Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said Tuesday that his league is not aiming to add any more member institutions amid the latest round of realignment.
The SEC will welcome Texas and Oklahoma in 2024, a domino initially toppled in 2021 that caused a massive shakeup of the college sports landscape. Two years later, the Pac-12 faces a likely collapse, once eight of the 12 members leave for the Big Ten and Big 12.
Sankey admitted to a “tinge of sadness,” if not necessarily regret.
“I take responsibility where we’ve made moves,” Sankey told “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Tuesday. “But there was something different last week about the questions around the existence of the Pac-12 Conference, given its long and storied history.”
Sankey said his conference, which will stand at 16 schools as of next year, isn’t actively searching for more members.
There have been behind-the-scenes conversations regarding the recent changes elsewhere around the country. But a videoconference last week with SEC presidents and chancellors revealed a “really strong alignment with that group, very clear that there’s not something out there that we should be reaching for or engaging in,” Sankey said.
Last month the Big 12 agreed to add Colorado, which in turn led Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to follow while a Pac-12 media rights negotiation dragged on. The Big Ten swooped in to add Oregon and Washington, one year after plucking UCLA and Southern California from the Pac-12 and the Los Angeles media market.
Sankey said it doesn’t bother him that the Big Ten now stretches from New Jersey to California.
“We don’t need to be in four time zones to generate interest on the West Coast or really across the globe, and so that’s been a hallmark,” Sankey said. “Who knows what will happen, and that’s where I go back to one of my original statements: We’re always going to be attentive to what’s happening around us. And perhaps there’ll be some opportunity, but it needs to be a lot of philosophical alignment. And it’s not something where we’re actively out recruiting institutions right now.”
All of the change has left uncertainty over what the next move may be. The Atlantic Coast Conference has been linked to Cal, Stanford and SMU by multiple media reports.
There is also the question of the “Power Five” versus “Group of Five” conference structure if the Pac-12 dissolves. The College Football Playoff is supposed to expand to 12 teams in 2024, and the commissioners (plus outgoing Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick) agreed to a model wherein the six highest-ranked conference champions will qualify, plus the next six at-large teams in the rankings.
If the “Power Five” becomes a “Power Four” — or smaller — that model could be revisited.
“I think it’s wise for us to take a step back and reconsider what the format might look like given these changes and circumstances,” Sankey said. “We’ve not met on that, I’ve not had any meaningful conversations, but I think we have to acknowledge that it is on everyone’s mind pending the outcome of some of these additional membership movement pieces.”
–Field Level Media