After an offseason filled with questions about the future of the Atlantic Coast Conference, commissioner Jim Phillips told ESPN on Wednesday that he feels “really, really good about the trajectory” of the league.
The narrative shift around the conference begins on Thursday night, when Pitt hosts West Virginia in a renewed Backyard Brawl rivalry. With ESPN College GameDay on site, play kicks off a weekend in which the ACC will be showcased nationally with 12 games in five days, including another featured non-conference Power 5 matchup on Sunday night between Florida State and LSU.
The ACC has traditionally scheduled tough non-conference games for the first three weeks of the season, but with the ACC going 1-10 in Week 1 against Power 5 non-conference opponents since 2018, it has set in motion a narrative about the conference as a whole that is difficult to break.
Phillips understands what it means to win in these national highlights.
“I’m proud of how we’ve seen the programming. It creates a narrative that’s hard to put a value on, especially early in the season,” Phillips told ESPN in a phone interview. “You start out, fair or unfair, to be molded into what they think your season can be and the kind of team you have, so it’s important for us to get off to a good start. I hope so.
“If we don’t, it won’t mean we don’t have a bunch of really good teams. But it certainly gets you started quickly and puts you in a position to create the narrative around your shows. [if you win]and the success it may have throughout the year.
Much has been said about the ACC’s place in the Power 5 hierarchy, especially after the realignment moves made by the Big Ten and the SEC over the past year. The ACC is currently working on ways to improve revenue streams.
Phillips said multiple times, “We’re going to look at all the options that could make our conference even stronger.”
The Big Ten recently signed a seven-year media rights deal worth more than $7 billion, and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren did not rule out “perpetual and future growth” in an interview with “Real Sports “HBO.
“I continue to believe the ACC is strong and among the best complete conferences in the nation,” Phillips told ESPN. “I’m confident in our desire to stay together. I know there’s a lot of rumors and speculation out there. We all understand that people want answers and certainty. But we’re really aligned right now and we feel like we got something really good.” solutions to address part of the income gap, but it cannot be at the expense of all these things that we are doing.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about the dollars that have come out of this latest television deal, and kudos to the Big Ten. But in the end, it’s more than just dollars, and I think we’ve shown over a long period of time, how successful we’ve been able to be both in the classroom and in competition.”I feel very, very good with the trajectory we’re on.”
Multiple ACC sources told ESPN that they felt discussions about the unequal distribution of income had gained some momentum.
“Everything is on the table and is being discussed,” Phillips confirmed.
What will certainly help the league is if its national brands soon perform at a high level, including Florida State (vs. LSU), Pitt (West Virginia and Tennessee) and Miami (vs. Texas A&M in Week 3).
It’s also about going back to the discussion about real football games. Phillips will be in Pittsburgh for Thursday’s game and will be busy traveling to more games over the weekend, culminating in Clemson playing Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“We’re all trying to have moments where we can forget about all the problems that are on our plate, and that we’re dealing with both professionally and personally and in our world, and it’s as pure as a 3- or 3-and-a-half hour of experience you may have,” Phillips said. “So I know everyone is looking forward to it. I certainly am.”