SEC Football: Could ACC realignment bombshell see Clemson, FSU, UNC, or others move on to SEC?

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey signed a contract extension to keep him as the head of the league through 2028. Syndication/Tuscaloosa News. Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey signed a contract extension to keep him as the head of the league through 2028. Syndication/Tuscaloosa News. Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.] /

College football is no stranger to conference realignment. The smaller conferences have always been in constant motion, but every decade or so, a few major moves rock the college football landscape. Some examples of this are Arkansas and South Carolina’s move to the SEC, Miami and Virginia Tech entering the ACC, or the complete disbanding of the historic Southwest Conference.

Or, at least, that’s how things used to be.

In more recent years, conference realignment has been a major story in every offseason, whether due to speculation and rumors or actual finalized movement agreements. The most recent domino to fall is the almost complete dismantling of the Pac-12 and the movement of many of those schools to other conferences.

While realignment affects all sports, football is the disproportionally largest factor behind the moves.

A bombshell dropped on Friday that the ACC voted in favor of adding Pac-12 defects Cal and Stanford and former American Athletic Conference team SMU. Perhaps the no longer accurately named Atlantic Coast Conference could change its name to the All Coast Conference?

The addition of the three new teams is not a welcome revelation to some of the ACC’s top schools. Clemson, Florida State, and North Carolina, in particular, have been vocal opponents to further expansion in the league. Those three programs are arguably the biggest brands in the conference and were rumored to be looking for a way out of the ACC earlier this offseason.

Could the SEC be a logical landing spot for any or all of those three programs?

The Southeastern Conference is already adding Texas and Oklahoma in 2024, indicating that expanding the league’s footprint and historical prestige are likely the two biggest draws for the SEC in adding more programs.

Clemson does not provide an increased footprint as that television market overlaps heavily with current SEC teams South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. The Tigers do bring a pretty well-balanced athletic department that has been a top-10 football program for the last decade.

Florida State also does not provide a new footprint for the SEC as Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, LSU, and Georgia all overlap with the Seminoles’ television market. The Tallahassee-based FSU athletic department is a good one with a historical football tradition.

North Carolina is a new market for the SEC, and the Tar Heels basketball programs are usually among the best in the country. The men’s basketball team in Chapel Hill is a top-3 most popular program along with Kentucky and Duke.

All three of these disgruntled programs make sense for the SEC from a geographic location, and all three of the athletic departments have something to offer the league. Because of the nature of conference expansion, a fourth team likely would be needed for a move to make sense for the SEC.

Could Virginia, Virginia Tech, NC State, Miami, or Duke elect to join their current ACC rivals in a conference move?

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has downplayed the conference’s desire to continue expanding, but if the Big 10 (the SEC’s only rival for the title of “Best Conference in College Football”) decides they are willing to continue expanding, the SEC might be forced to act.

If it comes to that point, college football fans should expect the SEC to pursue Clemson, Florida State, and North Carolina (and likely a 4th school).

The ACC’s move was made official Friday morning, and the rest of the country has already begun contemplating their next moves.