CHARLOTTE- After a very strange 2020 season, ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips faced the league’s media on Wednesday at the annual ACC Kickoff with a variety of topics on the table including COVID protocols, ACC Network access, and more.
Good morning, and welcome to the 2021 ACC football kickoff. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been looking forward to this event for many months. This is a wonderful opportunity to gather together as we look ahead to the upcoming fall seasons with great anticipation in a hopefully more normal year.
Thanks to each of you for making the effort and taking the time to be with us here in Charlotte. On behalf of our coaches, student-athletes, schools and conference office staff, we sincerely appreciate your interest and your coverage of the ACC.
Each of you are an important thread in the fabric of college athletics, and I want you to know how much I personally appreciate what you mean to this league and how you and the entire ACC family have welcomed me, Laura and our five kids since becoming commissioner.
It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as ACC commissioner over the last five months. It is truly my belief that there is no better conference in the country, when you look at the incredible student-athletes, our 15 world-class institutions, our broad-based sports offerings and our commitment to maximizing the educational and athletic opportunities for student-athletes.
I’m so proud to work with the tremendous chancellors and presidents that collectively serve as the ACC board of directors. I’d like to specifically thank Syracuse University chancellor Kent Syverud for his incredible leadership and counsel as the outgoing chair of the board of directors.
On July 1, Duke University president Vincent Price and University of Louisville president Neeli Bendapudi began their tenures as chair and vice chair respectively. Each will be outstanding leaders as we navigate the 2021-22 academic year.
Since I began my tenure in February, I’ve appreciated the chance to spend time with and engage with so many people. I’m looking forward to continuing to build upon those relationships with our countless student-athletes, coaches, administrators, league partners and with each of you.
Speaking of relationships, last night we were able to enjoy a wonderful evening celebrating our former commissioner. John Swofford has been invaluable to me since my appointment and is a true gentleman and a giant in college athletics. For more than five decades he served the ACC in many different roles, including the last 24 as commissioner. His transformational leadership has meant so much to this league, and he really is the gold standard of commissioners.
Over 225 current and former administrators, staff, bowl and television partners and friends were in attendance as we honored John and his beautiful wife Nora. In addition to our previous announcement that the Swofford name would be added to the league’s annual postgraduate scholarship, we shared the news that beginning this year, the ACC Football Championship Game Most Valuable Player will annually receive the John Swofford Award.
There is a tremendous appreciation in this league and nationally for what John Swofford has meant to college athletics and as a friend to so many of us. Laura and I are so appreciative of our friendship with John and Nora. They represent everything that’s right in college athletics and in this world.
John knows that I’ll never let him get too far away from the ACC, and he’s just a phone call away for me.
I’m looking forward to answering your questions a little bit later, but first I’d like to express some sincere gratitude, share some thoughts on my first five months, and address some of the timely topics affecting college athletics in our country.
As all of you are well aware, the pandemic created unprecedented challenges over the last 15 months. To say last year was unique was certainly an understatement, and we continue to owe a debt of gratitude to the countless front-line workers who have unselfishly sacrificed and put themselves in harm’s way to serve others. My sincere thanks to all of our heroes.
Led by the extraordinarily and tireless efforts by the ACC medical advisory group, whose work continues, our schools safely and successfully managed athletics in a pandemic. Watching the resiliency, commitment and sacrifices of our student-athletes was inspiring, and the adaptability and communication by our coaches and administrators created a successful blueprint of effectively working together.
There’s not enough credit given to our student-athletes, coaches and administrators for what they were able to accomplish this past year, so on behalf of the entire conference, let me say thank you.
What makes this past year’s achievements even more incredible is that our student-athletes and programs shined while facing so many challenges. As we just witnessed here on the screen, the league crowned a champion in all 27 of our sponsored sports, and 10 different institutions won ACC Championships. ACC teams also won five NCAA team championships.
Virginia won the league’s first-ever national title in women’s swimming. Notre Dame won fencing, making it three of the last four national titles for the Fighting Irish. North Carolina took home its third straight field hockey title and the 21st for the ACC, including 14 of the last 20. It was an All-ACC final when Boston College defeated Syracuse to win the NCAA women’s lacrosse championship for its first title in program history. The ACC now owns 16 NCAA women’s lacrosse championships and has had a team in the national title game 11 times in the last 12 seasons. Finally, Virginia won its second straight NCAA championship in men’s lacrosse, marking the 25th title for current league programs, including nine of the last 13 and 14 titles since 2000. In addition, the league recorded 24 individual national titles, a conference record. Overall, seven ACC schools won a team or individual national title this year. Simply amazing.
