Phillips: No vaccine mandate, progress made in bringing ACCN to Comcast

Commissioner Jim Phillips gave his state of the ACC address to kick off the league’s media days on Wednesday morning. Among the highlights:

Phillips said COVID vaccinations “are critical for all” but says there will be no mandate for players, coaches and staff. “I also deeply respect that getting vaccinated is a personal choice,” Phillips said. It’s clear some ACC schools have a vaccine mandate while others do not. Phillips mentioned seven schools have a mandate for their on-campus students.

FSU does not have a vaccination mandate. Athletics department spokesperson Rob Wilson told the Osceola earlier this month: “We are adhering to campus policy and strongly encouraging all athletes and staff to get vaccinated.”

Phillips says more guidance is to come from the ACC’s COVID advisory committee in regards to how to handle postponements or if they would re-arrange schedule in 2021. Some other Power 5 commissioners have said if a team can not play a game due to a smaller roster size as a result of COVID or contact tracing that those games will be forfeited.

“We have over half of our group above that 85 percent threshold with several others on the cusp. We all feel like that’s a reasonable target across the ACC. So those are numbers as of yesterday,” Phillips said, reflecting on a conversation with ACC athletics directors. (It’s not clear if FSU is among those that have reached the 85 percent threshold.)

When asked later by the media as part of a Q&A, Phillips said the COVID advisory group is monitoring the variant and wants to provide further guidance in a few weeks.

Phillips was firm when asked about name, image and likeness legislation in saying, “We need a national standard.” He said the ACC will continue to work with Congress on legislation. He reiterated that there can not be a recruiting advantage on a school-by-school or conference-by-conference basis.

The ACC Network is now available in 70 million households, although it is not on Comcast (the largest provider in Florida as well as other states, like Virginia). “Distribution is critical for us,” Phillips said. “When I visited those 15 (ACC) institutions, that was kind of the cry of all of our schools, is how do we get distribution wider. I think we have a great plan coming up. A lot of the carriers and providers, including Comcast, renewals coming up this late summer and into the fall. I think we’re making tremendous progress with them.”

The ACC Network debuted in Aug. 2019 but this would be the third football season where fans of FSU, Miami and other ACC schools would be shut out from watching games if their provider is Comcast. It’s evident the ACC continues to leverage the channel with more football games, and on Wednesday Phillips said two football games will move to the ACC Network: Boston College at Clemson and Notre Dame at Virginia Tech.

One interesting quote that shows a shift in thought at the ACC office, which has often been viewed as basketball-centric. “Football must be the No. 1 priority for all of us, our schools, the league, the ACC Network, our partners,” Phillips said.

Phillips said his forecast is for more changes, a reform of the NCAA. “This is the right time to have a complete, holistic review of the NCAA, leadership, structure, what do we want to do moving forward,” Phillips said. “There’s been so many things that have happened in our space here that the timing is right. No predetermined outcomes. Let’s take a look.” As part of the question from a writer, Phillips was asked to comment or endorse NCAA president Mark Emmert. But Phillips instead focused his comments generally on the NCAA as an organization.