Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
SEC in good hands with Sankey
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 17, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There is simply no doubt the SEC and its future is in good hands.
Commissioner Greg Sankey stood strong on the podium to kick off SEC football media days and covered a myriad of issues facing college athletics. He was completely transparent that every day he has 14 bosses.
“I work for the presidents and chancellors of this conference and I make sure they are honored,” he said. “They are the ones who make the final decisions.”
He’s the one who facilitates them flawlessly.
Sankey, a visionary who balances the needs and wants of 14 diverse universities, was open about the concerns the SEC has for Name, Image and Likeness, and sports gambling, as well as various subjects that are affecting the landscape of athletics nationally.
The man is disciplined. He has run 41 marathons and doesn’t suffer ridiculous questions easily.
It was almost surprising he didn’t bristle when a local TV guy asked if there was any consideration to playing the SEC Championship Game at Nashville in four years when the city is supposed to open a new domed football stadium.
Sankey is concerned with a smooth transition of Texas and Oklahoma entering the conference, as well as NIL and gambling, and not a contract to play in Atlanta through 2026. But he pointed out the SEC has a long-term contract to play its basketball tournament at Nashville through 2035.
He also mentioned for the second time he has 14 bosses.
Sankey’s No. 1 concern right now — and one that brings out a passion in him — is the NIL and how it is affecting college athletics on a whole and college athletes individually.
There is zero uniformity with the NIL.
He openly aired his concern that states passed individual laws, many of which later changed the laws to keep from handcuffing recruiting in their state.
Sankey appeared to have little confidence the states can even govern their NIL laws. Apparently that it is beyond the abilities of the NCAA, and the only answer is Congress.
While that smacks of desperation. so does the fact that the NIL has no leader, no salary cap and no idea what the future holds.
“I’m counting on Congress to fix the NIL because there is no unity in state laws,” Sankey said.
Sankey is one of the most powerful men in college football and admitted the SEC shocked the nation when it announced in 2021 that the Longhorns and Sooners would be branded with SEC logos.
He also negotiated a 10-year, $3 billion television rights contract with ESPN that begins next year.
Sankey aired concerns about sports wagering and admitted it had touched the SEC last spring. Alabama fired its baseball coach after a report of suspicious gambling allegations.
The always impeccably dressed Sankey was sans tie Monday, but he said it was to honor the memory of former Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, who died in December.
Leach hated neckties and would speak against them for long minutes.
Sankey has a sense of humor. He once received a thank-you note after a speaking engagement which prompted him to send a thank-you note for the thank-you note, for which he received another thank-you note and responded with the same.
After three weeks, they called a truce.
He was also the first to mention the media poll predicting the SEC champion. The media was at the time 5-24 in picking the conference champ.
It didn’t come up Monday, maybe because the media has gone 5-2 in the past seven years, but he could have noted that all five of those correct predictions were Alabama.
In 30 minutes, Sankey the commissioner left no doubt the SEC has a strong leader who wants to be held accountable.
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