As outstanding as the athletic successes were, the league continued to lead its peers with an average graduation success rate of 92 percent. This matched the ACC’s GSR average the previous year and was two points higher than the national average. In the sport of football the ACC remains the only conference to have multiple teams register GSR scores 90 or higher every year since 2005.
In the most recent report, four ACC football programs were above 90 percent: Duke, Louisville, Boston College and Virginia.
As you can tell, I’m so inspired by what our student-athletes, programs, schools and conference were able to accomplish during such a difficult year for all of us.
Over a period of four weeks in April and May, I had a chance to visit our 15 incredible institutions, spending time with each president or chancellor, athletics director, faculty athletics rep, senior women’s administrator, coaches, administrators and support staff, and most importantly, the student-athletes was an amazing and energizing experience. While on each campus I was able to gain institutional knowledge and familiarity, both from an academic and athletic perspective. The visits also provided me with firsthand knowledge of how schools feel about the conference, what’s working, where do we need to improve, forecasting our future, and how to serve the membership.
Overall, the feedback was very positive. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of wonderful accomplishments and initiatives that continue to be successful year in and year out with our conference, yet it’s important that we never stand still, remain focused on the future, and work to see around the corner.
One area we all have more work to do across our country is in our social justice and diversity and inclusion efforts. The leadership of our student-athletes and schools in embracing the ongoing commitment to racial and social justice has been and continues to be awe inspiring.
More than a year ago, the ACC formed CORE, which stands for Champions of Racial Equity, and includes representatives from both the conference office and our 15 member institutions. As part of the ACC’s continued commitment to social justice and racial equality, our schools and conference office implemented a number of initiatives and programming over the past year based on the work by CORE.
ACC Unity Week took place during the fall, winter and spring and will continue into the future. Throughout each of these designated periods, our campuses and conference office further elevated the discussions and programming to unite around social justice conversations and actions.
Programming in the fall included a virtual webinar where student-athletes on activism and allyship.
During the winter a digital focus was in play throughout February to celebrate Black History Month, which culminated in a league-wide celebration of the diversity among all member institutions.
In addition, as part of the digital play, ACC student-athletes shared their stories on the importance of Black History Month and their perspective on why leadership matters.
The theme for the spring was activism through sports, which was highlighted by notable guests highlighting three webinars and virtual walks across the league’s 15 campuses and our own conference office in Greensboro.
Many of our championships took place during these Unity Weeks, allowing our student-athletes, coaches and staff to participate in a unity moment prior to the National Anthem and to incorporate “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before our championship competitions.
We are grateful for the support shown by ACC Network, in not only covering and participating in the previously mentioned initiatives, but also creating specific programs and features such as the virtual roundtable hosted by Dalen Cuff on former ACC trailblazers called “ACC Unite: No Struggle, No Progress.”
The ongoing commitment, difficult conversations, and the initiatives surrounding equality, racial and social justice are incredibly important to making us all stronger.
As commissioner, I’m confident our conference will continue to enhance our dedication and commitment to diversity and inclusion. We will also not lose our responsibility to the importance of supporting and promoting the mental health and well-being of our student-athletes and programs.
This past May, the league sponsors its third annual ACC Mental Health and Wellness Summit, allowing our league to gather together, learn from each other and share best practices as we work together to continue to break down any stigma associated with mental health.
Changing gears, earlier this spring we announced the elimination of the league’s intra-conference transfer rule, which allows our student-athletes the opportunity to transfer and compete immediately at another ACC institution. While we hope every student-athlete has a positive, life-changing experience at an institution, we also recognize that sometimes changes can be good and are necessary.
The decision to allow for immediate eligibility for intra-conference transfers was in the best interest of our student-athletes, as it creates greater flexibility during their collegiate careers and placed the ACC as a national leader in this area. We will continue to be proactive in our approach to enhancing the student-athlete experience and helping shape the future of college athletics.
