Yesterday was the start of the ACC Kickoff, which means things kicked with a press conference with ACC commissioner, Jim Phillips. This was the first time that we’ve heard from Phillips since USC and UCLA decided to join the Big Ten, so this was a pretty big opportunity for him to discuss the future of the league, how strong the Grant of Rights holds teams in place, and his thoughts on NIL for student-athletes. One would expect him to say very PR-friendly things, such as how he feels like the conference is in a good place, how they would work hard to find solutions to prevent a mass exodus of schools, etc.
However, I can honestly say I wasn’t ready for just how ignorantly optimistic he was.
Anybody that follows me on Twitter (I don’t blame you if you don’t) knows that I am a cautiously optimistic person, and that I like to have all of the information I possibly can before reaching wild conclusions. However, Phillips did a great job during this press conference of proving two things to me: 1.) he is blissfully ignorant to just how bad the situation with the ACC can get if someone cracks the Grant of Rights code, and 2.) he is even more ignorant when it comes to where college athletics in general are going. Sure, a lot of what he said is stuff that you would expect any commissioner to say, because the last thing someone should do is get behind a podium and say, “I’m terrified of what’s going on and I think the league will be dead once our TV deal expires.” However, let’s be honest: he didn’t say anything that gave anybody any confidence in his ability to keep the conference intact, let alone his own job intact.
Let’s get all of Phillips’ painful quotes out of the way. First, here is what he said about how he feels about what is happening with conference realignment:
“Any new structure of the NCAA must serve the many, not a collective few,” Phillips said. “We are not the professional ranks. This isn’t the NFL- or NBA-Lite. This shouldn’t be a winner-take-all or zero-sum structure. College sports have never been elitist or singularly commercial.”
Next, here is what he said about the current state of the ACC:
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips: "All metrics, we are one of the leaders in the country, except the revenue piece of it."— Tomahawk Nation (@TomahawkNation) July 20, 2022
Finally, here is what he said about the ACC getting lapped financially by the SEC and the Big Ten:
Phillips on criticism that he's idealistic about collegiate model as ACC gets lapped financially: "If we take that path that it’s only going to be about football and basketball, shame on all of us. I understand, I understand the criticism that comes with that."— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) July 20, 2022
In addition to these comments, Phillips believes that if Notre Dame drops their independent status in football that they will be part of the ACC, and that the Grant of Rights has safely locked in each team. He did say that he has been in constant talks with ESPN about their current TV deal, and he hopes that they are able to work out a deal to bring more revenue to the conference.
Here is the problem: it’s pretty disturbing that any conference commissioner is willing to undervalue revenue sports and how important they are for a conference to survive. It’s also painful that he would whip out the “We’re an amazing conference except the fact that we’re poor” line, further showing that he hasn’t quite gotten a full grasp of how college sports work. I understand the need to promote the conference and spread the “We’re going to right this ship” message, but how is anybody supposed to believe that when you are underselling the biggest sport in college athletics (football)?
Phillips’ end game with his press conference seemed to be selling the ACC as still being one of the top conferences in the country, the fact that each team is locked in until the Grant of Rights expires, and finally, whipping out old-man-yelling-at-cloud catchphrases because he wants college athletics to maintain amateur status. He failed miserably at inspiring any confidence in the ACC’s future, and because he seems to be stuck in the past mindset wise, I now have to wonder if he was the right guy to take John Swofford’s place. The Big Ten and SEC are seemingly with the times, but also are pulling in boatloads of money. If Phillips doesn’t snap out of it soon, the ACC may die a slow, painful death.
What do you think of Phillips’ comments during his press conference? Did he say anything to inspire any shred of confidence that the ACC will survive the next 10-15 years? Let us know in the comments below.