SEC Media Days 2022 have kicked off in Atlanta. As per tradition, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey kicked off the summer get together with a “State of the Conference” speech. But Sankey didn’t talk as much about his own conference as he did about national issues. With a void of competent leadership at the national sport or NCAA level, Sankey continues to fill the desperately needed leadership vacuum. Sankey stepped out of his role of SEC Commissioner and assumed his role as Shadow Commissioner of the NCAA.
Greg Sankey Flexes His Muscle at SEC Media Days
Everyone associated with college football knows that Greg Sankey is the most powerful person in the sport. But Sankey rarely publicly wears that badge in public. He did Monday, and his messages were clear and commanding the stage at the College Football Hall of Fame.
The biggest takeaway from Sankey’s discussion was his warning to the rest of the college football world regarding Name-Image-Likeness legislation. Sankey, point blank, told the assembled crowd that if there is not national uniformity on NIL, either through the NCAA or through congressional legislation, that he would pursue regional uniformity through the state legislations of the member institutions of the SEC.
In the current political climate in the geographic footprint of the SEC, this is probably possible. It’s worth noting two things here: first, it’s probably not possible in any other conference and, second, it would create a further competitive imbalance between the SEC and every other conference not named the Big Ten.
This would be yet another SEC effort that the other conferences would have to address.
However, this would require a tremendous amount of political capital. Is Sankey ready to sink his personal clout (and the league’s resources) on this issue? Especially with enormous amount of risk involved a lobbying effort of this size.
NCAA Transformation Committee
Sankey spent the majority of his roughly 30 minute speech on his role on the NCAA Transformation Committee. The Commissioner serves as the co-chair on this committee that is charged with making recommendations to the NCAA Board of Directors on the toughest issues the body faces today.
Sankey was very pointed in his comments towards the collective national leadership of the sport. He said that college football is at this point because difficult conversations were pushed aside for years. Those include complex issues dealing with enforcement and infraction issues, outdated rulebooks, and an outdated governance process.
One interesting comment was focused on addressing membership at the Division 1 level in the NCAA. There’s a growing concern about legacy programs not investing a commensurate amount of that Brink’s truck of television money into their programs. Was Sankey taking a shot at some Presidents for outright hypocrisy? Maybe. Maybe Not. But, yes, yes he was.
Sankey is flexing his muscle and putting the NCAA and member Presidents on notice. He made it clear that tweaking the sport is not an option. It must be overhauled. His implicit message to other national leaders was to either get on board and help or get ready to follow his lead.
“The SEC is stronger now than at any other time in our history.” That’s an understatement. Sankey highlighted the SEC’s athletic and academic achievements, but also couched his comments relative to other competitors. His comments about “no sense of urgency” and not reacting to anyone else’s moves were clearly meant to set the SEC apart from the other Power 5 conferences.
The only substantive conference-specific question Sankey addressed was scheduling as the SEC prepares to add Oklahoma and Texas. Alas, no decision was announced. Sankey continue to stress the need to rotate teams through each campus. He also added looking at tie-breakers and bowl alignment. It’s clear that pods or a one league format are the two competing models.
Sankey seemed mum when asked about growing the conference beyond 16 teams. “We’re comfortable where we’re at.” For the record, that is not a “no.” But he was measured in his comments, and nothing seems imminent.
Greg Sankey Flexes His Muscle
It was the SEC Media Days, but it sure sounded like a “state of the game of college football” speech. Is Sankey taking a more public role as the leader of the sport?
After his comments in Atlanta today, it certainly looks like it.
Main Image courtesy USA Today Sports