The best interests of our student-athletes was also a motivating force behind the ACC’s decision to fully support their opportunity to benefit from their name, image and likeness. While we appreciate the interim policy now in place, we will continue to work with Congressional leaders to enact federal legislation that will protect and benefit all student-athletes in the long-term and that will also ensure fairness and equity in college sports that we can’t afford to lose.
There’s no question this will be an ongoing topic, and our league will work tirelessly and collaboratively with other conferences on behalf of the nearly 10,000 student-athletes that annually compete in the ACC.
As we turn our focus to the seasons ahead, our ACC medical advisory group, led brilliantly by our chair, Dr. Cam Wolfe of Duke, continues to meet regularly, and I anticipate an updated MAG report to be released in the coming weeks. As a conference, our priority remains the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and campuses.
As it relates to vaccines and any policies or mandates, those decisions will remain at the discretion of each member institution. Personally, I believe that vaccinations are critical to the protection of all and helping to achieve the goal of eliminating the COVID-19 virus and its variants. But I also deeply respect that getting vaccinated is a personal choice.
As we approach the fall seasons, there’s no question that increasing the number of vaccinations will provide the best chance for our student-athletes and teams to compete. Our office using resources from the Ad Council created a PSA to encourage everyone to learn more about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccine. I’m also confident that our campuses will continue their ongoing education and communication related to the importance of vaccinations and other mitigation strategies.
It would break my heart, as it did this summer, for any of our student-athletes or coaches who continue to work so hard on their sports to have to miss a game due to a positive test or contact tracing.
As recently as yesterday, our athletic directors discussed the necessary protocols regarding scenarios when a team may be able to participate in a contest — may be unable to participate in a contest due to COVID-19 infections or contact tracing and what that contest would be considered by the conference. Similar to the updated medical advisory group report, we’ll have a decision in the near future.
For now football, why we all gathered here this week, what we’re all excited about. Just over six weeks from now, our football teams will be kicking off week 1 of the 2021 season. When you look at the non-conference and conference match-ups, there’s no shortage of exciting this fall.
Our teams arguably play the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. In addition to 23 games against Power Five opponents, the ACC will play 13 non-conference games against teams ranked in the final 2020 Associated Press top 25. All 14 teams play at least one Power Five non-conference opponent, while nine teams play two.
The quality of competition will immediately be evident as ACC teams kick off Labor Day Weekend with games over five consecutive days, and we’re grateful that our fantastic television partners will provide national platforms to showcase our student-athletes and provide fans with access to their favorite ACC teams throughout the season.
We have a strong and important relationship with ESPN, and I appreciate the ongoing conversations as we look ahead to the future and maximizing our collective successes.
This includes ACC Network, which will begin its third year in August. It’s truly hard to believe that the last time the ACC gathered for this football kickoff event, ACCN was still approximately a month from launch. We’re thrilled to have them here today providing our fans coverage of this year’s event.
ACCN is currently available in nearly 70 million households, and our partnerships have exceeded initial expectations over the first two years, including in distribution and in revenue. In addition to the football games that have already been released by ACCN, I’m excited to announce two additional games that will be featured exclusively on ACCN this season: Boston College at Clemson on Saturday, October 2, and Notre Dame at Virginia Tech on Saturday, October 9.
The addition of these games reinforces ACC Network’s ongoing commitment to scheduling high-profile ACC events and surrounding them with comprehensive studio and on-campus programming as well as in-depth storytelling.
As we move through the next two days at kickoff and in the weeks ahead, stay tuned for additional ACCN announcements.
ACC football has a lot to be proud of. We’ve had a team in either the college football playoff or the BCS National Championship game in each of the past eight years. Six different teams have played in the historic Capital One Orange Bowl since 2013, and we’ve won three of the last eight football national titles.
As I’ve stated since my first day as ACC commissioner, football must be number one priority for us, for all of us, our schools, the league, ACC Network, our partners, coaches. We’ve been collaborating for months to ensure that ACC football has the mindset of 24/7, 365, and we’re working together to further elevate football in the ACC. We’re just getting started.
That commitment to football will not be at the expense of our other 26 sponsored sports. You don’t have to deemphasize any sport simply to provide additional resources to others or concentrate on football.
