As Clemson-UNC looms, ACC’s ties to Charlotte grow stronger

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips has been on the job nearly two years. The conference is moving its headquarters to Charlotte.

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips has been on the job nearly two years. The conference is moving its headquarters to Charlotte.

The ACC is coming to Charlotte very soon — both Saturday night’s football championship and the conference headquarters.

It’s a monstrous week for the ACC, which will see Clemson face off against North Carolina for the conference title Saturday at 8 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium. And already this week, the ACC has notched another, quieter landmark.

“We received keys to our new building in uptown Charlotte on Monday,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips told me in a phone interview. “So we are proud new tenants of that space.”

The ACC’s headquarters has been located in Greensboro since the league’s founding in 1953. But the ACC announced in September that it would move its headquarters to Charlotte, a bigger city with a massive hub airport and more connections with Fortune 500 companies and the league’s media partners. Phillips also pointed out that there are close to 100,000 alums of ACC schools in the greater Charlotte area.

The move to Charlotte has begun, Phillips said, and will be completed over the next “6-8 months, and maybe sooner.”

Eventually, about 50-55 ACC staffers will work inside the space, located on the 12th floor of the Legacy Union’s Bank of America tower, about a block from Bank of America Stadium.

That stadium will be busy this weekend as Clemson (10-2) and UNC (9-3) face off in football for the first time since 2019 (8 p.m., ABC). Both teams enter the game coming off a loss in a rivalry game last weekend, which means a College Football Playoff berth isn’t realistically in play for either one.

That may be part of the reason why the game likely won’t sell out. I’d expect a crowd of around 60,000 in a stadium that seats roughly 73,000 for football.

Still, the victor gets an Orange Bowl trip. UNC will be trying to win its first football conference championship since 1980, while Clemson will be trying to win its seventh title in the past eight years.

“I don’t think the bloom is off the rose,” Phillips insisted about the matchup. “If the CFP is the only standard, maybe others look at it differently. But they both won their divisions. … Two top-20 teams, two outstanding coaches. It’ll be a great game. And I’m glad they didn’t play during the regular season. I think that adds to the luster of this.”

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips smiles as he talks with the leaders of N.C. States Pack United at the Murphy Center in Raleigh, N.C. Monday, May 3, 2021. Ethan Hyman

Speaking of divisions, this will be the last football season that the ACC is split into the Coastal and the Atlantic. That’s a welcome move in my opinion, since I’ve never been able to easily name the seven teams in each half, even after all these years.

Starting in 2023, the ACC won’t have football divisions. The two teams with the best records after an eight-game conference schedule will simply show up in Charlotte on the first Saturday in December for the championship game (which is guaranteed to be in the Queen City at least through the 2030 season and has sold out five different times in its 11 previous years in Charlotte).

Phillips, who will be moving to Charlotte himself soon, has now been in his job as ACC commissioner for nearly two years. He has the sort of travel schedule that may have you envying his frequent flier miles but sympathizing with all the airport delays he experiences.

Phillips has seen 26 ACC football games in person this year, including at least one at all 14 teams’ home campuses (Notre Dame, the league’s 15th member, remains independent in football). He also has been known to give ACC athletes his cellphone number, emails congratulations to every ACC athlete of the week in every sport himself and personally presented the trophy at every ACC fall sports championship — men’s and women’s cross-country, field hockey and men’s and women’s soccer among them.

So the commissioner gets around. And he’s deeply invested, both in what happens Saturday on the field and what happens over the coming years in Charlotte. Phillips is also a proponent of CFP expansion as soon as possible. The commissioner would like college football to go to a 12-team playoff rather than the current four-team setup in 2024. He said a decision on that is likely coming within days (ESPN reported Wednesday that a 12-team playoff in 2024 was now very likely).

“We’re coming down the stretch here,” Phillips said, “to see if we can pull it off with our bowl partners.”

As for the more immediate future, Phillips will be in Charlotte on Saturday for the Clemson-UNC contest, and in his Charlotte office full-time by the first half of 2023. The ACC’s links to our city have always been strong. They’re about to get stronger.

This story was originally published December 1, 2022 6:00 AM.

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for The Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. Fowler has earned 18 national APSE writing awards and hosted The Observer’s podcast “Carruth,” which Sports Illustrated named 2018’s “Podcast of the Year.” His new podcast and online series is called “Sports Legends of the Carolinas” and features 1-on-1 interviews with NC and SC sports icons.
Support my work with a digital subscription

Source link

Leave a Comment