Jul 18, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; SEC commissioner Greg Sankey delivers comments to open SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Commish: SEC not planning reactionary expansion

No plans are being shaped by reconstruction of other conferences, commissioner Greg Sankey said regarding the makeup of the Southeastern Conference.

Sankey, who opened SEC Media Days in Atlanta with a press conference on Monday, said there is no conference as strong as the SEC — which is “as strong as ever,” in his opinion.

With the SEC set to expand to 16 teams in 2025, if not before, by adding Texas and Oklahoma, the Big Ten set its own realignment in motion by bringing aboard UCLA and Southern Cal in a move announced last month.

“We’re comfortable at 16,” Sankey said. “There’s no sense of urgency; there’s no sense of panic. We’re not just shooting for a number of affiliations that make us better. Could they be out there? I’d never say they aren’t, and I’d never say they are.”

Sankey said the time is now for groupthink among conference heads and college sports decision-makers before the land-grab mindset takes hold.

“We’re dealing with complex problems that won’t be solved with complaints, by accusations, by finger-pointing, by offering simple solutions,” Sankey said. “What is needed now is collaboration, deep thinking about real-world solutions with everyone participating in the conversation.”

Unwilling to divulge all of his cards, Sankey did confess he hears from other teams in various conferences asking for an assessment of their worthiness to be in the SEC. Reports circulated last month that Clemson, North Carolina and Notre Dame had been in contact with the SEC. Sankey said that is simply the current state of college football.

But while he has his listening ears on, Sankey said the SEC must decide what it has to gain.

“I’m not trying to be a smart-aleck guy, but we are a superleague,” Sankey said.

–Field Level Media

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher blasted Alabama's Nick Saban earlier this week.

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Report: A&M asked SEC to consider suspending Nick Saban

Texas A&M beseeched the SEC to consider fining and suspending Alabama coach Nick Saban for publicly stating that the Aggies “bought every player” through NIL deals, On3 reported Monday.

The website says it obtained communications between Texas A&M and the SEC on May 19 through an open records request. Texas A&M sent an email and had multiple phone conversations with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey the morning after Saban’s infamous comments, On3 reported.

“We expect the league to take strong, public action against Coach Saban and the University of Alabama to demonstrate that such unprofessionalism and disrespect for Texas A&M’s student-athletes, coaches, and the university as a whole, will not be tolerated,” read the email sent by A&M athletics director Ross Bjork and co-signed by university president Katherine Banks.

“A public apology from Coach Saban to Coach Fisher, Aggie Football, and Texas A&M University is a good starting point, but the league should also consider monetary and participation penalties against Coach Saban,” the email stated, per On3.

Sankey was working on a reprimand of Saban but added A&M coach Jimbo Fisher to it after the latter’s press conference, when he said “somebody should have slapped” Saban, among other jabs.

Saban’s incendiary comments came May 18 during an event with more than 100 business leaders in Birmingham, Ala. Saban made the initial comments to point out that the wild-west nature of NIL deals for players is not sustainable. And he took aim at Texas A&M’s recruiting class, ranked No. 1 in the country.

“I know the consequence is going to be difficult for the people who are spending tons of money to get players,” Saban said. “We were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first. A&M bought every player on their team. Made a deal for name, image and likeness.

Saban has since apologized multiple times for singling out A&M — as well as Jackson State and Miami — during his speech.

–Field Level Media

Jul 19, 2021; Hoover, Alabama, USA; SEC commissioner Greg Sankey speaks to the media during SEC Media Days at Hyatt Regency Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

SEC extends commissioner Greg Sankey through 2026

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey has agreed to a contract extension through at least the 2026 season, the SEC announced Thursday.

The SEC’s presidents and chancellors approved the contract extension for Sankey, who became the conference’s eighth commissioner on June 1, 2015.

“College athletics is in the midst of a transformational period, and the SEC is fortunate to have a highly impactful leader to guide us forward at this critical time in our history,” said Jere Morehead, president of the University of Georgia and current president of the SEC.

“He has effectively introduced change and advancement for the conference while respecting the institutional traditions that make the SEC unique. His leadership and ability to foster collaboration through the COVID-19 pandemic helped establish a framework for all of college sports, and those leadership skills will be critical as we move forward with change in the years ahead.”

Sankey, 57, has launched the SEC Council on Racial Equity and Social Justice and finalized a 10-year agreement with the Walt Disney Company, a deal that allows ABC and ESPN exclusive broadcast rights to the conference’s football and basketball events beginning in 2024-25.

“I am grateful for the support of the SEC’s presidents and chancellors, and for the continuing opportunity to serve our universities while supporting the student-athletes of the Southeastern Conference,” Sankey said. “We are in the midst of a time of change for college athletics, and I look forward to working with the SEC’s campus leaders to identify a path forward that will sustain the incredible success of our Conference and provide opportunities for young people to grow academically and challenge themselves athletically.”

The SEC will also expand to 16 member universities in 2025 with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma.

Sankey was Southland Conference commissioner for nearly seven years before joining the SEC in 2002. His roles included executive associate commissioner and chief operating officer prior to replacing Mike Slive as commissioner.

