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ACC continuing to look at possible expansion, commissioner says

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As Colorado becomes the latest domino to fall in college football realignment, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said the league continues to actively consider adding teams but has not found enough value in any expansion option.

Phillips told ESPN on Thursday that he’s closely monitoring the Pac-12’s issues landing a new TV deal and routinely examining how realignment can shift the ACC’s position in the Power 5’s financial hierarchy.

“The ACC has been and remains highly engaged in looking at anything that makes us a better and stronger conference,” Phillips told ESPN. “We’ve spent considerable time on expansion to see if there is anything that fits. We have a tremendous group of institutions but if there was something that made us better, we would absolutely be open to it.”

While expansion had not been a favored option, Colorado’s move could alter that landscape.

Since the first major realignment dominoes fell with Texas and Oklahoma’s decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC happened in summer 2021, the ACC has explored possible expansion options, according to multiple league administrators, running models on adding a number of potential targets, including West Virginia, SMU, Oregon and Washington. However, league officials haven’t determined if any additional schools would help bridge the ACC’s financial gap with the SEC and Big Ten.

But Phillips has also touted the ACC’s relatively secure position as the No. 3 league in TV revenue, which along with the conference’s grant of rights deal, which extends until 2036, as a source of optimism.

“Revenue generation continues to be a priority, but this league is third right now in revenue as we go forward into wherever the next TV deals are for other conferences where, we’ve looked at it,” Phillips said. “We’ve had multiple TV consultants. Third is certainly a good position, but we want to gain and gain traction financially in order to close the gap with the SEC and the Big Ten.”

Several ACC athletics directors expressed concerns to ESPN, however, that the Big 12’s push for continued growth could threaten the ACC’s third-place status, particularly given that league will have an opportunity to negotiate another new TV deal four years before the ACC does. As one AD suggested, expansion could be valuable to the league simply as a means of preventing the Big 12 from growing further.

Phillips acknowledged that reality at the league’s kickoff event this week.

“You have to understand what’s going on across the country,” Phillips told ESPN. “Maybe you preempt (another league’s expansion), maybe you don’t, maybe there’s a first thing that has to happen before you make a move. There’s a variety of ways you attack this.”

Meanwhile, Florida State’s 247 site reported Thursday that the Seminoles were actively working to depart the ACC in search of a better financial picture. Although Florida State has worked with several legal teams over the past two years to examine the school’s options — something several other ACC schools have also done — AD Michael Alford told ESPN on Thursday that there was no change in FSU’s status as an ACC member.

Any school planning to leave the ACC in the next year would have to notify the conference in writing by Aug. 15. Alford told ESPN that, at this time, there is no meeting of his board of trustees scheduled between now and then.

Alford was at the forefront of a push to reconsider the league’s equal revenue sharing this spring, which resulted in contentious meetings between athletics directors at the ACC’s meetings in May in Amelia Island, Florida. The end result, however, was a new agreement on “success initiatives,” which would provide a larger slice of postseason revenue for teams that participate in the College Football Playoff and other revenue-generating events.

In Charlotte this week, Phillips pointed to that agreement as a sign of the league’s 14 members willingness to work together on finding solutions to a revenue gap with the SEC and Big Ten that could grow to as much as $40 million annually in the coming years.

“I’m well aware of the narrative and stories surrounding the ACC and our members as well as the frustrations of some of our schools on our financials,” Phillips said. “But these are not new. While there are legitimate discussions and stories regarding revenue and our membership, it’s important that all of us never lose perspective on just what we are doing together. The bottom line is our conference is strong and I’m extremely bullish about our future together.”

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