For example, ACC basketball, which we all love, has been and will continue to be the paradigm for excellence, and I believe we can be among the nation’s elite in every sport we sponsor. A renewed focus and commitment of ACC football will impact many aspects and partnerships for us, including our tremendous television and bowl partners. I’m incredibly pleased with the enhanced level of communication, energy and focus within our conference specific to our football programs.
There is terrific work being done by our football subcommittee. That includes six athletic directors and three head football coaches, Pat Kraft, Boston College; Clemson’s Dabo Swinney; Blake James from Miami; Bubba Cunningham, North Carolina; Heather Lyke and Pat Narduzzi from Pitt; Virginia’s Carla Williams; Virginia Tech’s Whit Babcock; and Dave Clawson, chair of our football committee from Wake Forest.
Efforts to strengthen future scheduling, further engage with our student-athletes, deepen the ACC Network’s commitment to football programming, elevating our football championship game, enhancing our officiating program and collectively discussing national issues and be a leader in that space is all underway, but there’s much more work to be done.
Speaking of the postseason, let me take a minute to thank our partners here in the Queen City, who continue to work tirelessly with our office to annually host the ACC football championship game. On Saturday, December 4, Bank of America stadium will host the 2021 event, which marks the 11th time in the last 12 years that the game will be played here in Charlotte.
Following the ACC Championship game weekend, we will look ahead to the 2021 bowl season. Anchored by the Capital One Orange Bowl, I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for our league’s 11 outstanding bowl partners. Each offers meaningful experiences for our football student-athletes who earn a postseason opportunity.
We know 2020 was tough on everyone, and that includes our bowl partners and the communities that deeply benefit from their charitable contributions. It will be great to have our bowl season back in full force this year.
Finally, let me address the proposed changes to the College Football Playoff. As a league, we’re using the summer to engage in conversations on what is best for college football post-season. Most importantly the student-athletes who participate.
Our ADs received the presentation that was given to the full CFP board of managers yesterday afternoon. Later today it will be shared with our 14 head football coaches. We appreciate the work by the subgroup of the CFP management committee as we continue to evaluate proposed options.
As was announced earlier this spring, the league will be represented on the CFP board of managers from Clemson University president Jim Clements, who begins his tenure after the incredible job Florida State president John Thrasher did prior to his retirement.
It was our charge to find another outstanding representative to serve in this prestigious role, and as a conference we are extremely pleased that President Clements humbly agreed to take the mantle.
The success of the CFP is undeniable. It’s important we ensure any future evolutions will only enhance the regular college football season and post-season.
Let me thank all of you again for your interest in the ACC. I hope you enjoy the next few days here in Charlotte. The ACC has so much to be proud of, and I’m truly humbled and honored to serve this amazing collection of world-class institutions and the student-athletes that represent the ACC.
Thank you and, Go ACC.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with questions and answers.
Q. On vaccinations, can you give us an idea of where ACC football teams right now in terms of hitting the 85% threshold are? Several other conferences have already announced that they are not rearranging schedules. If a team can’t play, they will have to forfeit. Wondering why the ACC is still waiting to make a decision on that.
JIM PHILLIPS: We had a chance to get with our athletic directors yesterday. We have over half of our group above that 85% threshold with several others on the cusp. We all feel like that’s a reasonable target across the ACC. So those are numbers as of yesterday.
Then overall from a student-athlete population, that number is even higher according to those schools, the data that they have currently.
As it relates to not making a declaration about if it’s going to be a cancellation or a forfeit, we all really wanted to wait a couple more weeks or so. I think there’s some more information that we’re going to be able to gather. I think we’ll understand the variant a little bit.
It’s really the recommendation of our medical group along with our ADs and our presidents. There’s direct alignment that at least this week we didn’t need to make that kind of statement.
It will be forthcoming. We certainly will be transparent when that decision is made and let everybody know.
Q. Now with the rule allowing players to take advantage of the name, likeness and images, what are your thoughts on it? Are you all coming up with any courses to help the players out, knowing they’re dealing with so much amount of money?
JIM PHILLIPS: So let me just state a little bit. I can’t tell you how proud I am of our 15 schools and how they navigated this uncharted territory over the last six, eight, twelve months to what eventually came to fruition on July 1st.
There’s been constant education going on on our campuses. The ACC office itself tries to help supplement some of the questioning. There’s been education across, again, our footprint.
