With Texas and Oklahoma, both currently Big 12 programs, earlier this week submitting formal requests for invitations to become members of the Southeastern Conference in 2025, questions naturally arose if there will be any more shakeups among Power Five conference.
While he didn’t completely shut down the possibility of the Atlantic Coast Conference expanding, Miami Hurricanes athletic director Blake James said conversations about adding more members to the conference haven’t happened.
The ACC has 15 members and hasn’t added a program since 2014, when Louisville joined the conference.
“It’s natural, obviously when you have that out there, but there hasn’t been any specific talks about any specific schools or anything like that,” James told 560-AM on Thursday morning, saying he was “a little shocked, probably in disbelief” about the expected departures of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 for the SEC. “You always want to be looking at what’s best.
“We have great alignment in our league. We’ll continue to do things that are best for the ACC, our student-athlete experience and have full confidence commissioner [Jim] Phillips will work with our presidents, chancellors and athletic directors to continue to position the ACC to be the premier athletic conference.”
With reports that the American Athletic Conference, a Group of Five conference, is looking to expand by adding programs currently in the Big 12, James didn’t express any worries about the ACC’s stability, saying, “I have no concerns about the current composition of the ACC.”
“What the AAC does really is something they have to focus on what’s best for those schools,” James added. “Obviously a lot of great schools in that conference that I’m sure would like to be viewed at a much higher level. I think they’ve made that very clear in a lot of the comments they’ve made, and understandably so.
“I’m sure the schools in the AAC are going to view this as an opportunity to continue to push their — I guess it was Power Six before, one of the mantras they used. I’m sure they’ll continue to push that forward. If I was an athletic director at one of those schools, I’m sure I’d be supporting that move.”
James was also complimentary of Phillips, who took over as the ACC’s commissioner in February after being Northwestern’s athletic director from 2008-21.
“Jim is someone who’s very passionate and very competitive,” he added. “He’s going to continue to drive this league to be the very best. I’m confident under his leadership we’ll continue to position the ACC to be one of the elite conferences, if not the elite conference, in college sports in all of the country.”
“Everyone’s gotta do what’s best for their conference. My focus is on Miami and the ACC. If there’s an expansion of our conference, it’ll be something that makes sense for us collectively as a group.”
In light of recent criticism directed at the NCAA, most notably by recently by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, James said the universities could do a better job of pushing for changes.
“One of the things is we all have to recognize: we as members of the NCAA are part of the association and help drive where things go,” he added. “We’ve done a poor job of communicating what it means to be a student-athlete. Talking about name, image and likeness, my personal opinion is we could’ve done a lot of things a long time ago when you look back to the video games and jersey sales that I think would’ve really helped address this issue before we got to the point we are with this situation.”
James added that the NCAA could do better with adapting.
“Do I think the NCAA could do more? Without a doubt,” he said. “With that said, I think a lot of us on campuses that need to push the main offices in Indianapolis to do more. We have to work with the office in Indianapolis to make sure they’re meeting the expectations of the membership 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.”