Amid a growing sense that the Big Ten and SEC are on the path to breaking away from peer conferences, both philosophically and financially, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips made his plea Wednesday for a version of college sports that panders to more than just a select couple of powerful conferences. Speaking at the kickoff of ACC Media Days, Phillips said that, “any new structure in the NCAA must serve many, not a select few.”
“My point is the community is best when all neighborhoods are healthy,” Phillips said. “All of them. Some will never reach $25 million or $30 million in revenue to provide for their athletics department, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be a part of it, part of the system, part of championships at times. We’re talking about different levels within Division I. We’re talking about subdivisions and those types of things in the transformation committee. If we take that path, that it’s only going to be about football and basketball, that’s shame on all of us. It just is.”
As a member of the NCAA Division I Transformation Committee, along with other collegiate athletics leaders including SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Phillips has a spot among one of the groups tasked with charting the future of college sports oversight. He’s also charged with leading a conference that finds itself in a precarious spot due to a grant of rights media rights deal that runs through 2036. As constructed, that deal will make it difficult for ACC members to leave for other conferences. But it will also restrict the ability of the league’s members to keep up financially with competitors in the Big Ten and SEC.
So what can be done to ensure the ACC remains viable? Phillips said repeatedly Thursday that “everything is on the table.”
“We’re looking at our TV contract,” Phillips said. “We’re in engagement daily — almost daily with our partners at ESPN. I openly talk about ESPN because we are 50/50 partners on our network, and so they’re motivated, we’re motivated. We’ve come together to have some discussions about what would be the next iteration for the ACC.”
Following the SEC’s addition of Texas and Oklahoma and the Big Ten’s move to snag UCLA and USC, one of the options for the ACC could be to respond with its own expansion. However, Phillips was non-committal about that route, though he made it clear that Notre Dame knows “that we would love to have them as a football member.”
“In the end, it has to add value to your conference. You can define value in different ways. You can define value from an academic standpoint. You can define value about athletic success and competitiveness. Are they an AAU research institution? You can also define it by money.
Does it add value to your conference? That’s the same exercise that I think has been going on for college athletics for a long, long time.”