The success stories are many. We’re seeing all of it around the country. I think it makes all of us feel a sense of gratification that we can do this thing. But we have some real challenges ahead if we don’t get national legislation. I want to speak about that.
I think there’s incredible opportunities for our student-athletes coming. But we need a national standard. Everyone expects us to play a national competition schedule. We go all over the 50 states. Not having a national standard will cause major disruption. You are already seeing across the country the wide-ranging disparity at times, depending on what state you’re in, what people are able to do. So that’s one.
Second is we have to have some help on anti-trust. We can’t sustain constant litigation to the enterprise of college athletics. That has to be wrapped into it.
I think the third element for name, image and likeness for us as we look into the future is what can we do to help our student-athletes once they leave school from a medical standpoint. Can we provide some additional medical care for them. Can we mandate that two, three years, whatever that looks like over a period of time. Some schools are doing it, but we certainly don’t have uniformity across 351 schools at least at the Division I level.
Can we mandate also an opportunity for all student-athletes to come back to school. That can be wrapped into this legislation.
Finally, it can’t be a recruiting advantage. It just can’t. The equity from those resources have to be equally distributed. Most of our student-athletes, the 500,000 that compete nationally, are Olympic sports student-athletes. So that continues to be the mantra and call.
What I hope doesn’t happen is that because we’ve had some success here, we’ve seen these great stories of student-athletes being able to use, rightly so, just like students, their name, image and likeness, that we lose the sense of urgency.
In our conference we have four schools with state legislation — or four states with state legislation, we have two with state directives, and we have four that rely on the NCAA rule. You can see within our 15 schools and our 10 states there’s an unevenness to what student-athletes can do.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. We need federal help. I think that we’ll get it. But I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Q. As you look to the future of the NCAA itself, what is your preference for how you would like to see the NCAA evolve or devolve as it were? Do you still have confidence in Mark Emmert to lead it?
JIM PHILLIPS: So, I would say this. This is the right time to have a complete holistic review of the NCAA, leadership, structure, what do we want to do moving forward.
There’s been so many things that have happened in our space here that the timing is right. No predetermined outcomes. Let’s take a look.
When I look at what we really are super reliant on from an Indianapolis perspective, governance, what is the governance structure, do we have the right governance structure, one size fits all. Is the council working. They’re working incredibly hard, but is that the right structure.
Again, all sizes, shapes within 351.
Championships? We’ve had a couple issues this year with championships. It’s the thing our student-athletes love to do. So an assessment there, championships.
Then enforcement. I’m getting ready to go in August with out of our schools to Indianapolis. Some of those student-athletes on that team that will be subjected to whatever penalties potentially could be handed down were in middle school, were in middle school. So timeliness, fairness in the system.
That being said, the NCAA also has done a lot of great things and continues to do some really good work. So this thing isn’t dumped on Indianapolis. I think we all have our fingerprints on the responsibility we have as leaders, whether it’s commissioners or athletic directors or presidents.
Again, this would be a great time. President Emmert has kind of called for it, a recalibration of the NCAA. I think we should take him up on that opportunity and let’s work collaboratively with the NCAA, with our conferences, with our presidents, athletic directors and such. Let’s spend the next eight, twelve months figuring this thing out.
More changes are coming.
Q. Posted your announcement about the Virginia Tech-Notre Dame game on social media. Fans are frustrated. They rely on Comcast, can’t get the network. Any progress made in the deal? Many areas in our state, that’s our only option. Can you speak to the progress that’s been made on possibly getting it before the season?
JIM PHILLIPS: Appreciate the question.
It’s one of the top priorities I’ve had. I’ve been to Bristol. Had some great conversations with Jimmy Pitaro, Burke Magnus and the group. We have a tremendous relationship.
Distribution is critical for us. When I visited those 15 institutions, that was kind of the cry of all of our schools, is how do we get distribution wider. I think we have a great plan coming up. A lot of the carriers and providers, including Comcast, renewals coming up this late summer and into the fall. I think we’re making tremendous progress with them.
Those frustrations are real. We’ll never be the conference that we need to be until we get some of those issues taken care of.
I think we have a great strategy. It’s been top of point every conversation we’ve had with our TV partners. They understand it. They get it. So we’re hopeful to make a big dent in the distribution piece coming up.
