Q&A: SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey Sits Down With OutKick To Discuss New Additions, Schedule Formats, ESPN Contract Details

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The landscape around college athletics has taken a drastic turn over the last number of years, with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey at the forefront. What started in 2019 as a research project into schedule changes in football, has now turned into one of the biggest topics around the sport with playoff expansion on the horizon.

I recently sat down with Commissioner Greg Sankey to discuss a variety of topics, including former Mississippi State coach Mike Leach. One of my key observations is that the SEC is ready for change, whether it be through television networks or scheduling arguments that are coming from member institutions.

I remember sitting there and you making the comment and you making the announcement years ago at SEC media days, I’m interested in what was the first domino to fall for them to be able to hop into the SEC a year early from your standpoint. Because that four years, you know, five years, it’s a while to wait on members to join.

SANKEY: It is and I think in the moment of invitation at the end of 2021, I was immediately asked about a different entry date. And I explained I think really consistently that the the issue of departure was based upon the media agreements between the Big 12 and their media partners, along with its member institutions. And those really were the the initial dominoes, the ability for all of those entities to work through rights issues, revenue issues, to facilitate departure, which then leads to that transition. And I think back then when people would observe, ‘Well nobody’s ever declared a transition and waited four years’, I’d say, You know what, you’re right. But in the aftermath of expansion, around 2010, 2011, 2012, a variety of points of movement, including Texas A&M and Missouri joining the SEC. The Big 12 structure, these agreements that really created the timing, and then the ability to work through those agreements is what created the change and entry.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – MARCH 12: Greg Sankey the Commissioner of the SEC addresses the media following the announcement of the cancellation of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 12, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. The tournament has been cancelled due to the growing concern about the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

There has been a lot of talk about teams playing each other more frequently. Texas A&M and Georgia haven’t played a game in College Station in 12 years. How important to you is it that we get some of these matchups regularly, not spaced out so long?

SANKEY: So 2018, 2019 right, you’ll forgive me on a specific year memory. You know, they had 10, 12, 14,000 fans, Kentucky fans at that game (College Station). Last fall Tennessee fans in Baton Rouge, just an enormous presence. And I think that’s an indication that absolutely our fans want to make those trips. Well, we have incredible cities in the addition of the Norman and Oklahoma City areas. A great place to visit in Austin and Nashville, now we have like the two best music cities in America soon to be both in the Southeastern Conference. And likewise, the fans from Oklahoma and Texas want to visit places like Oxford, Fayetteville and Lexington and just kind of so on and on. So part of I think everyone’s motivation is to move people through now, whether that’s every other year, it can be something better than once every 12 years. We know that and it’s a matter of the decision making to define the right the right rotation and what that means for frequency of those opponents visiting home and away.

For the full interview, including Sankey’s thoughts on the late Mike Leach and his book, along with how he explains the SEC to folks back home in the Northeast.

“And I should have read that early in his tenure. And I often do that with our coaches or you know, Ben Sasse is now the president University of Florida. So I read one of his books, just to understand their perspective. I wish I had done that really early in Mike’s tenure here.”

You can listen to this interview on all you listening platforms by clicking below.

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You can watch the full answer and interview below.

Follow Trey Wallace on Twitter at @TreyWallace_ for the latest news around college athletics.

Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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