Here is what Greg Sankey said about the CFP, future scheduling and NIL at SEC Media Days
The unofficial start of college football began on Monday with SEC Media Days - and Aaron Torres Media is on the scene. If you're not following @AaronTorresPod and the host of our team-specific accounts, make sure to do so, for up-to-the-minute coverage.
Of course, in true SEC Media Days fashion, the day began with a state of the union address from commissioner Greg Sankey. Sankey first spoke about the league itself, then took a lot of different questions from media about a number of different topics across college sports, ranging from NIL, to an expanded playoff and future SEC scheduling models.
We've gone ahead and condensed some of his answers here, for those who missed his speech on Monday:
Greg Sankey: On the SEC possibly expanding beyond 16 teams.
"We're poised to grow to 16 members on July 1st, 2025," Sankey said. "This expansion keeps the SEC in contiguous states which supports reasonable geography among like-minded universities and keeps us confident that fan interest will continue to grow in our communities, in our region, in this country and literally across the globe. There's no sense of urgency in our league, no panic and reaction to others' decisions. 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."
Greg Sankey: On future SEC scheduling
"As you know, when we go through this change, we are considering how to schedule. So some of those decisions were made in Destin, but our football scheduling model is still under consideration.
"We had deep and productive conversations in Destin. Those conversations actually began back at our meetings in August. When we concluded our discussion in Destin, we had a focus placed on a single division model, with the ability to accommodate either an eight-game or nine-game conference schedule. I'll wink and say we could even accommodate a 10-game conference schedule. I see all of you look up. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention (smiling). That's actually not our focus.
"We ended with the understanding that more questions needed to be answered including the general timeline and the issues that need to be addressed as we think forward now about the College Football Playoff. We have to dig through a tie-breaking procedure. We have over a quarter century in divisions and we understand all the nuances about how to break ties. We have to dig a bit deeper there with the single division concept in front of us. We want to understand the impact through the use of analytics on bowl eligibility for our teams who are growing their programs, and College Football Playoff access dependent on the number of teams that might be included. There are a range of possibilities being considered.
"We have time to make a decision. As you've seen before with us, particularly in the last few years, as we dealt with some difficult issues, we're going to use that time to inform our decision-making and not be subject to an arbitrary deadline."
Greg Sankey: On three rivals for each SEC team (when the conference expands to 16 teams)
"There are limits on the number of options available for three permanent opponents based on the number of games. Nine makes that more practical. If you remember, I had two points when we expanded that I wanted to be front and center. One is that we engage in blue sky thinking, let's look at the big picture. The second is that we rotate teams through campus as frequently as possible so we don't go 12 years between visits.
"Those two have guided us. That last one relates to the number of games, permanent opponents and how many times you can move people that cleanly. Embedded in my remarks is we're attentive, we're engaged in conversation. The great news for the Southeastern Conference is that people call and say, Hey, you're doing something really special. 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 and being at 16 teams. Don't feel pressured to just operate at a number. But we'll watch what happens around us and be thoughtful but be nimble."
Greg Sankey: On the current state of college football
"As we look at the fall, we're going to have some difficult issues around membership. That issue was not created by the five conferences labeled the autonomy conferences or FBS. It was assigned to the Transformation Committee by the Division I board. We're going to have to determine how to make effective decisions in Division I. There are incredible disparities around revenue, around expenses, around support and around expectations in this division. It makes it difficult to ensure the presence of shared values and common purpose around supporting athletics programs.
"We also need to make sure we enhance the experience for student-athletes in NCAA championships. What's happened before can never happen again. I don't expect that will be easy, but it's important and will play out through the fall months."
Greg Sankey: On the SEC becoming a 'super league'
"Well, somebody will write, a smart aleck guy, we are a superleague. When I walk through the recitation, this is a superleague. As I visited with our presidents and chancellors and ADs, understand the timing is this news broke June 30. I did not gather that group till the next Wednesday. I wanted to make sure I was learning what was actually happening. But also I didn't want a story like on Friday, the day after, the SEC presidents are gathering, and you have this ripple effect of they're going to do something. We wanted to be patient and communicate.
"Again, we're comfortable at 16. There's no sense of urgency, no sense of panic. We're not just shooting for a number of affiliations that make us better. Could they be out there? I would never say they're not. I would never say that we will. We're going to be evaluating the landscape. I'm not going to speculate. I actually am watching a lot of this activity operating around us, more so than impacting us directly."
Greg Sankey: On the future of the College Football Playoff:
"If you look 2014, you would have replaced the 8th best team in the country with the 20th best team in the country. I don't think we can survive that from a credibility standpoint. But the pressure was there to have conference access with some guarantee. So the 12-team, six at-large, which increases the at-large access, and six conference qualifiers, not automatic qualifiers, but the guarantee that the six best conference champions was a really good balancing outcome.
"But things have changed. I was clear back in January when we walked away from the conversation that we as a conference weren't unanimous in our support. I had as commissioner moved people forward to the point we were supportive as a league. If we're going to go back to square one, we're going to take a step back from the model introduced and rethink the approach, number of teams, whether there should be any guarantee for conference champions at all. Just earn your way in. There's something that's healthy competitively about that and creates expectations and support around programs.
"Where we go? We'll see. We've had one initial conversation in late June. I walked into that meeting not very optimistic about the ability to talk through issues. I walked out much more positive about the path forward than when I walked in.
"There's a lot of work to do. We have time and we'll use it. It's the same type of issues that you've heard, AQ, no AQ, how many teams, what's the relationship to the bowls, when do we play these games on a calendar. We really need to look at that more deeply than we did in the previous iteration. We'll see how it goes, but those are the realities.
"I'd be fine with no AQs, whether it's four like we have now, a model that's worked, eight, 12. But the inclusion of conference champion access was I thought an effective compromise to the 12-team Playoff."
Greg Sankey: On the role NIL has played in the SEC becoming a 'super conference'
"I think we, the Southeastern Conference, were a superconference before name, image and likeness. In fact, I provided that clever answer a few times over the last seven or eight years. There are any number of good stories. I was up the road here an hour in Athens, Georgia, when Auburn gymnastics competed, and Suni Lee was cheered by everyone in Stegeman Coliseum. You don't get that much between rivals when they're cheering for an individual student-athlete.
"Kearis Jackson talked about a Bojangles deal when he was in Destin with our leadership group, 45 steps to making a Bojangles biscuit that he engaged in on social media. Olivia Dunne is a good story at LSU. Very prepared, very ready for that. Those are the activities we thought would be present and should be present, allow young people to build the brand.
"I think there are many more stories just beyond what you read in recruiting that are positive. But one of the concerns up front was that we not do this state by state. We need uniformity. That feeds into our ability to have national competition during the regular season and support national championships. The notion of some oversight, transparency, regulation of the market I think is exactly what helps everyone.
"I'm convinced, regulated or unregulated, we can do well. I think the unregulated markets creates a set of problems for the people involved, whether it's young people and their families trying to make decisions, the potential for long-term life entanglements in deals that are not understand and evaluated, the lack of support, the taxation that comes. We've also allowed it to enter into the recruiting space in a really weird way, and I think that needs to be made healthier than it is now."
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