The Atlantic Coast Conference and commissioner Jim Phillips are finalizing a three-year contract extension that will keep him atop the league through essentially the rest of the decade, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.
Phillips has been the league’s commissioner since being named in December 2020 and taking over in February 2021 on a five-year contract, of which he was nearing the halfway point.
The ACC’s move to extend Phillips comes as the Big Ten’s search for a commissioner is hitting its late stages, with finalists expected to be interviewed this week. Phillips was not formally involved in the Big Ten’s process, according to sources, but he had been the speculative favorite.
A source said the deal for Phillips’ extension came together in the past month. “It was the perceived threat of the Big Ten coming after him,” an ACC source told ESPN.
Phillips was the preferred candidate of many athletic directors in the Big Ten, who strongly prefer college athletics experience for the candidate in that role after experiencing Kevin Warren’s steep early learning curve adjusting to college sports.
Phillips is already the second-longest-tenured major conference commissioner, trailing only the SEC’s Greg Sankey.
There have been some clear wins during Phillips’ tenure, including achieving full distribution of the ACC Network on Comcast, which improved ACC Network reach to 90 million homes and bumped up revenue.
The ACC was the only major conference with schools in both of this year’s NCAA tournament Final Fours, as Miami reached the men’s event in Houston and Virginia Tech reached the women’s event in Dallas. The ACC was the top conference with 10 schools in the latest Top 25 of the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings and has recent national titles in field hockey (UNC), men’s soccer (Syracuse) and women’s cross country (NC State).
Phillips’ task in the wake of his new deal is to find creative ways to close the revenue gap between the ACC and the SEC and Big Ten. As those leagues enter new television deals, there’s been a drumbeat in the league for ways to create more revenue and/or distribute revenue differently.
Phillips came to the ACC after a successful tenure as the athletic director at Northwestern, where he spent 13 seasons and developed a reputation as one of the country’s top athletic directors. His accomplishments there included Northwestern’s first men’s NCAA tournament bid, a consistently strong football program under Pat Fitzgerald and the building of a $270 million facility that’s considered the best in all college athletics.