The ACC’s Jim Phillips wants to party like it’s 1999.
It was from that viewpoint that he addressed matters such as conference realignment and the growing revenue gap between the SEC and Big Ten and the rest of Division I, which have become the most pressing matters in a summer that was jolted by UCLA and USC leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. A main message – everyone needs to play nice.
“We are not the professional ranks,” Phillips said. “This is not the NFL or NBA lite. We all remain competitive with one another, but this is not and should not be a winner-take-all or a zero-sum structure.”
His remarks seemed particularly directed at the SEC and the Big Ten, the latter of which seemingly violated the tenets of an alliance formed between the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC to stabilize conference realignment by taking two of the Pac-12′s cornerstone members. The possibility looms that, in time, the SEC and Big Ten could grow into super conferences by absorbing schools from rival conferences (including the ACC) and squeeze out the rest of Division I.
“I will continue to do what’s in the best interest of the ACC, but will also strongly advocate for college athletics to be a healthy neighborhood, not two or three gated communities,” Phillips said.
You’d think a guy who just got very publicly crapped on by someone whom he was convinced was down in the trenches with him would have a better approach to solving the revenue dilemma his conference faces — “In the 2021 fiscal year, the SEC generated a reported $833 million, the Big Ten received $680 million and the ACC took in $578 million” — than play nice, fellas, but, then again, you’re not a P5 conference commissioner.
Of course, when these are your options…
Phillips said that, regarding possible opportunities to create more revenue, “everything is on the table,” whether that’s sponsorships, ticketing and particularly TV money. That could include, he said, maximizing TV viewership by giving the conference’s most prominent teams the biggest stages. At the league’s spring meetings in May, Phillips told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the conference was looking into possible partnerships in the realm of legalized gambling.
Another possibility, he said, would be to alter the conference’s distribution formula so that the schools with the best performance and strongest brands receive a larger share of the pie, a move that could placate and reward the schools that draw more viewers.
Cool, Jim. ESPN has plenty of experience with the latter there. Ask them how things went with the Longhorn Network.
All Phillips has to hold the ACC together is that grant of rights. We’ll see how much that helps if half the conference decides to bolt as a group. In the meantime, boys, play nice!