Greg Sankey Must Fill College Athletic Leadership Gap, Say ‘No’ to Texas, Oklahoma

INDIANAPOLIS – News broke from the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday, like a small leak through a massive dam followed by flooding that quickly covered everyone in college sport. Texas and Oklahoma called the Southeastern Conference to inquire about the possibility of league membership, and their calls weren’t just sent to voicemail.

Kevin Warren spoke during the Big Ten football media days, not even 24 hours after the initial report, so it was unreasonable to assume that the conference would already have a definitive answer on which move (s) might be cautious in response. If only.

“I think what we’ve seen, we’re at an inflection point in varsity track and field,” Warren told reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Whether it was the name, the image and the likeness, whether it was the Alston case, whether it was the potential expansion of college football playoffs, whether it was schools from one conference joining another conference – these are the kinds of issues that we are all going to be dealing with here, this year and for many years into the future.This is the world we live in right now.

“I know where we are sitting, we are always constantly evaluating what is in the best interest of the conference. It will be interesting to see how this story, how it evolves, where it ends up. “

It was the politically astute response. His new special adviser on football matters, legendary Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, could afford a bigger dose of honesty.

“My first reaction was: why? he said. “The timing seems a bit strange. Out of the blue. “

MORE: What a revamped SEC could look like | How would SEC schools vote to invite Texas, OR?

That’s more than bizarre, given the looming expansion of college football playoffs, in which the proposal calls for the six highest-rated conference champions to automatically enter. If there was a time to be the biggest fish in a small pond, it would be in the 12-team playoff universe.

However, when the good rich brings up a bad idea, it can be hard to contain, as inevitably FOMO governs decisions made in college sports. If Texas is interested because board chairman Kevin Elfite wants it, Oklahoma feels compelled to go with it for fear that another conference member would gladly do so, and for fear of this. that the Big 12 would become commercially and competitively without the Longhorns. If Texas is interested and has Oklahoma in tow, the SEC feels compelled to agree lest another league embrace the Sooners and Horns.

Perhaps this is where SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey could begin to fill the leadership void he lamented during his comments on League Media Day earlier this week. He attacked the NCAA for its mess of several issues, from law enforcement to hosting championships to sports governance. And it’s almost impossible to go wrong when the subject being primarily criticized is NCAA President Mark Emmert.

If Sankey is to do what’s best for college sports, however, and not just a bigger SEC receiving a bigger check from its TV partners, he should just say no. College sports are no better with the remaining eight members of the Big 12 either looking for a new home or looking for some degree of relevance. There are serious athletic programs in this group, from Kansas and its basketball juggernaut to the Texas Tech football program that gave us Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes and a 2019 NCAA tournament finalist in the hoops.

College sports are no better with the SEC so overloaded with elite brands that programs like Ole Miss and Mississippi State are doomed to eternal insignificance. It will be less fun for a lot of programs whose fans will have to adapt to programs that no longer win as before. It might not seem like much, but it’s a long way between 7-5 and 5-7.

Look back a decade back to the last maelstrom of conference realignment that plagued the world of varsity sport. Forget who gets bigger TV checks and the like – whose football team was bolstered by a move? Which basketball team? Nobody? Texas A&M likes to think so. He’s slightly over 0.500 in SEC games, averaging seventh in the league.

Here’s one: Villanova basketball. The Wildcats were a great program in the 16-team Big East, made the Final Four in 2009. After that league’s split, however, and Nova found themselves in a new basketball-centric Big East, he has become a national power. Basically, however, they got better by standing still.

The SEC recently signed a $ 3 billion television deal with ESPN, a long-term contract worth $ 300 million per year. There’s no shortage of revenue when it starts in 2024. A true leader would understand that, and that just throwing money at the current 14 members won’t really improve their rankings.

Would a bigger SEC be better? He would have more good football teams, of course. By definition, however, it would also have more bad ones. In a 16-team league, someone finishes 16th. It’s not fun, it’s not worth it, even if there is more money in it.

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