SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey Should Be NCAA’s College Football Czar | Glenn Guilbeau

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Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey is a skilled, educated diplomat in waiting.

No, not to represent the SEC abroad as a diplomat would. But Sankey should represent college football across the board of this country as a czar for the sport in the NCAA offices at the right hand of new NCAA president Charlie Baker.

At the moment, we have 10 so-called czars fragmentally trying to run college football. They are the 10 commissioners of the various, Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences. And a few of them have been running around frantically lately, like it’s the gold rush of the 1850s, which by the way happened in Pac-12 country. And it’s not working.

A major piece broke just last week when the wine and cheese Pacific-12 Conference crumbled into a 4-Pac of watery Bud Light after one of its most premium seasons in recent years. And another excellent one is coming soon as a last hurrah.

Pac-12 Conference Dying As It Experiences A Revival

Six Pac-12 teams finished in the top 21 of the final Associated Press poll last season – No. 8 Washington (11-2), No. 10 Utah (11-4), No. 12 USC (11-3), No. 15 Oregon (10-3), No. 17 Oregon State (10-3) and No. 21 UCLA (9-4). That was the Pac-12’s best season since it last put a team in a national championship game – USC in the 2005-06 season.

Five of those appeared in the preseason coaches’ poll for 2023 – No. 6 USC, No. 11 Washington, No. 14, Utah, No. 15 Oregon and No. 18 Oregon State.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy last season and is back for 2023. The Pac-12 probably has better quarterbacks than any other conference, and it’s a quarterback game.

Yes, a great league. It’s not the best league or even in the top three, but the Pac-12 was a great league – just last year.

And now it’s fragments. An NCAA college football czar or an NCAA president with real power, and not something out of Buckingham Palace, could perhaps have done something to solve the situation instead of seeing a league basically end.

A Czar Like A Sankey Could’ve Helped The Pac-12

Something like, “Hey, George Kliavkoff, (Pac-12 commissioner) throw that Apple media rights plan away, and get a real network. College football is huge. It’s not some movie of the week to be streamed on Netflix.”


It’s too bad Kliavkoff did not have the same sense of urgency about possibly losing his conference as former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had toward COVID-19 in 2020. Of course, Scott was wrong. But had Kliavkoff overreacted too, he may still have more than a handful of teams.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey watches Georgia play at Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in 2015 with former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer. (Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports/Getty Images).

Or maybe if he had someone at the NCAA to call for advice … like Greg Sankey.

It’s about appearing, then being “presidential.” That is why Ronald Reagan, whose rise basically invented the term, beat Jimmy Carter and became a great president for most of two terms.

Sankey appears and is presidential. Unfortunately, the NCAA president job was just filled. So Baker should create the new position of college football czar and name Sankey soon.

Of all the conference commissioners, Sankey is the most presidential. Because of this, he can see the big picture, whereas some commissioners seem to be just out for their own league. Yes, Sankey leads and inherited the best football conference and probably the overall best conference. So he can afford to look to the big picture.

And, yes, he participated in money grabs as well in acquiring Texas and Oklahoma in 2021 for the 2024 season. But, again, he was a little more presidential about it, and those two did come to him first. And he will likely add teams again to the SEC in two years or so, but he will do it with more class. Look for North Carolina to join instead of Florida State. The SEC already has the Florida flagship university.

Sankey wanted the Pac-12 to remain at least the Pac-Double Digits.

“It just wasn’t one of those great feelings to work in college sports in my experience,” Sankey said on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show this week about the events of last Friday. That’s when an earthquake shook the Pac-12 to nearly empty.

Former Major League Baseball chief operating officer Tony Petitti is the new Big Ten commissioner and robbed the Pacific-12 Conference of Washington and Oregon. (Photo By Alex Trautwig/Getty Images).

New Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti likely does not feel that way in the slightest. Nor does Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark. They were chasing and enticing universities like skilled college football recruiters with fresh batches of Name, Image & Likeness reserves.