–Field Level Media

Jul 19, 2021; Hoover, Alabama, USA; SEC commissioner Greg Sankey speaks to the media during SEC Media Days at Hyatt Regency Birmingham. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

SEC commissioner: COVID-19 schedule changes not planned in ’21

The Southeastern Conference isn’t planning to postpone football games this fall due to COVID-19.

Speaking Monday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., commissioner Greg Sankey said the widespread COVID-19 vaccines have made it possible to play safely this fall. If a team faces a coronavirus outbreak, the game will not be rescheduled, he said.

So far, six of the 14 football teams in the conference have reached 80 percent vaccination, Sankey said, declining to specify the teams.

Last season, SEC teams played a limited number of games, and rosters had to meet a minimum threshold number for the games to go on. He said Monday that he has asked members schools to agree to remove the roster minimums and return to business as usual, pre-pandemic.

“That means your team needs to be healthy to compete,” Sankey said. “If not, that game won’t be rescheduled. And thus, to dispose of the game, the forfeit word comes up at this point.”

The SEC schedule last season was in a constant state of flux to accommodate moving games, and the conference added weeks at the end of the schedule for potential makeup games.

“We’ve not built in the kind of time we did last year, particularly at the end of the season, to accommodate disruption,” Sankey said. “And unless we’re going to do that, our teams are going to have to be fully prepared to play their season as scheduled, which is why embedded in my remarks is the vaccination motivation.”

The first SEC team scheduled to compete in the 2021 is Tennessee, which will host Bowling Green on Sept. 2 in the debut of new head coach Josh Heupel.

Missouri will visit Kentucky in the first conference game on Sept. 11.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney signals to his players in the second quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Swinney disputes claim that ACC protecting Tigers, Irish

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney dismissed comments from Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey that criticized the Atlantic Coast Conference for not making Swinney’s Tigers and Notre Dame play makeup games on Saturday, an open date for each team.

The Fighting Irish (10-0) sit second and the Tigers (9-1) are third in the College Football Playoff poll, so the open date makes sure neither team sustains a loss that could damage their ranking, as they head into the ACC championship game on Dec. 19.

“If the ACC was trying to really protect Clemson and Notre Dame, why would we even play a game this week? I mean, if six wins can get you in the playoff, shouldn’t nine get you there? Shouldn’t 10 get you there?”

The reference to six wins appears aimed at Ohio State, which is 5-0 and needed a waiver from its conference to be allowed to play in the Big Ten title game because it had not played six games, which was mandated before the start of the season.

The SEC, meanwhile, is on track to have 69 of its 70 conference games played, a pace not matched by other conferences.

“Playing games matters. The Playoff selection committee has said that,” Sankey said Saturday, adding that his teams “are ready to play and have these opportunities. I think playing games matters. Candidly, you take the Texas A&M-Florida game. We added that to our schedule when we went from eight conference games to 10. You take that game away and Florida is undefeated and Texas A&M only has the loss at Alabama and it’s a different world. So the question is – are we going to be rewarded for playing games or rewarded for not playing games?”

Clemson had a game postponed on Nov. 21 at Florida State, when the Tigers were already in Tallahassee and getting ready to play when it was announced that a backup defensive lineman for Clemson had tested positive for COVID-19 and traveled with the team.

Swinney and others accused Florida State of using the announcement as a reason not to play the game.

Notre Dame had a postponement on Sept. 19 at Wake Forest.

“I would’ve loved to play this past weekend,” Swinney said. “I had no problem with that. I didn’t make the decision. We wanted to play when we were down in Tallahassee and were about to get on a bus and go play. Things happen.”

–Field Level Media

Mar 12, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey speaks on the cancelation of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Sankey: SEC playing football alone not ‘wisest decision’

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey wants to see the season move forward as planned, but he doesn’t want his conference to be the only one on that path.

Sankey said in an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show” Tuesday that it’s unlikely the SEC would play a season on its own should the other Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences cancel the fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think that’s the right direction, really,” Sankey said, when asked if the SEC would be comfortable as the only conference playing football this fall.

“Could we? Certainly. There’s a difference between can you do something and should you do something in life.

“We’re actually set up our schedule with our own health protocols; we could, if that’s the circumstance, operate on our own. I’m not sure that’s the wisest direction.”

Big Ten presidents voted on Tuesday to postpone the 2020 college football season with hopes of playing in the spring. The league announced the decision on Tuesday.

Pac-12 also could announce it won’t be conducting football seasons on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

The 12-team Mountain West joined the 12-team Mid-American Conference as FBS leagues that have postponed their football season and fall sports.

Independents Connecticut, Massachusetts as well as Old Dominion of the Conference USA have also opted out of the fall football season.

Sankey also dismissed reports that said the SEC is considering adding programs from other conference that might cancel fall football.

“There are probably any number of legal, contractual, media — I could go down the list of reasons that that’s not quite practical,” Sankey said.

Sankey also noted that the conference’s medical advisory group remains comfortable with the safety of current summer workout plans.

“Were that advice to change, it certainly would be a stopping point,” he said. “The indicators are we can right now do what we’re doing in a healthy way.”

–Field Level Media