Why SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is the ACC's best hope for survival
He can end this madness. Plant a flag and make a statement and use the power of his position for the good of all.
It’s time for SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to seize control of the sudden uncertainty in college football expansion with a definitive declaration.
The SEC is sticking at 16 teams.
Forget everything you’ve heard or read or seen. Forget about the ACC being raided, or a flirtation with Notre Dame or one last dip into the state of Texas.
The SEC is sticking at 16 teams.
Doesn’t matter that Notre Dame, the prettiest girl at the dance, is still alone. Doesn’t matter what moves the Pac-12 and Big 12 make in an effort to recover losing critical members in the past year.
Doesn’t matter if Clemson wants in the SEC, and North Carolina does, too. Doesn’t matter what television deals are made by what conferences, or who is selling what to any streaming site.
More than anything, it doesn’t matter what Big Ten expansion moves are on the horizon.
For the good of college football, the SEC is sticking at 16 teams. Because sticking at 16 puts the onus of a college football breakup in the lap of the Big Ten.
If there truly is paradigm change on the horizon, it won’t be at the hands of the SEC.
“That conference, with a commissioner of that power and standing, it would resonate,” an industry source said. “Everyone keeps asking for a leader in college football. There is a leader, and it’s the SEC. Everything follows their move.”
So here’s what Sankey should do: use the bully pulpit.
Stand at the dais in Atlanta and open SEC Media Days — annually a carnival of information and the absurd — with a Churchillian moment. End all speculation and rumor, and point the big, bad SEC battleship to its true North.
No more expansion, no more potential implosion of the second-most popular sport in the United States — behind only the NFL.
There’s too much good for all to share now — not equally, but certainly without historic programs being left out — to race into the great unknown of 2 super conferences and everyone else.
There’s too much that’s right about college football for Sankey and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren (and their respective university presidents) to stare at each other like Reagan and Gorbachev while everyone else shivers on the sidelines.
At the SEC spring meetings in late May, Sankey spoke about the SEC presidents’ desire to move forward with a college football Playoff that included all FBS schools. Though he made it clear an SEC Playoff wasn’t a threat (it’s reality if more “Alliance” nonsense continues), the idea moving forward is everyone on the same boat.
Everyone earning (again, not equally), and everyone moving forward through the challenging times of NIL, the transfer portal and pay-for-play.
Sankey, whose measured, definitive leadership has pushed the SEC to unthinkable success in only 7 years, should stand in Atlanta next week, with the eyes of the sports world on him, and make clear that specific future: If the Power 5 becomes the Power 2, it won’t be because of moves made by the SEC.
The same SEC that a year earlier accepted Texas and Oklahoma into the conference, while the other 4 Power conferences insinuated (in no certain order) that the SEC pursued Texas and Oklahoma, that ESPN brokered the deal, and that the SEC was trying to ruin college football as we know it.
Meanwhile, back in reality and less than a year later, the most destabilizing move of all came from the Big Ten — which used an “Alliance” with the ACC and Pac-12 to scuttle Playoff expansion (eliminating as much as $1.2 billion annually for ALL to share) before turning the knife on the Pac-12 and adding USC and UCLA.
That improbable move has left the Pac-12 in danger of being eaten by the Big Ten and Big 12, and the ACC in danger of losing teams to the SEC in a retaliatory measure.
Knowing all that, and knowing he and the SEC are standing on the cliff as the tip of the spear, Sankey should declare loudly and proudly that college football as we know it isn’t dead. The Playoff isn’t dead, and NIL and the transfer portal won’t take it down, either.
Embrace the moment, embrace the power of the position he built and earned — and the bully pulpit where he stands — and declare the SEC, the one true stabilizing force in all of college football, stands behind the current structure of the game.
Behind the Power 5 and the Group of 5 and access for all in the Playoff, and the ability of the ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 to secure television deals of their own — or in unison — to earn their greatest value.
Behind the FBS system, the Playoff, and the looming reforms in the NCAA.
Behind FBS schools playing an annual game against FCS schools to help their bottom dollar, and the Playoff sending money to the lower levels of NCAA football to do the same.
Plant a flag and make a statement, and force the Big Ten to follow.
Watch what true change can be.