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SEC commish promises to crush college sport’s little guys

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said he was concerned about the gap in football success between the bottom division and the top division, according to



Even if Greg Sankey is measured to the point of appearing dull, it is important to pay attention to what he has to say because he has the power to change college sports forever with the wave of a hand.

So if the SEC commissioner says what he thinks a national championship event should be about, the rest of the NCAA should probably pay attention to it. In his annual speech and news conference at SEC Media Days on Monday, Sankey dropped a bombshell so subtle that it barely registered as the very big deal that it is.

When asked if his views on expanding the College Football Playoff have shifted in the wake of the latest round of conference realignment, Sankey said that going back to square one in negotiations means the SEC is no longer interested in a playoff where conferences receive automatic bids regardless of the size of the bracket.

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Sankey said, “We’re going to take a step back from the model introduced and rethink the approach, number of teams, and whether there should be any guarantee for conference champions at all.” “Just work your way in. ” The competitive nature of that creates expectations and support for programs,” he writes.

To put it another way: The original 12-team proposal Sankey worked on included the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large teams, and it was a compromise that made sense for the other leagues while giving the SEC an opportunity to secure multiple playoff spots each year.

In the wake of the SEC’s recent acquisitions of Texas and Oklahoma, it’s widely known that Sankey is enraged by the failure of those negotiations earlier this year, and he won’t be in a generous mood if and when they ever get started again.

Because of how absurd it actually is, the way Sankey presented that position shift was intriguing — and potentially chilling for the remainder of college sports.


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In other words, pay attention to what he has to say. Since being a conference champion doesn’t mean “earning your way in,” Sankey believes that a committee should be tasked with determining which teams should be selected.

Of course, this is a ridiculous idea.


A postseason spot in every sport except college football is earned by winning your division or placing highly in the overall standings. Even if the AFC South is a better division than the NFC North this year, every team knows where the playoffs are set. Clearing that bar was yours to do so. Sorry if you didn’t make it, but it’s your loss.

It’s possible that Sankey is right that a playoff with more SEC teams provides a better product than one built to distribute the bids more evenly.

Because of the imbalance between East and West conferences, the NBA would have enjoyed more competitive playoff series in some years if commissioner Adam Silver had simply tapped his fingers and replaced the East’s seventh and eighth-placed teams with the West’s above-.500 teams because the two conferences were not evenly matched in terms of strength of competition.

College football, on the other hand, has adopted a fairly simple concept: If you accomplish a specific goal, such as winning a conference championship, you are rewarded. Anyone who tries and fails to reach the bar because of a difficult schedule, a strong division, or an abundance of injuries knows where the goalposts are.


I understand why Sankey would like to see a more favorable college football playoff setup for the Southeastern Conference because it would make the Playoff better, but why do so when there is no way to link the two concepts intellectually? What may be the reason for Sankey’s interest?

Automated bids may be under threat.

You can’t deny that the big conferences will emerge with more power when you talk to people in the college sports community who have access to the ongoing discussions about NCAA governance. How it always works when big-money schools get into a mess that the NCAA rulebook is ill-equipped to handle

A little more than a decade ago, the power conferences were granted “autonomy” through cost-of-attendance stipends. As of right now, the NCAA’s “transformation committee” is focused on name, image, and likeness, as well as the enforcement of transfer rules and regulations.


It’s reassuring to know that the SEC hasn’t yet decided that it’s time to leave the NCAA, but also frightening to know that Sankey has taken the lead on that committee.

That’s what Sankey kept repeating in his Monday speech, noting that the disparity in finances between Division I schools “makes it difficult to ensure that there are shared values and common purpose around supporting athletic programs,” he said.

There’s no doubt that this sounds like a pretext for doing some dramatic things, such as possibly breaking up Division I into smaller groups, decreasing the size of Division I, or — going back to the concept of “earning your way in” — changing the way NCAA championships select their participants.

Automatic bids, referred to as “AQs” in the NCAA, are ingrained in the fabric of college athletics. Men’s and women’s basketball fans are most familiar with it as a result of the nearly annual appearance of a team from a smaller conference surprising one of the big boys. If they hadn’t won their conference, they wouldn’t have been able to participate in the tournament at all.


When Sankey, who is expected to have the most impact on the future of NCAA Division I, speaks to those officials this Monday, they will hear him compare his idealized version of the College Football Playoff to “earning your way in.” Most likely, automatic bids for sports that smaller schools value will be used as a form of leverage, if not outright removed from consideration.

Some college administrators believe that the power conferences, led by SEC, would have no problem squeezing the little guy out of the NCAA basketball tournament and other championships.

If Sankey’s Monday description of the new definition of earning it is accurate, then their concerns are well-founded.

@DanWolken is the handle of USA Today Sports’ Dan Wolken on Twitter.


Original author and place of publication: USA TODAY If you pay attention to the SEC commissioner, you’ll hear a plan to annihilate college sports’ “little guys.”