ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, in order to explore all options to close the income gap, opposes college athletics becoming “2 or 3 gated communities”.


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CHARLOTT, NC — ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips opened the league’s annual kickoff event on Wednesday, saying he’s exploring all available options to close the revenue gap with the SEC and the Big Ten, but he argued that an arms race in college football could critically damage the athletics college as a whole.

“We are not professionals,” Phillips said. “This is not the light of the NFL or NBA. We still compete with each other, but this is not – and should not be – a winner-take-all or zero-sum structure. I will continue to do what is best.” interests of the ACC, but will also advocate for college athletics to be a healthy neighborhood and not two or three gated communities.”

The addition of USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 Big Ten came less than a year after the SEC added Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12, creating a clear trend towards two superconferences that would far outsell everyone else in revenue.

In 2020-21, the ACC generated a record $578 million in revenue, distributing approximately $36.1 million to each full member. It is estimated that the next Big Ten TV deal could result in payouts more than double the figure in the next few years.

The ACC has avoided losing any of its current members, but has also found several ways to close the revenue gap and remain financially competitive with the SEC and the Big Ten.

Phillips said Wednesday the league is continuing to look at ways to move forward, from expansion, partnerships with Pac-12 to moving towards an unbalanced revenue-sharing model that could provide more money to schools that are more invested in football.

“Everything is on the table,” Phillips said. “We are considering our television contract. We interact almost daily with our partners on ESPN. We got together to discuss what the next iteration for ACC will be. we’re not going to make a move, but all options are on the table.”

Phillips said he was open to discussing changing the league’s revenue distribution model – an option that several football powers have been calling for over the past few years – but said it was “not our first option.”

Expansion remains a possibility, but several sources at the conference said there was simply no other school available that would noticeably improve ACC’s bottom line, other than Notre Dame.

The Irish are currently partial members of the ACC for football and have a contract with the league stating that if they give up independence it will be for the ACC. After the Big Ten added UCLA and USC (and a major new TV deal is expected soon), rumors circulated that Notre Dame might pull out of the ACC deal instead to get more money in the Big Ten. “.

However, Phillips said he doubted Notre Dame would lose its independent status and said he remained encouraged by the ACC’s relationship with the Irish.

“I know what independence means for Notre Dame,” Phillips said. “I know that if the time comes when Notre Dame considers moving to a conference and giving up independence, I feel very good about it being the ACC.”

The flip side of the ACC expansion could be that teams decide to leave, but the league’s current grant, which cedes all media rights to the ACC, runs until 2036. Phillips pointed to the decisions of Texas, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC to wait out the remainder of their rights before heading to new conferences as an example of the difficulty of breaking those agreements.

“People come to Clemson not because of some budget or because we are in the ACC. We are blessed to have great resources,” Tigers coach Dabo Sweeney said. “But 2036 is a long time and let’s be realistic – look at all the changes that have happened in the last 12 months.”

According to several league administrators, several ACC teams have asked their legal advisers to evaluate the grant of ACC rights, but no one has suggested that they are likely to challenge the document in court.

“Follow logic,” Phillips said. “I think the significance of what that would mean, the television rights that the conference owns, as well as the nine-figure financial penalty, I think is there. But your guess is as good as mine.”

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