be binding enough to keep the ACC together, even as the SEC raided the Big 12 and the Big Ten penetrated the Pac-12.
TOPPMEYER: If ACC splinters, SEC must feast and stick Big Ten with the scraps
ADAMS: Tennessee football will lose something meaningful when SEC drops division play
Probably, the ACC’s deal will continue to hold, but if the league fractures, the SEC cannot afford for the Big Ten to enjoy dibs on the top ACC fare.
Here’s the case for four ACC schools that make sense for the SEC:
The SEC-FSU flirtation stretches back more than 30 years. The Seminoles were a prime candidate for the SEC when it wanted to expand from 10 to 12 teams, but Bobby Bowden favored the easier route in the ACC at that time. All this time later, FSU’s location, brand and football pedigree and passion still make sense for the SEC.
Excluding Notre Dame and teams in the Big Ten or SEC, Clemson ranks among the most-watched teams in college football. A program already housing a rivalry with South Carolina probably would attract even more eyeballs playing against the likes of Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. In past rounds of expansion, the SEC has factored in location, fit and identity. Clemson checks those boxes.
Grabbing the Tar Heels would grow the SEC’s footprint into a neighboring state, just like previous seizures of South Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma have done. UNC is a significant brand, albeit known more for basketball. That’s fine, because the SEC hasn’t won a men’s basketball championship since 2012. That weighs on SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. Blueblood UNC would provide a hoops remedy, while bringing Charlotte, a growing metropolis, into the SEC’s bosom.
Does the SEC need Miami? Probably not. It’s south of the South and doesn’t exactly fit the conference’s identity of rabid college sports towns. But, would the SEC really want the Big Ten gaining a foothold into a football hotbed like Florida? No. Adding the Hurricanes would be playing defense against the SEC’s super-league rival.
Later in the episode
— The eight- or nine-game conference schedule debate will spill into the SEC spring meetings next week in Miramar, Florida. Adams and Toppmeyer make their final pitch for the SEC to add a ninth conference game.
— Is Urban Meyer coming to an SEC sideline near you? Adams says yes. He doesn’t buy Meyer’s coaching retirement claim.
Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is the columnist for the Tennessean. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or check out the SEC Unfiltered newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Making the case for 4 ACC schools to join SEC, as realignment talk revives