“I take responsibility where we’ve made moves, but there was something different last week,” Sankey said.

You know, like dirty. This is why Sankey called Washington State athletic director Pat Chun last week. Chun is one of the final four remaining in the Pac-12 along with Oregon State, Stanford and California. Sankey also called Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir.

“I have great empathy,” Sankey said. “For those of us who’ve studied the history of college athletics, yeah, there’s a tinge of sadness (about the Pac-12 demise). And probably more than just a little tinge.”

And maybe a czar, or a commissioner, of college football could have stopped it.

NCAA Was Powerless As Pac-12 Crumbled

There was not enough effort from an overlord with a big picture view, because there is no NCAA overlord with power over conferences. And there should be. And even without it, Baker still should have stepped in and gotten involved. He should have been more presidential.

“Part of the reality is the NCAA is not assigned responsibility for deciding conference membership,” Sankey said. “We haven’t delegated that authority there.”

Well, take it anyway. Seize the power. Sankey could do that.

No one tried. Sankey has seen this before.

“If anything frustrated me through the College Football Playoff experience, we never made the effort to work through some of the stopping points,” he said.

Sankey has always wanted more teams in the playoff so more of the lesser conferences, like the Pac-12, can be a part of the dance. Since the four-team CFP began in the 2014-15 season, only two Pac-12 team reached the final four – Washington in 2016-17 and Oregon in 2014-15. If the 12-team playoff had happened sooner, perhaps some of the departing teams in recent years would have stayed put, Sankey believes.

Finally, college football will be more inclusive for teams and fans in 2024 with a 12-team playoff.

SEC Sees The Value Of Other Conferences’ Strength

“Even here in the SEC, we wanted college football to be strong nationally,” Sankey said. Other non-Pac-12 commissioners probably could have cared less.

“The expansion was about making sure we brought in western football,” Sankey said.

Who talks like that? A future College Football Commissioner.

“Well, now what’s happened is western football has come into other conferences,” he said.

And that makes the country of college football weaker in a way.

Sankey is also no house organ. He has been very critical in recent months and years about the bureaucracy and ineptitude of the NCAA. Earlier this summer, he attended an NCAA council meeting about how to better manage the deeply problematic Name, Image & Likeness.

“So we had this report, and then when it asked for input from 40-plus leaders around that table on the Division I council, I was the only one who spoke,” he said. “The most important issue facing college athletics, we’re in a Division I council meeting, and no one other than me speaks to the issue? That was astounding to me. That’s not Charlie Baker. That is a responsibility we share.”

Sankey doesn’t like how the NCAA works in general. He could fix it.

“When you have a room full of 40 or 45 committee members, only 10 of whom speak, and then everyone votes, that’s representation without participation,” he said. “We need participants to help solve the really complex problems that we find today.”

Sankey, 59, also understands the plight of the smaller conferences. One of his first jobs was in compliance at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, where he also coached the golf teams. Then he worked in compliance at the Southland Conference, where he later became commissioner before going to the SEC in 2002 and becoming commissioner in 2015.

This is a grassroots candidate.

The NCAA needs Greg Sankey as College Football Commissioner soon, then perhaps he can follow Charlie Baker as president.

Remember, it was Sankey who was one of the rare commissioners who was slow, careful and scholarly in his approach to COVID in the summer of 2020.

Other conferences like the Pac-12, Big Ten, Mid-American and Mountain West overreacted and led the cancel charge. Goodness, were they wrong.

Sankey’s SEC stuck and was proven right overwhelmingly.

“I can’t promise we’re going to play, but we’re not going to stop trying,” Sankey said at the time. “That’s an example where, if you take this Czar mentality, we’d be ceding authority to one entity or person, it would not have worked well in the summer of 2020.”

Well, that depends on the Czar to whom you’re ceding authority. If that was Sankey in 2020, the cancel culture would not have curtailed college football. And maybe in 2023, there would still be something of a Pac-12.

Greg Sankey … NCAA Commissioner of College Football.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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