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Conference realignment: Evaluating FSU, Miami for SEC, Big Ten

Do the Seminoles and Hurricanes meet the Power Two’s expansion criteria?
Would Florida State make sense in the Big Ten?
Would Florida State make sense in the Big Ten? [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP (2016) ]
Published Aug. 5

With the latest round of conference realignment seemingly paused, this is a good time to try to see where Florida State and Miami stand.

Let’s set aside the practicality of either leaving the ACC and its grant-of-rights deal that runs into 2036. Our semi-educated guess is that no team will break that contract soon.

Related: Will Florida Gators, FSU and Miami ever be the Big Three again?

Instead, let’s evaluate the recent comments by the commissioners of the SEC and Big Ten to see whether the Seminoles and Hurricanes fit what the Power Two say they’re looking for in future expansion targets.

SEC

Florida-Florida State would make an interesting SEC rivalry.
Florida-Florida State would make an interesting SEC rivalry. [ JOHN RAOUX | Associated Press ]

At last month’s media days, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said adding Texas and Oklahoma will keep the conference in “contiguous states which supports reasonable geography among like-minded universities and keeps us confident that fan interest will continue to grow in our communities, in our region, in this country and literally across the globe.”

FSU and Miami obviously support reasonable geography; they exist in a state that’s already part of the SEC. The downside is that neither program would add to the league’s footprint the way Virginia or North Carolina would. TV markets don’t matter as much now as they did in previous rounds of realignment, but they’re not irrelevant, either.

Related: AAC commissioner: ‘Something important is being lost’ in conference realignment

The “like-minded” part is murkier. Both schools are top-tier research institutions, just like every current SEC school. Neither, however, is the flagship school of a state, as Texas and Oklahoma are. Does that matter?

Miami would join Vanderbilt as the only private schools in the conference. Miami would also be the second-smallest school in the league; its fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment (just over 11,000) was a fifth of Texas A&M’s, according to U.S. News & World Report.

There’s good data to suggest the Seminoles and Hurricanes would both grow fan interest. The Athletic dug into recent TV viewership for Power Five games that didn’t feature any current or future members of the SEC/Big Ten. Clemson had the most games with at least 1 million viewers. FSU was second. Miami was fifth (also behind Oregon and Washington). FSU and Miami still matter, even if they’re not challenging for championships. If they weren’t interesting for SEC fans, half the league wouldn’t have scheduled upcoming series against the Seminoles, Hurricanes or both.

Big Ten

Miami and Wisconsin have some history against each other, including an Orange Bowl after the 2017 season.
Miami and Wisconsin have some history against each other, including an Orange Bowl after the 2017 season.

Veteran college football insider Brett McMurphy reported last month that FSU and Miami were both being considered as potential Big Ten additions (along with Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, Cal and Stanford).

“A fit has to be there academically, has to be there athletically,” commissioner Kevin Warren told McMurphy.

Academically, the Big Ten has focused on members in the prestigious Association of American Universities. USC and UCLA are both AAU members. FSU and Miami are not. Though Warren told McMurphy AAU membership wasn’t a prerequisite for future additions, it has been a factor before.

Related: Does conference realignment pay off? No, according to this research

The Big Ten prides itself on lofty academic reputations. FSU and Miami both rank 55th in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, which would put them in the middle of the conference.

The Athletic cited “value to the Big Ten” and “leadership and internal alignment” as criteria the league will consider. Alignment has been a problem at FSU and Miami but seems to be improving at both programs. The Hurricanes and Seminoles each hired new athletic directors in December, while FSU’s president has been on the job for less than a year.

FSU and Miami could tout their TV numbers as added value for the Big Ten. They could also sell their location in one of the three biggest states in recruiting and overall population, which would help the league on the field and in media-rights negotiations.

Related: Inside the collapse of Florida college football’s Big Three

At last month’s media days, Warren said Los Angeles had the largest number of Big Ten alumni outside the Midwest. That fact helps explain why his league poached USC and UCLA. Florida isn’t Big Ten country, but the conference has a presence here beyond established bowl games in Tampa and Orlando. Florida has more Iowa Clubs for Hawkeyes fans than any other state, and Ohio is the only one that has more Buckeyes alumni clubs than Florida.

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