The Atlantic Coast Conference has kept up in the conference realignment debate over the past few months, and they certainly have James J. Phillips to thank for not being left behind in that regard. Phillips, who will welcome in Cal, Stanford, and SMU to the ACC in 2024, has been the ACC Commissioner since 2021, bringing with him plenty of change.
So, who exactly is Jim Phillips?
Who is Jim Phillips?
James J. Phillips, Ph.D, is the fifth commissioner of the ACC and brought with him a plethora of experience and a bevy of scholastic excellence.
Phillips began his tenure as the ACC Commissioner on February 1, 2021, signing on from Northwestern University.
“Phillips brings more than three decades of experience in Division I athletics, a track record of tremendous achievement, a vision for the future of intercollegiate athletics, and a passion for helping student-athletes achieve impact and success in competition, in the classroom and in their communities,” the ACC release stated about Phillips.
It’s clear to see why the ACC chose Phillips to lead the conference as their commissioner, especially after viewing his previous career stops:
- Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation at Northwestern University (2008-2021)
- Director of Athletics at Northern Illinois University (2004-2008)
- Associate Director of Athletics/Senior Associate Director of Athletics for External Affairs at the University of Notre Dame (2000-04)
- Assistant Athletic Director For Annual Giving and Major Gifts at the University of Tennessee (1998-2000)
Prior to his athletic department roles, Phillips was a basketball team manager and student assistant at the University of Illinois and graduate assistant and assistant basketball coach at Arizona State.
Phillips is the youngest of 10 children and received his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, his Master’s degree in education at Arizona State, and his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois.
He has five children with his wife Laura: Luke, Madeline, Meredith, John, and James.
Phillips’ Administrative Work Receives High Praise
In addition to Phillips’ work as the ACC commissioner and his successes at each stop along the way, Phillips was recognized by the NCAA as a leading voice across college sports. In 2021, he was selected to serve on the 28-member NCAA Constitution Review Committee.
This process was set in place to identify the core principles that “define college sports and propose a new governance model that allows for quicker change” without also sacrificing any of the values collegiate sports offer.
During his time at Northwestern, the Wildcats secured 200 Academic All-Big Ten honorees in each academic season, including the record for most in a single academic year: 288 in 2019-20. In 2020, the Wildcats led the nation with a Graduation Success Rate of 98%, the third year in a row Northwestern led the country in such a figure.