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ACC hires Northwestern AD Jim Phillips as new commissioner

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips watches a football game at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., in 2012. Phillips is in the running for the Big Ten’s new commissioner. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

TNS via Getty Images

The Atlantic Coast Conference hired Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips on Monday to be the league’s next commissioner, replacing the retiring John Swofford.

Phillips has been Northwestern’s AD since 2008, leading the athletic department through a period of success in competition and growth in facilities. He oversaw the funding of Northwestern’s $270 million Walter Athletics Center and Ryan Fieldhouse indoor practice facility located on Lake Michigan’s shores.

The Chicago native has also worked at Notre Dame under current Duke athletic director Kevin White and was athletic director at Northern Illinois before taking over at Northwestern in the Big Ten.

Phillips was the first chairman of the NCAA’s Division I Council in 2015 and served as the first sitting athletic director on the NCAA Board of Directors and Board of Governors. He is also set to become chairman of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2021-22 season.

“Jim is well-respected throughout college athletics and knows the enterprise inside and out,” Swofford said in a statement. “As I’ve said many times before, having been an athletic director prior to sitting in this chair is a tremendous benefit, and that will serve him well. Jim will do an excellent job and I will be here to assist with the transition as much, or as little, as necessary.”

Phillips was a candidate to become Big Ten commissioner when the conference was searching for a replacement for Jim Delany last year, but ultimately the league went outside of college athletics and hired former NFL executive Kevin Warren.

A person with knowledge of the situation told AP that Phillips agreed to a five-year contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the ACC had not released terms of Phillips’ deal.

The ACC announced Swofford’s retirement in June, though he was to continue in the job until a successor was named and to aid the transition.

The 72-year-old Swofford became commissioner in 1997 of a very different ACC, which had only nine members at the time and remained basketball-focused. Swofford eventually led the ACC through multiple waves of expansion to form a 15-team conference stretching along nearly the entire Eastern Seaboard and west into Kentucky and Indiana.