SEC commissioner Greg Sankey speaks on problems facing college football: 'There are no magical answers'

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has been a busy man of late. In the past week alone he announced a “joint advisory committee” partnership with the Big Ten and the state of Tennessee filed a pivotal lawsuit against the NCAA that could change the way name, image and likeness is governed going forward in college football. In a Wednesday appearance on ESPN, Sankey had a chance to address those topics. 

Speaking on the SEC’s partnership with the Big Ten, Sankey says it grew out of frustration in the lack of progress at College Football Playoff committee meetings. 

“We have all been in rooms with people, big rooms filled with a lot of people,” Sankey said. “We don’t seem to be making a lot of progress on the key issues present in college athletics. Here’s an opportunity to slim down the participants, focus on two conferences with the idea that we can introduce some concepts that others can consider and react to. … We have a set of pressing issues upon us that merit this kind of conversation.”

The Big Ten will expand to 18 schools in the 2024-25 academic year, while the SEC will add Oklahoma and Texas to reach 16 members. Sankey believes both conferences’ decision to expand has aligned some of their interests when it comes to access to the College Football Playoff, among other things. 

“We made an announcement back in the Summer of 2021 about the SEC’s growth of 14 to 16 members, that announcement changed my relationship within meeting rooms,” he said. “It resulted in some of the delays in decision making that I spoke of earlier. Fast forward a year later and the Big Ten made an expansion decision.”

Last week attorneys general from Tennessee and Virginia filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA challenging the legality of the association’s name, image and likeness guidelines. The suit came just one day after CBS Sports reported that the University of Tennessee is dealing with an ongoing NCAA investigation into potential NIL violations involving marketing firm Spyre Sports Group. Sankey believes the NCAA would be better served focusing on fixing widespread NIL issues persisting around the country. 

“The pursuit of some of these particular cases through the enforcement process distracts us from solving the big problems,” he said. 

While he had plenty to say about the direction of college football, Sankey was also quick to admit there are no quick fixes coming to the problems facing the sport.

“There are no magical answers,” he said. “The idea that people out there might think I have magical answers to the problems facing college athletics — that keeps me up at night.”

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