Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips has emerged as the leading candidate to become the next ACC commissioner, sources told ESPN on Sunday night.
Phillips, who has led Northwestern’s athletic department since April 2008, is expected to replace John Swofford, set to retire as ACC commissioner in June after 24 years leading the conference.
Yahoo Sports first reported Phillips as the likely choice to replace Swofford and noted an offer is being finalized.
Phillips had strong support from Big Ten athletic directors to become that league’s commissioner after Jim Delany’s retirement in January. But the Big Ten presidents and chancellors instead went with Minnesota Vikings executive Kevin Warren, who has had a rocky first year leading the conference.
Phillips spearheaded several major initiatives at Northwestern, including the $270 million Walter Athletics Center, the lakeside home of the school’s football team and other programs. He also led the overdue renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena and a standalone facility for the basketball programs. Phillips also held several major leadership positions with NCAA groups, among them serving the inaugural chair of the Division I council from 2015 to 2017.
Northwestern has won two Big Ten West Division titles and four bowl games during Phillips’ tenure, and the men’s basketball team made its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2017.
Before Northwestern, Phillips served as athletic director at Northern Illinois for four years. Although he never worked in the ACC, he spent time as an associate athletic director at Notre Dame prior to the school’s joining the conference in all sports except football.
Phillips came up under Duke athletic director Kevin White, working for him at both Notre Dame and Arizona State. A 1990 graduate of Illinois, Phillips also spent time in Tennessee’s athletic department.