Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Phillips spoke with media members in Fernandina Beach, Fla., on Wednesday at the league’s meetings and addressed several pressing issues involving the ACC and college athletics.
One of the major topics all week there has been the ACC looking to eliminate divisions and go with a “3-5-5” model, which Phillips said is the proposal they’ll likely vote on at some point.
Whether or not this is done in time to affect the 2023 season remains to be seen, but the ACC appears to be the first league to really shake up its championship-deciding format in several years.
The Big Ten floated this idea of division-less football earlier this year, and the ACC has been discussing it for some time as well, but this is the first time an actual proposal has come up. And the league is wanting each team to have three permanent opponents with a rotation of five teams one season and the other five the following year.
Here’s an example of what that could look like for Clemson:
- Permanent 3: FSU, NC State, Georgia Tech
- First 5: UNC, Wake, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh
- Second 5: Duke, Miami, Virginia, Boston College, Louisville
This would mean Clemson will play home and away with every single team in the ACC over the course of four seasons. It’s a solid model that is probably long overdue. Divisions don’t serve much of a purpose, especially since the NCAA is going to allow conferences to decide how they determine a champion.
And with an expansion of the College Football Playoff coming in the following decade, most conferences will align themselves differently moving forward.
“I’m confident we’re gonna get to a decision,” Phillips told the media. “And either we’re going to do it or we’re not going to do it and then we’re not going to be talking about it.”
Future of college athletics
One of the hottest topics of this offseason is how the NCAA and college football are looking to co-exist better or potentially not at all. With name, image and likeness combined with an NCAA transfer portal that allows athletes to go anywhere once without sitting out, there’s concern that the governing body can no longer police its sports, especially football.
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Phillips isn’t ready to concede that a breakaway from the NCAA is coming anytime soon.
The power structure currently doesn’t seem sustainable. Adding in the ability for boosters, collectives and agents to get involved in athletes making money has become difficult for the NCAA to handle, even though it’s trying to pass guidelines to keep NIL from being used as a recruiting tool for high school prospects and portal players.
The reality is, that there isn’t much belief the NCAA will show teeth and the sport could eventually need to be revolutionized on a larger scale.
Phillips does feel, though, that football could need “alternative models” with so much change at the FBS level.
One of the last major moves former ACC commish John Swofford made was creating a network for the conference and locking in all of the league members under the media grant of rights for nearly two decades.
The problem, though, is that the ACC’s TV contract doesn’t expire until 2036. It’s already behind other Power Five conferences financially, and that disparity is about to become much greater. The Big Ten is working on a massive new deal that will be completed sometime this year and could have teams in that league making twice what schools in the ACC bring in per season.
The SEC will have a new deal next year with rumors of each school getting over $80 million per year.
“All the time” might be true, but the disparity is still alarming. Phillips is working to find ways to combat that and increase revenue for a league that’s frankly getting left in the dust.
The ACC could be moving soon. The league opened up a bidding process to change the location of its headquarters, and the finalists are Charlotte, Orlando and Greensboro (its current home).
Based on the league’s biggest footprint right now, it would be surprising if it chooses anywhere other than Charlotte, which fits a ton of criteria. It’s a large metropolitan area and is home to the ACC’s football championship game, among other events.
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