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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey: ‘No sense of urgency’ to expand

The SEC is monitoring conference realignment but isn’t going to respond immediately to the Big Ten adding USC and UCLA.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed reporters Monday during the conference's media days in Atlanta.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed reporters Monday during the conference's media days in Atlanta. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]
Published Jul. 18|Updated Jul. 18

ATLANTA — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said repeatedly Monday that his league does not need to react to the Big Ten’s upcoming additions of USC and UCLA in the latest round of conference realignment.

Sankey said his conference is “comfortable” at 16 teams, which the league will reach when Texas and Oklahoma join on or before 2025.

“There’s no sense of urgency, no sense of panic,” Sankey said to kick off SEC media days. “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.”

Related: Three conference realignment thoughts on the ACC, USF and Big 12

Sankey also made some less-than-subtle remarks about the SEC’s spot atop the sport. In his introductory comments, he went through the league’s three consecutive national titles won by three different teams (Georgia, Alabama, LSU).

Kirby Smart led Georgia to last season's national title.
Kirby Smart led Georgia to last season's national title. [ CURTIS COMPTON / CURTIS.COMPTON@AJC.COM | AP ]

When asked directly about whether gaining Oklahoma and Texas trumped the Big Ten poaching USC and UCLA, he said, “Yes.” Sankey, notably, pointed out that his league’s expansion “keeps the SEC in contiguous states, which supports reasonable geography.” The same cannot be said for the Big Ten’s move.

When asked about whether college football is headed toward a conglomeration of super leagues, Sankey responded that the SEC is already a super league.

Related: LSU’s Brian Kelly sees renewed ‘fight’ in Florida State under Mike Norvell

“We know who we are,” Sankey said. “We’re confident in our success. We’re really looking forward to the expansion and being at 16 teams. (We) don’t feel pressured to just operate at a number. But we’ll watch what happens around us and be thoughtful but be nimble.”

Translation: The SEC isn’t foreclosing on the possibility of future expansion. But the conference is doing fine without more additions and doesn’t need to respond to the Big Ten.

Real talk with Lane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin, to the surprise of no one, spoke his mind Monday at SEC media days.
Lane Kiffin, to the surprise of no one, spoke his mind Monday at SEC media days. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]

Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin, as usual, was not shy about his opinions. When asked about what works in name, image and likeness, Kiffin responded: “You have really good boosters.”

“I said Day 1, you legalize cheating, so get ready for the people that have the most money to get players,” Kiffin said. “Now you have it.”

Related: The four NIL issues that kept popping up at the SEC spring meetings

Audible

“We also understand, unless they’re Tom Brady ... football is going to end for everybody at some time.” — Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz on preparing players for life after football

Odds and ends

• Sankey said the timeline for Texas and Oklahoma joining the league is “about the relationship between Oklahoma, Texas and the Big 12″ and not up to him. Both teams will join in 2025, unless they can negotiate an earlier exit.

• The conference remains undecided on its future scheduling model. The league is expected to scrap divisions but is still figuring out whether to have eight or nine conference games. The complicating factors include tiebreaker procedures, the inherent imbalance of nine league games and the impact the decision will have on bowl eligibility and access to the College Football Playoff.

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