With CFP snub still stinging, Atlantic Coast Conference ponders how to boost football perceptions

FILE - Florida State coach Mike Norvell walks on the field during a timeout in the second half of the team's Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against Louisville, Dec. 2, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. Unbeaten Florida State was snubbed by the College Football Playoff last season. Norvell echoed the sentiment of other coaches, saying the ACC needs to fight its perception problem. “(We) have to continue to push the actual narrative or what needs to be the realistic narrative of how good this this league is,” he said. (AP Photo/Erik Verduzco, File)

By RALPH D. RUSSO AP College Football Writer

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — The College Football Playoff snub of unbeaten Florida State is still a fresh wound for the entire Atlantic Coast Conference.

“To me, there’s a lot of disrespect. I think we have a heck of a conference. I look at the quality of our ACC football that we play, I just don’t think it gets the respect it deserves. Period,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said Tuesday at the league’s spring meetings.

On the agenda this week at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island is how to keep something similar from happening again in the expanded 12-team CFP, with the selection committee now responsible for divvying up seven at-large bids to go with the five highest ranked conference champions.

“Well, it’s a pretty fresh memory,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “And I think what we want to avoid is having a school ranked 13th that should have been 10th or 11th.”

Last season marked the third straight the ACC was left out of the CFP, but it was the most painful and controversial.

Unbeaten ACC champion Florida State was passed over after losing quarterback Jordan Travis to a season-ending leg injury late in the year, setting off a torrent of criticism from the conference about the selection process.

“What happened last year was tragic, and spoke volumes of the perception, I believe, of this league when it comes to football,” Florida State athletic director Michael Alford said.

Seminoles coach Mike Norvell echoed the sentiment of other coaches, saying the ACC needs to fight its perception problem.

“(We) have to continue to push the actual narrative or what needs to be the realistic narrative of how good this this league is,” he said.

Clawson said the conference office needs to provide more football-focused support.

“I think our marketing people do a great job, but a lot of our marketing involves the overall conference, and all the sports, and they’re all important. But football right now is the driver of revenue and (we need) to have a specific marketing plan for football,” he said.

On the field, Clawson said he thinks the key to landing at-large bids to the CFP will be having multiple teams at the top of the conference reach double-digit victories.

Southeastern Conference champion Alabama landed the fourth and final spot in the playoff last season, even though it had a loss to third-seeded Texas on its record, making Florida State the first Power Five champion with a perfect record to be left out of the CFP.

“What was our record against the SEC last year?” Narduzzi asked. The answer is 6-4 in the regular season. “So what are we talking about?”

Missing the CFP also further agitated already angsty Florida State supporters. Soon after the CFP slight, Florida State’s board sued the ACC over its exit fees and penalties, looking for a way out of the conference.

The ACC has fallen way behind the SEC and Big Ten in revenue generation. Florida State officials have said they expect the school to be at about a $40 million annual disadvantage compared to their peers in those conferences. And that was before the leagues agreed to a new CFP revenue distribution model could add another $8 million per year to the gap.

The revenue distribution model feeds into the perception issue.

“But I also think at some point in the College Football Playoff (contract) there is going to be a look-in and if we want that revenue distribution to change, we better have more teams in there,” Clawson said. “So how do we do that?”

Alford said despite the adversarial position Florida State has taken against the conference, the Seminoles are still a welcome member of the league at spring meetings.

“There’s no ill will inside the room,” Alford said. “It’s 100% professional.”

Clemson followed suit and also sued the conference in March. The ACC has countersued both Clemson and Florida State.

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips was scheduled to speak with reporters Wednesday after the meetings wrap up.

Miami coach Mario Cristobal, who is in his third season at his alma mater, said he believes ACC schools are trending in the right direction with recent coaching hires and investments in facilities and NIL programs.

“Yeah, you’d like the exposure to be greater,” he said. “I don’t know what that comes in the form of. A talking head for the conference itself?”


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