The trickle-down effect — make it expected gushing waterfall effect — of the news that Oklahoma and Texas will leave the Big 12 and plan to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025 or sooner was broached to Miami Hurricanes athletic director Blake James on Thursday.
“Like everyone I was a little shocked, probably in a little disbelief,’’ James told WQAM’s Zach Krantz and Joe Rose. “Thought maybe there was a little bit more being made out of it then what was really there. But as it’s played out it is something that appears is going to happen. That’s something that will definitely impact the future of college athletics at some level.’’
So, have talks with new Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Jim Phillips or other schools about the ACC possibly expanding, in light of the news, come up in conversations?
“It’s natural obviously when you have that out there,’’ James told Krantz, “but there hasn’t been any specific talk about any specific schools or anything like that. Everyone was in shock a little over a week ago when this broke. You always want to be looking at what’s best. We have great alignment in our league. You really saw that play out last year in the COVID year, how the ACC really led the approach to how we would play football.
“Given the alignment we have in the league, the great communication we have, we’ll continue to do things that are best for the ACC, best for the student-athlete experience and have full confidence that commissioner Phillips will work with our presidents and chancellors and athletic directors to continue to position the ACC to be the premier athletic conference.”
Added James: “I have no concerns about the current composition of the ACC.’’
James also was asked about the American Athletic Conference, which has prominent football schools like UCF, Cincinnati and Houston and considered outside the major Power 5 conferences, now allegedly trying to lure other Big 12 members, per an AP source, after Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby “accused ESPN of encouraging other conferences to pick apart the league apart so Texas and Oklahoma can move to the SEC more quickly and without paying a massive buyout.’’
Said James: “Everyone has got to do what’s best for their conference. My focus is on Miami and the ACC. If there’s an expansion of our conference it will be something that makes sense for us collectively as a group. What the AAC does is something they have to focus on what’s best for those schools.
“Obviously a lot of great schools in that conference that I’m sure would like to be viewed at a much higher level. They’ve made that very clear in a lot of the comments they’ve made, and understandably so. Everyone at every level wants to compete to be the very best and wants to position themselves in position to be the best and I’m sure the AAC are going to view this as an opportunity to continue to push their — I guess it was Power 6 before is one of the mantras they used — [agenda]. I’m sure they’ll continue to push that forward.
“If I was athletic director at one of those schools I’m sure I’d be supporting that move. Really, my concern is Miami and the ACC conference and what we do to best position ourselves for long term success.’’
James also spoke about the beleaguered NCAA and its future.
“We all have to recognize we as members of the NCAA are part of the Association and help drive where things go,’’ James said. “It’s really upon all of us to make sure the changes that need to be made are made. I think we’ve done a poor job in communicating what it means to be a student-athlete.
“Talk about name, image and likeness, which came into play.. My personal opinion is we could have done a lot of things a long time ago when you look back to the video games and jersey sales that would have really helped address this issue before we got to the point we are in this situation.
“Do I think the NCAA could do more? Without a doubt. With that said there are a lot of us on campus that need to push the main office in Indianapolis to do more. If they’re not going to do what we need them to do, we have to look at what’s best for our institutions within the ACC. We gotta work with the office in Indianapolis to make sure they’re meeting the expectations of leadership and I don’t think we’ve always done a very good job of that.
“Compounding that fact is I don’t think we’ve necessarily communicated some of the changes and how it’s evolved being a student-athlete from even five years ago.”