Jim Phillips, CCA Commissioner, meets with North Carolina State athletes
While he was athletic director at Northwestern, Jim Phillips was known to wear a purple and white striped tie as a sort of uniform. At Christmas, after accepting but not yet assuming the position of CCA commissioner, his family filled the new sartorial void.
The red and black striped tie he wore on Monday at NC State was one of 15 new ties he received as a gift, and he’s been working them all out lately. Phillips’ visit to Raleigh was his 11th stop at an ACC school and his sixth in the past seven days, a trip that last week took him almost from one end (Florida State) of the imprint to each other (Syracuse and Boston College).
He put his bonds to the test.
“I’ve learned that you can really irritate people with a simple wardrobe mistake, and I didn’t want to do that early in my tenure,” Phillips said in an interview.
Phillips was at Chapel Hill last week and Durham last month, with just Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Clemson, all but one by the end of next week. This is the kind of effort any new commissioner could undertake, but it is especially important for someone coming from outside the conference.
It was part of Phillips’ tenure when he was hired, to iron out the tough spots between the old ACC schools and the Big East additions and have everyone pull on the same rope. He understood this, but has said so far that he hasn’t found in his travels the kind of fundamental disagreements he might have expected or suspected.
“My experience in the Big Ten, going through a two-time expansion, with Nebraska first and Maryland and Rutgers, I think it takes conscious effort and intentional decision making to may there be and feel united as a conference, ”said Phillips. “It doesn’t mean that there aren’t difficult circumstances and situations where there is a big disagreement. Strong disagreement. But in the end, the commitment to each other and the commitment to the conference was truly refreshing. “
Meeting with Randy Woodson, athletes
Phillips met with athletic director Boo Corrigan and the North Carolina State athletic director as well as Chancellor Randy Woodson on Monday, but perhaps the most important part of his visit was the hour. spent with five athletes from the state of North Carolina, where the new commissioner listened more than spoke. It was an impressive group, all members of the Pack United activism group that formed last summer: football players Isaiah Jones and Grant Gibson, footballer Leon Krapf, swimmer Shannon Kearney and runner Peyton Barish. .
Two of them already had at least tenuous ties to Phillips: Krapf was on the ACC search committee that hired Phillips, and Kearney attended the same suburban Chicago high school as Phillips’ eldest son.
Phillips led them into a high-profile discussion that covered their experience at NC State, enduring the COVID pandemic, mental health, social activism, ACC Championships, NCAA legislation, the impending emergence of name rights, of image and likeness, and The Northwestern Soccer Players’ 2014 attempt to unionize, all of which ended up going back to the future of the NCAA. Phillips has heard a wide variety of views on the latter, even within this small group.
“We have to find out, because it’s worth the fight,” Phillips told the athletes. “I don’t think any of you are wrong. What is the right kind of model for the future? What does the 21st century model look like? “
A little history of the ACC
He came out with the promise that every athlete would hear from him within 48 hours with his contact details to continue the discussion. As people who have met Phillips at other ACC schools have noted, it’s a bit more practical than Phillips’ predecessor, John Swofford, could be. Which is by no means a criticism of Swofford; each commissioner has his own style. In those early days, this is how Phillips’ leadership portrait unfolds: engaging and curious as he navigates an unfamiliar landscape.
“It helps me keep guiding myself,” Phillips said. “Again, as the father of two current student-athletes at different levels, we must always listen to the experiences they are having and try to lead in that way and try to support each other if we are to stay true. . to what we say we are in varsity athletics.
ACC certainly has its quirks, and while Phillips nailed one of the most awkward moments in history – telling athletes at one point about the original Sedgefield Seven, with Virginia joining a few months later in 1953 – his tour took him to places few have seen.
As he was shown NC State’s new TV production studios in the Murphy Center, senior associate athletic director Fred Demarest took Phillips up the back stairs to the equipment areas below, where the wood floors frank of what’s left of Chuck Amato’s racquetball court are still marked in red. lines.
It’s hard to capture the entire history, personality, and stamp of NC State, or any ACC school, in one visit. But seeing the remains of Amato’s court, like Roman ruins buried in a modern city, is definitely a start.