CHARLOTTE, NC — As Colorado becomes the latest domino to fall in college football’s realignment, ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said the league continues to actively consider adding new teams but hasn’t found enough value in either expansion option.
Phillips told ESPN Thursday that he is closely monitoring the Pac-12’s troubles in landing a new TV contract and is routinely reviewing how a realignment could alter the ACC’s position in the Power 5’s financial hierarchy.
“ACC has been, and continues to be, intensely involved in reviewing everything that will make us a better and stronger conference,” Phillips told ESPN. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the expansion to see if there’s anything that fits. We have a huge group of institutions, but if there was something that would make us better, we would be absolutely open to it.”
While expansion wasn’t the preferred option, Colorado’s move could change that situation.
As the first major rebalancing dominoes fell in the summer of 2021 with Texas and Oklahoma’s decision to leave the Big 12 in favor of the SEC, the ACC has been exploring possible expansion options and models for adding a number of potential ones, according to several league administrators Targets performed including West Virginia, SMU, Oregon and Washington. However, league officials have not yet determined whether additional schools would help close the ACC’s financial gap with the SEC and the Big Ten.
But Phillips has also touted the ACC’s relatively secure position as the third-biggest league in TV revenue, which coupled with the conference rights agreement, which runs until 2036, gives cause for optimism.
“Revenue generation remains a priority, but this league is currently third in terms of revenue while we focus on the next few TV deals for other conferences where we’ve been looking at that,” Phillips said. “We had several TV consultants. Third place is certainly a good position, but we’re looking to gain a foothold financially to close the gap with the SEC and the Big Ten.”
However, several ACC athletics directors have expressed concerns to ESPN that the Big 12’s pursuit of further growth could threaten the ACC’s third-place finish, particularly given that the league will have the opportunity to add another new TV to negotiate a contract. As one AD hinted, expansion could be valuable for the league simply to prevent the Big 12 from growing any further.
Phillips acknowledged that reality at this week’s league opening event.
“You have to understand what’s going on across the country,” Phillips told ESPN. “Maybe you’ll come first [another league’s expansion], maybe you don’t either, maybe something has to happen first before you take a step. There are several ways to attack this.
Meanwhile, Florida state website 247 reported Thursday that the Seminoles were actively working to leave the ACC for a better financial position. Although Florida State has worked with multiple legal teams over the past two years to explore the school’s options — as have several other ACC schools — AD Michael Alford told ESPN Thursday that there has been no change to FSU’s status as a ACC member gave .
Any school planning to leave the ACC in the next year must notify the conference in writing by August 15. Alford told ESPN that no meeting of his board of trustees is scheduled until then.
Alford spearheaded efforts to reconsider the league’s even revenue sharing this spring, which led to controversial meetings between athletics directors at May’s ACC meetings in Amelia Island, Fla. The end result, however, was a new “success initiatives” agreement that would give teams competing in the college football playoffs and other revenue-generating events a larger share of postseason revenue.
Phillips pointed out in Charlotte this week that this agreement is a sign of the 14 league members’ willingness to work together to find solutions to the revenue gap between the SEC and the Big Ten, which could grow to as much as $40 million in the coming years could increase per year.
“I’m well aware of the narratives and stories surrounding the ACC and our members, and the frustration some of our schools have with our finances,” Phillips said. “But that’s nothing new. While there are legitimate discussions and stories about earnings and our membership, it’s important that we all never lose track of what we’re doing together. Overall, our conference is strong and I am extremely optimistic about our future together.”