Q. Jack Swarbrick said if the 12-team playoff goes through, he likes the setup for Notre Dame. Removes the imperative of having to play in a conference championship to have access to a national championship. How would you assess the sort of role of Notre Dame and the ACC going forward? If there isn’t any possibility at any point that Notre Dame would potentially give up football independence? How do you sort of assess that relationship as it’s working now? You have the Notre Dame logo behind you, and they’re not here.
JIM PHILLIPS: Listen, I guess I’ll work present time to past to maybe to the future. I’ll jump around a little bit.
I think we all got a glimpse of what would be like to have Notre Dame in the conference this past fall. That was a really beautiful and beneficial relationship to both Notre Dame and the ACC. They had a chance to play a fantastic schedule. They had a chance to vie for a national championship and compete in the CFP. We have a real-life example of what that could look like.
When I look back, obviously I’ve spent time there. I think I have close ties there. I have a student-athlete son there and a daughter. So I think I know the institution pretty well. Led by a terrific president in John Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick.
In 2013 when they joined the league, they declared they were exciting about being in in all their sports, but they valued independence greatly. I respect that. The old kind of quip is, Notre Dame loves two things: one is being Catholic, second is independence. Sometimes those things get in reverse order. Sometimes they like independence even more than being Catholic. That was supposed to be a joke, but it didn’t go over very well (smiling).
They know the ACC’s interest. It’s been less than bashful. It’s been less than bashful since I’ve been here. But I also respect where they’re at. I respect where we’re at. Our concentration right now is on our 14 schools.
Who knows where the future’s going to go. But I love the group of schools that we have. You always have to be ready to add. Notre Dame, contractually, if they were to join a conference, again structured by Commissioner Swofford in 2013, would join the ACC. That’s where we’re at. Appreciate the question. We’ll see where this goes.
Q. Back to the vaccines. Many schools, including Notre Dame, are implementing athletes, students, having to be vaccinated. Would you encourage that to your institutions? If not, some kind of protocol similar to what the NFL is doing with greatly encouraging their players to get vaccinated?
JIM PHILLIPS: We are encouraging. It’s split. We have seven institutions where it’s mandated to be a student on campus, you have to get vaccinated. It’s not just split according to what you may believe, just publics and privates. Virginia Tech is a perfect example being a public in the state of Virginia, what they’ve done.
There’s no question that there will be a higher probability to be able to play for student-athletes if they’re vaccinated. I mean, you can just sense it and see it and feel it. Our policies are going in that direction, too, though we’re not ready to announce them today at the request of the medical advisory group.
If you’re vaccinated, it’s going to take you out of contact tracing issues and such. As a medical experts have indicated, those that are vaccinated are subject to getting the virus at a much lower, lower level than those that don’t.
I believe in being vaccinated. I have a family of healthcare workers that have been on the front lines. But it’s about us educating our student-athletes. Again, I stand by my opening comments. It’s such a personal decision. So student-athletes have to figure out what’s best for them. We’re all hopeful that we can go through a season without any cancellation or forfeitures of any of our contests in any of our sports and that our student-athletes can stay healthy and safe.
Q. I know you spoke a little bit about this at the spring meetings about the transfer portal and the conferences’ and coaches’ concerns. Can you go into that a little bit more? What is exactly your concerns as the commissioner going forward with that, the issues it’s caused this year, especially in men’s basketball?
JIM PHILLIPS: It’s likened to a game of musical chairs. That’s what worries me, the music stops, there’s not enough chairs, seats, scholarships for those in the transfer portal.
But the freedom of movement won out on that decision. I completely agree with that. I know as a former coach really early in my career how difficult that can be when it comes to rosters, when it comes to roster management, maybe life lessons, when things get tough, you can’t just bounce out and go somewhere else.
So we’re working through it as a league, understanding what it looks like in the different sports. As mentioned with 27 sports, there’s a different flow for the transfer experience. Some of our sports are — that are at a higher percentage of student-athletes transferring than some other Olympic sports.
I don’t think we have enough data yet to declare one way or another how we help this thing. But I think it goes back to recruiting and us doing the very best job that we can to identify the prospects that fit our institutions. So more work to come on that.
Again, I feel the coaches’ frustration. It’s real. But in the end it was the right thing to do for our student-athletes.
