Kelly: On conference expansion, what FSU gains and what college football loses

The Florida State Football team looks on as Osceola and Renegade plant the flaming spear at...
The Florida State Football team looks on as Osceola and Renegade plant the flaming spear at midfield of Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium before FSU's game against UMass(Ryan Kelly | WCTV)
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 1:49 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - If you’ve consumed any sort of college football coverage over the last week you already know the huge chatter.

Conference realignment is once again here, the latest round concerning the Big Ten and the SEC’s grabs for powers with the rest of the Power Five in the crosshairs.

Realignment talks always have fun pieces of the discussion, the “What If’s?” on dream matchups, crazy divisions and other far flung scenarios always drive conversation from even the most passive and casual of fans.

For many however (this writer included), the fun of the hypotheticals is only part of the equation with many less excited about what the sport will be gaining and far more concerned with what it’s losing.

It’s clear in this world the idea of a fully functioning, somewhat equal Power Five is dead. Even if the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 all survive there isn’t enough firepower to go around to compete with the SEC and B1G. To save the leagues is to condemn it’s membership to second class status, something none of its membership wants. With powerful names like Florida State, Clemson, Miami, etc. still up for grabs in the South and the brands like Oregon and Washington still out West, this scenario is probably not happening.

Here in Tallahassee on a micro level there can’t be too much panic for FSU. We saw it last year in the FCS level when FAMU moved from a devalued MEAC to a star-studded SWAC. The brand of the Seminoles is too powerful and more importantly too valuable for the SEC, the Big Ten and by extension the major TV networks they’re intrenched with to not have on their side and competing at the highest level.

In this scenario the destruction of the ACC’s Grant of Rights (whether by cash, lawyers or a downright disbanding of the league) would more than likely happen and the Garnet and Gold as well as some of its powerhouse colleagues will be free to be courted. They’ll no doubt find great homes and more importantly a TV rights deal flush with the cash that’s become necessary to be competitive in today’s landscape.

But where a select few like Florida State will be tossed a life raft, others will be thrown an anchor and be told to swim.

Yes, those pesky “lesser thans” will be left to drown. Programs and fanbases who’ve put everything they can into being competitive and fighting their way to the P5 level like the Louisville, UCF and TCU’s of the world might just be told they aren’t pretty enough to dance at the ball anymore. Longtime P5 members without the resources to keep up with CFB’s powers will fall to the wayside as well becomes some suit in a TV Network’s boardroom decided they don’t have enough of a following or don’t tip the Nielsen ratings enough to get an invite to what looks poised to become the sport’s version of the AFC and NFC. Not to mention whatever the next version of the College Football Playoff looks like.

It was already hard to get an invite for these schools, but now they’ve been told to not even rent a tux for the prom.

The Idea that on any day the underdog can prevail is integral to college sports. It’s a belief that rings so true that Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Jacksonville State are dirty words in Ann Arbor, Gainesville and right here in Tallahassee. It’s why USC fans still dread Corvallis, Oregon and the very mention of Ames, Iowa sends shivers down the spine of any Oklahoma State Cowboy. It’s why despite being the “number two” sport in collegiate athletics, Men’s Basketball and March Madness endures. Everybody gets a shot at one shining moment.

But the networks, the powers that be and their greed have decided much of the sport is unworthy of the opportunity to have that moment as the 65 schools of the P5 may just become the 35 programs in the “P2″ and if those on the outside looking in are second class, where do we even begin with the group of five conferences? Why even bother in the sport’s highest division? Especially with the future of bowl games uncertain in this brave new world.

Dream matchups are fun to think about, realignment talk especially in FSU’s case can be so exciting because it means the ‘Noles might just be getting a competitive share of the revenue pie once more in the not-too-distant future. I’m not asking you to not be happy about that, but I am asking you to look at this on the whole.

College football is addicted to these facelifts and one of these days it’s going to wake up and not recognize what it sees in the mirror.

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