Unless you've been living under a rock recently, you've heard about the semi-serious internal talks Florida State has been reportedly having about leaving the ACC for either the SEC or the Big-12. I strongly believe that the ACC needs FSU in order to be viable long-term as a power-conference, but I'm also not entirely sure that a move to the Big 12 would benefit FSU in any substantial manner.
First, looking at the FSU situation from the standpoint of the ACC, it is clear that the conference needs to do whatever it takes to keep the Seminoles in the fold. If FSU leaves, the conference instantly becomes as one dimensional as the Big East, particularly if Clemson bolts at the same time. There is no question that there is a perception out there that the ACC revolves around the North Carolina schools. To a large extent, I believe that is true, if only because Duke and UNC bring nationally televised championships home to the conference on a near-yearly basis.
It's also hard to fault the conference here simply because the sole job of the North Carolina schools is to act as the nucleus of a powerhouse basketball conference. They've done their job here. The sole job of the Florida schools and Clemson is to form the upper tier of a powerhouse football conference, and they have not held up their end of the bargain as of late. Those who bring home the championships have the right to be prima donnas to a certain extent. If you do your job and win you should get some credit as well as some perks as a university.
The thing that the Carolina schools have to understand, however, is that there is a limit as to how far they can push the envelope without the football schools basically telling the conference to kick rocks. The conference is bad at football right now, top to bottom, and one of the things that makes the SEC special is that it is incredibly deep. Recruits want to go to the SEC because they feel like they are in a professional atmosphere every single day. The North Carolina schools have not been helping the southern schools establish great football programs through better competition, bottom to top. Two or three schools do not make up a "powerhouse" football conference. The only thing keeping the ACC even barely relevant in the football picture right now is the fact that FSU and Clemson are recruiting way, way, way better than their win-loss record would suggest (wish we could say the same).
I can see how this would make FSU fans think that they might be better off in greener pastures. ATL made some great points about rethinking money distribution, which seems like a great idea, because there is just no way that WF is as valuable to the conference as FSU or Clemson are. From FSU's standpoint, I think the question about whether or not the university would be better off in the Big 12 comes down to two things. Are the Carolina schools exercising too much control over FSU's destiny? Is the conference one dimensional or is it becoming one dimensional?
The answer to the first question is "probably." However, Texas absolutely dominates the Big-12, and FSU is foolish if it thinks that will change. I also don't think that FSU is currently equipped to compete with Florida, LSU, TAMU, or Alabama long term, and the SEC is likely going to revolve around the best football teams year in and year out. I don't believe that an FSU move will substantially change the fact that it is not the center of its conference's attention.
The more worrying factor for FSU has to be about whether or not the ACC is becoming a one dimensional conference, focused solely on basketball and pretty much ignoring football. As much as people praised the ACC bringing in Syracuse and Pitt, and saying that this secures the long-term viability of the conference, we are now seeing the downside of bringing in great basketball schools with acceptable football programs. That's what those universities are, cornerstone schools for a basketball conference, but not the well-rounded universities you would line up for if you wanted to compete for national championships in both football and basketball.
It's shocking how bad at football this conference has been for being one of the four major conferences. We're going on 13 years since the conference last brought home a national championship in football and the conference is a paltry 2-13 in BCS bowls, receiving just one at large bid in a BCS bowl since the series began. Even the Big East has been able to figure out a way to break even at 7-7 in BCS bowls. 13 years, 2-13. 2-13!!!!!!! So yes, I do believe that the conference has become one dimensional, even if just from the perspective of results on the field.
Okay, I am now going to launch into my conspiracy theory about the conference realignment talk, but don't stop reading because I honestly believe that this is the best way to save the conference. Bring in Notre Dame. In fact, it would be interesting if this was all a play by FSU and Clemson to force ND's hand here. Either Notre Dame comes in, or we're leaving and Notre Dame will be basically stuck deciding between the Big Ten and the Big-12. Notre Dame has always assumed that it will be fine when the dust settles because it is, well, Notre Dame. However, I think that most people have assumed that the most logical landing spot for the Irish is the ACC, and if the ACC were to disappear or be significantly compromised financially by FSU and Clemson defections, I do believe that ND's future would be less secure. The current scenario might just bring enough uncertainty into the picture that the Irish feel compelled to decide what conference to join (on a side note, any chance that ND announces its decision on what conference to join on ESPN, a la LeBron James?). Ideally, I would like to see the conference being in Notre Dame and Louisville, universities which will likely be able to compete in both major sports for the next half-decade or so.
This is a long way of saying that I do believe that FSU is seriously considering a conference move if it believes that the ACC is no longer a viable football conference. The ACC needs to take measures not just to appease FSU in the short term, but must also start putting a quality product on the football field if it wants to succeed long term. I think that FSU and ND give the conference the best chance of long term success, and bringing the two programs in now would likely end all talk of the southern schools bolting.