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New ACC commissioner says NCAA in need of a total review

jim phillips acc
ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips. Photo by Grant Halverson/courtesy ACC.

New ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips believes that it’s time for the NCAA to get a fresh and “holistic ” review of its governing structure.

Phillips, who took over for retiring John Swofford in February, is ushering in a new look for NCAA athletics, with more changes coming to college sports in the last two years than in the previous two decades.

Phillips wasted no time in his 25-minute opening statement addressing two of the most significant changes to college athletics: name, image, likeness, and the no “sit out” rule.

Once the questions started coming, Phillips displayed a thorough grasp of issues facing college athletics, demanding a “complete holistic review” of the NCAA’s role and structure in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling against the NCAA’s bylaws that limited education-related compensation for athletes.

The NCAA has also removed rules that previously forced athletes in football and men’s and women’s basketball to sit out a year if transferring before they received their undergraduate degree.

Phillips said on Wednesday the entire structure of the NCAA should be examined and redesigned from governance to enforcement. “What is the governance structure? Do we have the right structure? There’s just many things that need reviewed,” stated Phillips.

With college players suddenly being allowed to move from school to school without penalty, and the ability to profit financially from name, image, and likeness, it’s an era of the wild west meets the California gold rush.

Phillips hinted that more changes are coming to the NCAA and how college sports are managed and now is the time to re-think how the structure of the NCAA looks.

Phillips “fully supports” athletes’ being able to profit off their name, image and likeness. But he also looks at the big picture concerns about the legislation (or lack thereof) of its implementation.

A quick check across all sports, the conference has 15 schools in 10 states. Schools in four of those states have NIL state legislation to follow, while the other states are relying on the current NCAA blanket rule to follow. Phillips says that has to change.

“We will continue to work with congressional leaders to enact federal legislation that will protect and benefit all student-athletes in the long-term and that will also hopefully ensure fairness in college sports,” said Phillips.

Currently there is a definite unevenness within the 15 schools, even more so than before the NIL ruling went into effect. The new ACC boss acknowledges this and the urgency to correct it-conference wide.

“We need federal help. I think we’ll get it, but I hope it’s sooner than later,” noted Phillips.

In the end it seems that Phillips struck a middle-ground on the subject of NIL, praising the financial opportunities that some athletes have benefited from in recent week, but saying he also hopes some regulations can be put in place in order to limit the impact financial benefit may possibly have on recruiting and creating a competitive advantage.

“It can’t be a recruiting advantage,” Phllips said about NIL opportunities. “It just can’t. The equities from those resources needs to be equally distributed,” added Phillips.

Like many college administrators, he said he thinks it’s critical that the government steps in and creates a national standard to create a level playing field.

“The best interest of our student-athletes was the motivating force behind the ACC’s decision to fully support the opportunity to benefit from their name, image and likeness,” Phillips said.

The commissioner did express hope that colleges could continue to provide increased resources to college athletes in other ways, suggesting mandating medical coverage for a certain number of years after college athletes are finished playing, as well as returning to school after their playing careers.

Challenging times are indeed ahead for the conference’s new head man.

Former commissioner Swofford may have decided to retire at exactly the right time. Swofford told the Augusta Free Press Wednesday that he may inquire about a part-time job opportunity with the Virginia ticket office, his first job in college athletics nearly fifty years ago.

“That was a great job, working in a great town, with great people, it was sweet,” said Swofford.

A couple years from now, Jim Phillips might agree.

Story by Scott German

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