The Atlantic Coast Conference caught the college football world a bit off guard last weekend with the announcement that two Big East schools, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, were joining the league. The addition of the two northern programs will bring the ACC to 14 schools.
Florida State's reaction to the recent additions to the conference has been very positive so far.
"We are very, very happy with it," Florida State Board of Trustees chair Andy Haggard told Warchant.com on Tuesday. "Reading over the past 13 months about the Pac 12, the Big 10, the Big 12 and all that possibly going to 16, the mega-conferences ... so yeah I'm very proud of the ACC. I think it's great that we are expanding with those two and you've got two more to go.
"There's a lot of speculation out there right now about Notre Dame as you know. I'm glad that we are being proactive as opposed to just sitting back."
From all indications the ACC isn't done expanding.
During a conference call with the media on Sunday, ACC commissioner John Swofford left the door open for two more schools to join and bring the membership up to 16. Several schools have been mentioned as possibilities to fill the final two slots including Texas, Connecticut, Penn State, Notre Dame and Rutgers. West Virginia was also a possibility but a recent application from the school to join the ACC was reportedly turned down.
With Syracuse and Pittsburgh having a reputation for being powerful basketball schools, most in Florida State's camp are hopeful that any further expansion will involve schools with stronger football traditions.
"No question about it in my mind," Haggard said of adding schools with more notable football programs. "All those people that want us to go in the SEC - you'd be satisfying those people. I was very excited about Texas when we had that shot there but obviously that's not going to happen."
According to the latest report from Chip Brown of OrangeBloods.com, the University of Texas Rivals affiliate, the ACC is still interested in Texas but does not want Texas Tech to be the 16th team. The main reason for that is the Red Raiders' low academic standing (TT ranked No. 160 in the latest U.S. News and World report rankings). The ACC reportedly would have considered Missouri or Kansas with Texas but the Longhorns would prefer to stick with Texas Tech.
Within in the past few days there has been serious traction about Notre Dame joining the ACC. While the Irish have been a bit down on the football field lately, they have arguably the most well recognized program in college football.
The addition of Notre Dame to the league would probably satisfy the football purists at Florida State and the ACC.
"All the sudden Notre Dame creeps in there and that would be absolutely super," Haggard said. "It's kind of ironic because it looks like the ACC would be such a natural fit for Notre Dame ... I don't know if they can stand to be independent any more even at Notre Dame, and you have the academic conference. It seems natural that if they were going to go into a conference it would be the ACC."
Should the ACC add Notre Dame, the two most likely candidates to fill the final spot appear to be Connecticut or Rutgers.
While Florida State has not taken a huge role in the ACC's expansion efforts, athletic director Randy Spetman does serve on the conference's "4-4-4" Committee. This committee, formed a year and a half ago, is comprised of four school presidents, four athletic directors and four faculty representatives. The purpose of the 4-4-4 is to research conference expansion and how it could impact the league.
One area where FSU did play a larger role in the conference was negotiating down the new exit fee recently voted on by the school presidents. Even though Florida State president Eric Barron was part of the unanimous vote to increase the penalty to $20 million, he was the driving force behind making sure the fee wasn't too high.
"There was a lot of discussion on it and Eric (Barron) really handled that brilliantly," Haggard said. "There was talk of a $34 million penalty and it was at $16 (million). Eric made some outstanding comments to the committee, to the ACC to explain this and that and did a great job for us. He brought that (penalty) down. He and I think Maryland and another school, they all had a problem with it being that much and brought it down to $20 (million) which is only an increase of four (million)."
Haggard added that with the recent events taking place within the ACC, specifically the expansion and increased exit fee, there has been no move to form a committee to explore Florida State's options of leaving the ACC. The events of the past week also make it less likely that FSU would end up becoming part of the SEC or another conference.
"Absolutely because that isn't happening anyway," insisted Haggard. "The SEC has not contacted us and it's not going to happen. Every time I read the paper or hear the rumor about FSU all that strikes me is that FSU is a dominant program and if I was on the rumor mill I'd mention FSU too. But we've never been approached and it's not going to happen in my humble opinion. As Chairman of the Board of Trustees I don't think it is going to happen and Eric (Barron) doesn't think it is going to happen.
"With the new movement with the ACC, which I'm so proud of us and the ACC for expanding and we are one of the first ones to do it, and with speculation about Notre Dame and Connecticut I like where we are at right now. I don't see any SEC possibilities. But hey, we'll listen."
With Texas and Oklahoma expected to make a decision about their future conference home within two weeks that could have an impact on how expansion plays out in the ACC and in other conferences. Regardless, it looks like the move to 16-school mega-conferences will come to a head in a matter of weeks.