Despite cloudy future, FSU active participant at ACC meetings

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Florida State athletic director Michael Alford was asked Tuesday during ACC spring meetings whether any part of the university's future with the league was salvageable, considering it has filed a lawsuit against the conference.

"We'll just wait for that to play out," Alford said. "We have great partners in this conference, great relationships. But at the end of the day, we've got to do what's best for Florida State and look at the changing environment of collegiate athletics and make sure we're there to be successful."

Alford reiterated that his school has not declared its intention to withdraw from the league, despite a pending lawsuit challenging the ACC grant of rights and withdrawal fee. Both Florida State and Clemson have filed lawsuits against the ACC, while the league has filed lawsuits in defense of the grant of rights -- which gives it control over each of its league members' media rights through 2036.

Clemson athletic director Graham Neff did not speak to reporters Tuesday.

Alford said there was no tension in the room and described the meetings as "cordial."

Still, the futures of both those programs lend an air of uncertainty as league leaders discussed what awaits in the future -- including a pending settlement in the House vs. NCAA case, finding ways to increase revenue and a 12-team expanded College Football Playoff that is set to begin this season.

Asked what it was like to sit in a room discussing the future of the ACC while his own school's future as a league member remains up in the air, Alford said, "You go with where you are right now, and right now, we're a conference member. So, we're participating, making decisions for what's best moving forward, but looking at how does that impact Florida State."

One of the discussion points with the football coaches on Tuesday was trying to improve a perception problem ahead of the expanded playoff. Changing that narrative became a common theme during their meetings. While the coaches have made this point over the past several years, the discussion was spurred this time thanks in large part to what happened to Florida State last season and the possibility the ACC could get locked out of at-large bids in the expanded playoff.

Florida State went 13-0 and won the ACC championship in 2023 but became the first undefeated Power 5 team left out of the CFP, in favor of one-loss Alabama.

"Our concern is that our league has been better than the perception," North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. "And sometimes, we've had teams that have beaten the other leagues and didn't get the real credit for it. So, we really are pushing to get the ACC to invest in telling the story about football in the ACC because we don't think we've done as good a job in that as some other people have."

Coaches pointed out the ACC went 6-4 head-to-head against the SEC last season, but they were frustrated that it did not seem to get mentioned in the discussion about whether Florida State was deserving to make the playoff.

Moving forward with a 12-team playoff, Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi said it was a "possibility" the ACC could lose out on at-large bids if its conference strength was not deemed as high as that of others.

"That could happen when you talk about disrespect," Narduzzi said.

As Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson added, "What we want to avoid is having a school ranked 13th that should be 10th or 11th."

Alford said he does not think Florida State could have done anything differently last season but that moving forward the perception has to change.

"We have to get better. What happened last year was tragic, and it spoke volumes about the perception of this league when it comes to football, specifically," he said. "Expanding the playoff system is going to be great, and we have to continue to push the envelope and invest in our football programs to get better and to keep investing and compete."