The Southeastern Conference is a step ahead of the rest of college football when it comes to building super conferences. And the SEC will not resort to being reactionary when other conferences attempt to strengthen their footprints.
Those were two key things that came out of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey’s 40-minute meeting with media members to kick off the SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
“There is no sense of urgency in our league, no panic and reaction to others’ decision,” Sankey said. “We know who we are, we are confident in our collective strength, and we are uniquely positioned to continue to provide remarkable experiences, educationally and athletically, along with world-class support to student-athletes. It is a compliment that people all across the country and all across the globe want to be a part of the Southeastern Conference.”
Obviously, Sankey didn’t lack subject matter during his 20-minute prepared speech and 20 minutes of answering questions from media members.
“When I walk through our reputation, this is a super league,” Sankey said.
His answer on how to accept change, no matter how it’s presented, is basically to handle it head-on.
“Here’s what I told our coaches: it is never going to be the same, but it doesn’t have to be the way that it is,” Sankey said. “We are dealing with complex problems that won’t be solved by complaints, by accusations, by finger pointing or by offering simple solutions. What is needed now is collaboration, deep thinking about real-world solutions, and everyone participating in the conversation.”
Sankey said he was beginning his vacation at Skaneateles Lake in New York when news broke that USC and UCLA were bolting from the Pac-12 to join the Big 10.
Certainly, it wasn’t the best timing for his vacation. But Sankey took his time to study what was happening before reacting. It was nearly a week before he met as a group with SEC chancellors, presidents and athletic directors.
“We wanted to be patient and communicate,” Sankey said.
For now, Sankey said they are content with the 14 current members with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma in 2025. When asked if those schools could join the conference sooner, he said that was an issue between Oklahoma, Texas and the Big 12 Conference. He said the addition of those two teams strengthens a conference more than adding USC and UCLA.
“The great news for the Southeastern Conference is people call and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing something special,’” Sankey said. “They kind of hint around the edges. We know who we are, we’re confident in our success, we’re really looking forward to the expansion being 16 teams and don’t feel pressured to just operate at a number. We’ll watch what happens around us and be thoughtful but be nimble.”
A little bit later, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin was asked how things would change for the four programs that have already announced they are moving to a new conference home.
“You know, they've been playing in great conferences and against great opponents. I mean, I just say how it is,” Kiffin said. “I don't know that there's a huge jump into the Big Ten. I think going to the SEC is a whole 'nother animal. I think the draft picks, national championships prove that coming out of the SEC. I just said it's a different world. Said it for a long time: the SEC just means more. And it does. It's different, it's ahead of the game.”
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