Northwestern AD Jim Phillips set to become commissioner of ACC


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Jim Phillips watches a Northwestern football game from the sidelines. The athletic director was named the new commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference last week.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Senior Staffer

After more than 12 years at Northwestern, athletic director Jim Phillips is moving on.

Phillips was named the new commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Monday, replacing the retiring John Swofford. The news comes after Phillips came very close to securing the same role with the Big Ten in 2019 when longtime commissioner Jim Delany retired. Big Ten athletic directors supported Phillips, but the presidents and chancellors selected Kevin Warren instead.

Phillips has held his role at NU since 2008, after spending four years as athletic director at Northern Illinois. Prior to that, he held various positions in the athletic department at Notre Dame. But it was during his time in Evanston that he became one of the most respected names in collegiate athletics.

“Over the course of 13 years, Jim has elevated and cemented Northwestern’s position as an outstanding Power 5 athletics program,” ACC board chair Kent Syverud, the chancellor and president of Syracuse University, said in a news release. “Northwestern’s ascension in the world of intercollegiate athletics is a testament to Jim’s vision, leadership and foundational dedication to the success of student-athletes.”

Under Phillips’ tenure, several Wildcat teams have experienced success, with lacrosse winning three national championships, men’s basketball making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament and football making two trips to the Big Ten Championship Game. Every campus athletic facility has also been updated, most notably Welsh-Ryan Arena, and several teams now practice in the $265 million Ryan Fieldhouse that opened two years ago.

In 2018, Phillips was the second-highest paid athletic director in the country, behind only Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick. That same year, the Sports Business Journal named him Athletic Director of the Year.

In a tweet congratulating Phillips on the new job, Northwestern Athletics called him “the man who has elevated the expectation of excellence inside Northwestern Athletics in every way over the last 13 years.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @bxrosenberg

Related Stories:
The Big Ten is hiring its next commissioner. If he wants the job, NU’s Jim Phillips could reshape the next decade of college athletics.
Jim Phillips ranked 2nd-highest paid athletic director in nation
Big Ten names NFL exec as next commissioner, Phillips to remain in Evanston