What if FSU Football, other former independents never joined a conference?

FSU football was once a proud independent team among some other powers – what would have happened if they had all stayed that way?

When the FSU football team walked off the field last November inside Syracuse’s Carrier Dome after a blowout win over the Orange, it concluded a quarter century worth of seasons as a member of the ACC for the Seminoles. It’s a 25 season period that has included 15 conference championships and has left no question who has run the ACC over the span.

It was the first time the Seminoles had been in a conference in over four decades, spending three of their first four seasons as a member of the old Dixie Conference – joining the likes of schools such as Samford, Stetson, Millsaps and Tampa, with the latter two schools not even having teams anymore.

From 1951 until 1991, Florida State played college football as an independent. For a while, it was almost a cool thing to be one as some of the great programs that are currently in leagues didn’t have an affiliation. During the 1990 season, the group of independent teams included the Seminoles along with Miami, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Louisville, Pittsburgh, South Carolina and over a dozen more teams.

It all started to change the following season when the Big East Conference was formed, taking a group that included the Hurricanes, Orange, Hokies, Mountaineers and more. The Seminoles followed to the ACC the following season, Penn State joined the Big Ten two years later and the list went on – down to the current group of four teams who play FBS football as independents.

But what if FSU football, along with the other powers, had never joined a conference?

It’s almost impossible to consider based on the fact that the last quarter century has seen college football become a major payday and it paid to join a conference. At the same point, there is no way to think that a group of college football teams that are some of the best in the country wouldn’t have gotten paid.

In 1991, Notre Dame signed their deal to televise home games on NBC. If the peacock network had a chance to sign a deal with a  group of independents that included traditional powers, household names and new powerhouse programs – including FSU football at that time – they would have jumped at the chance and it would have likely brought in more money considering Miami, Penn State, Notre Dame and Florida State won six of the eight national titles between 1986 and 1993.

In the world of conferences wanting to get bigger, we might not have had a Big Eight/Southwest Conference merger into the Big 12 and smaller conferences like the Big West would still be in business.

The bowl picture would have also been a lot different, considering the fact there were just 19 bowl games during the 1990 season as opposed to more than double that number this past season. With conferences not being so big, the need for more and more bowls to accommodate tie-ins wouldn’t have been there as much and the games would have been more of a reward for hard work instead of just going 6-6.

For the Seminoles, it would have meant more games against other independents it had built yearly battles around – including teams like South Carolina, East Carolina and Southern Miss, for example.

In reality, it’s hard to totally tell what things would have been like if the independent “conference” of major college football still had dozens of big name teams. However, it is for certain that the sport would have a whole different look.