ATLANTA — SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey took the stage on Monday morning, kicking off SEC Media Days and giving his annual State of The Conference speech. One of the key talking points is where the SEC is heading centered around the current alignment of other conferences around the country.
Heading to his lake house for a summer vacation, Sankey received a message from someone in regard to USC and UCLA deciding to join the Big 10.
It was at this moment that the commissioner knew that his vacation was over, and it was time to start fielding calls. No matter who decided to call, Sankey was ready to listen. But Sankey also realizes that the expansion keeps them within contiguous states.
“We are poised to grow to a 16-member conference on July 1, 2025. This expansion keeps the SEC in contiguous states, which supports a reasonable geography among like-minded universities, and keeps us confident that fan interest in the SEC across the country and around the globe will continue to grow. We are confident in our collective strength.”
But during this expansion, we are starting to see teams not wanting to be left out in the cold. So, when the commissioner starts to field calls or get questions from current members of the SEC, it’s better for Sankey to understand his surroundings before diving into further expansion. There’s no sense of panic from the conference, knowing that they are the club that everyone is trying to enjoy.
LSU Coach Brian Kelly called it musical chairs and waiting for the music to stop, knowing there aren’t enough chairs for everybody. This is the mindset of many around the country, while conference commissioners prepare for the next tidal wave of moves. But at the moment, Greg Sankey feels like the SEC is in a great spot.
“Again, we’re comfortable at 16. There’s no sense of urgency, no sense of panic. We’re not just shooting for a number of affiliations that make us better. Could they be out there? I would never say they’re not. I would never say that we will. We’re going to be evaluating the landscape. I’m not going to speculate. I actually am watching a lot of this activity operating around us, more so than impacting us directly.”
Let’s not forget the current landscape of the playoff system, which has been a source of frustration for Sankey and others over the past number of months. But it doesn’t mean the conversations are ending, but other conferences will have to compromise.
“There’s a lot of work to do. We have time and we’ll use it. It’s the same type of issues that you’ve heard, AQ, no AQ, how many teams, what’s the relationship to the bowls, when do we play these games on a calendar. We really need to look at that more deeply than we did in the previous iteration. We’ll see how it goes, but those are the realities.
“I’d be fine with no AQs, whether it’s four like we have now, a model that’s worked, eight, 12,” Sankey added. “But the inclusion of conference champion access was, I thought, an effective compromise to the 12-team Playoff.”
Now, with Texas and Oklahoma joining the conference sooner rather than later, it’s all about keeping them abreast of what is currently going on inside the conference, especially in terms of the television contracts and league expansion. Sankey made it clear that they will continue to call upon the Longhorns and Sooners for ideas for future success, knowing they could join the conference sooner than 2025.
“We invited both the athletic directors and presidents and chancellors into our conference call a week and a half ago, because this is a long-term issue that has impacts beyond just the here and now, so they could hear my analysis and ask any questions of us and hear questions asked by our campus leaders.
“When we moved into August last year, we had an athletic directors meeting that happens each August,” Sankey added. “We invited both to attend by video, so Zoom, since we’re really good at Zooming now, so they could hear the introduction of how we consider information around scheduling. When we’ve had important updates or conversation, they’ve been a part of that.”
Now Sankey looks towards the future, knowing that moves are going to be made across the College Football landscape over the next few months. For a man that stays on top of every move around the conference landscape, Sankey is ready for whatever comes next, which we just saw on the West coast.
“Did I have an inkling? I’ll be honest with you, about 18 months ago I said, here’s some projections of what could happen, and those two schools were part of it nationally, but I didn’t know this was about to happen on June 30. No, not at all.”
Let the craziness continue.
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