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Jim Phillips Says ACC Is Best Conference in CFB amid Buzz About SEC Realignment

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 20, 2022

AP Photo/Nell Redmond

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said Wednesday he believes his conference is the cream of the crop amid widespread realignment within the Power Five.

"It remains my belief there's no better conference in the country," Phillips told reporters.

He added it's important college sports remains "a healthy neighborhood—not two or three gated communities" as programs jockey to join the most lucrative conference.

"We are not the professional ranks. This is not NFL or NBA lite. This is not, or should not be, a winner-take-all structure," Phillips said.

James Crepea @JamesCrepea

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips : "While the ACC is strong we are continually evaluating all options that could further strengthen our conference and we are engaged in ongoing dialogue with our media partners."

The competitive balance throughout Division I college sports was on full display during the 2021-22 academic year. Here's the breakdown of the 38 men's and women's national championships won by conference, per Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star:

  • 7 titles each: ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC
  • 5 titles each: Big Ten, non-Power Five conferences

The question is whether that balance across the conferences will be a thing of the past once the realignment is complete, and whether two or three super-conferences will gobble up all the titles, leaving scraps for everybody else.

It's an important question in the NIL era because smaller schools operate at a distinct disadvantage in what commercial opportunities they're able to offer recruits. If the chance to compete at their sport's highest level is further diminished, serious questions about competitive and financial viability will emerge outside what Phillips described as the gated communities.

That's been the main focus of the critiques from Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, whose criticism of the direction of college athletics over the past year continued Tuesday.

"Don't think what I'm saying is a concern that we have at Alabama because we're one of the haves," Saban said. "But everybody in college football cannot do these things relative to how they raise money for collectives and how they distribute the money to players."

While there's always been a gap between the so-called haves and the have-nots, how far that will widen with the combination of lucrative NIL offers and realignment has been the major concern since Oklahoma and Texas announced a future move to the SEC last July.

Saban, who noted his SEC team brought in more than $3 million in NIL deals last season, has sought a uniform standard across college sports without limiting student-athletes' earning potential.

"I'm all for the players being able to do as well as they can and use name, image and likeness to be able to create value for themselves," Saban said.

The ACC has remained mostly quiet on the realignment front compared to its Power Five peers, but it already featured a healthy 15 full-time members, including Notre Dame for most non-football sports, before the movement began.

Based on Phillips' comments, though, it sounds like the conference is open for business as it tries to remain competitive in the ever-changing landscape.

How college sports look in 10 years may be completely different than the system that's been in place for so long, for better or worse.

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