Q. You talked a little bit about the expanded playoff, the feedback that you’ve been asking for. Dabo yesterday noted that his team had suggested they were not thrilled about additional games. Mack Brown had similar comments about North Carolina players. When you hear that feedback, how does that figure into the bigger-picture view of the expanded playoffs? Is there a way to address their concerns while still thinking about playoff expansion?
JIM PHILLIPS: Appreciate the question.
There is. I don’t want anybody to foreclose either good or bad on the playoff. We’re still learning about the playoff. The football coaches today are going to get to CFP presentation. They may feel the exact same way. I respect Mack and Dabo. Those are two of our tremendous coaches. They have incredible experience.
When I finished up in Dallas at the end of June on a Tuesday, we had CFP meetings Monday and Tuesday, it was brought out that the 12-team playoff was recommended by the board. I had a Wednesday like noon call with our head football coaches. I asked them to do a few things: Get together and talk about it and discuss how they feel about it, to your point about too many games, length of season, healthy and safety issues, what does it do to the regular season, all of those things. But as importantly, talk to the student-athletes, get a feel and read.
I saw Coach Swinney’s press statements yesterday. I’ve seen Coach Brown. I’ve talked to both of them regularly. I’ll see them here later today and tomorrow. Those are real concerns. I think we have to be open-minded to it. It doesn’t mean we’re going to support it.
The last piece of your question about will it influence us. It certainly will influence us. It will influence President Clements who ultimately has one of the votes. I want us to socialize this process, socialize the proposal. I want it to be transparent. I want us to be able to hear from those constituent groups, student-athletes and coaches, and then have an educated position for our conference.
There’s some great things about it, too. We talked a little bit about some of the really major challenges to this thing. There’s some terrific things about access and opportunity. The sport has access to 3% of the schools playing the sport of football. Most of our other sports are around 20% and above. Men’s basketball is at 19%. Baseball and soccer and others are there.
So there’s debate to this thing, which is great. We need that. I’ll look forward by September, as we get ready to have another CFP meeting, having the ACC having a position on where we stand.
Q. I was wondering in terms of recruiting and NIL and increasing the prominence of ACC football, does that worry you in terms of competing with other conferences like the SEC that are offering more and more potential economic upside to players?
JIM PHILLIPS: That’s back to the point about having a national standard. If we could all get on kind of the same footing for all the reasons I described.
In the end I love what we offer. I love the offer across our 14 schools in the sport of football, the academic and athletic balance, the competition, the coaches, the kinds of leaders we create in our programs, the games we play, the network we partner with. Certainly you can always look at a specific conference and compare and contrast.
But I think if we can get some national legislation, we have a tremendous complement of schools that rivals anyone in the country.
Q. You mentioned earlier coming from a family of healthcare workers. You also come from a family of Olympic sport athletes. What have you told your two children, who are Olympic sport athletes, about NIL? Have either of them dabbled into name, image and likeness monetization?
JIM PHILLIPS: They’ve taught me a lot. It’s real when it’s under your roof. As you mentioned, two of our five are current collegiate student-athletes, one in the ACC, one in the Ivy. They have some real ideas about it.
I think where it stands right now is a great start. It just is. They’re thinking about it. They haven’t quite dabbled in it, but they are considering some things. That will be fun because sometimes I wear my dad hat with them and sometimes I wear my commissioner hat with them. It’s kind of a neat role to be in.
But it’s good. Again, I know it was a process getting to a point relative to name, image and likeness. But it’s like other iterations we’ve had in college sports. Most recently we had cost of attendance. I was fortunate enough to chair the NCAA council at that time. I know the consternation that took place about cost of attendance, it’s going to imbalance, some schools can afford it, some schools can’t, it’s really going to hurt collegiate sports.
It been fantastic. The recipients have been our student-athletes.
We’ll get through this, be stronger. In the end we do need to take a look at where we’re at in college sports and really start to get together and do some assessing and do some long-range planning.
Appreciate everyone being here. I really do. It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to get together and see each other and be face-to-face. We’ll continue to be available for you throughout the next couple days.
Be safe in your travels. I look forward to seeing you on the different campuses as I get around in of the fall. Always want to be available to you. Deeply, deeply appreciate the work that you do and the importance that it has in college sports.
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