Maybe he knows it already. Perhaps the idea has not yet settled in, which would make sense considering the announcement is not even a day old. New SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will take over the role once Mike Slive officially steps down from his post in Birmingham in August. The second Sankey takes over the job, he will instantly become one fo the most powerful people in college sports.
You can debate whether Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany or Slive of the SEC has the upper hand in the world of college sports for days. Each has a solid case to be made. You cannot go wrong with either. Delany will remain in office in the Big Ten, but Sankey succeeding Slive is about as lateral a move as the SEC could have possibly made. That should mean Sankey’s power position among conference commissioners will stay steady alongside Delany and ahead the figureheads representing the ACC (John Swofford), Big 12 (Bob Bowlsy) or Pac-12 (Larry Scott).
The transition of power in the SEC offices should be a smooth one. That tends to be the case when you can find the next commissioner just down the hall following years of service in the SEC offices and taking on a key role in the running of the conference underneath the commissioner. That is what the SEC is getting with Sankey, so it should very much be able to keep the status quo. Sankey will oversee a conference that has settled in with realignment changes, added a successful sports network in partnership with ESPN and is continuing to see profits on the rise. Things are going well for the SEC, including football despite not being crowned as a national champion for a second straight season.
“He is a quiet, engaging guy,” SEC Network host and commentator Paul Finebaum told AL.com back in October. “You would think he is like Mike Slive’s younger brother. There is no doubt (about) how they have been able to work together so well.”
Despite being able to follow in Slive’s footsteps without conducting a complete overhaul of the conference, there will be some new challenges and tasks for Sankey to oversee. Autonomy is here and power conferences are on the verge of taking advantage of new protocols and regulations. Monitoring those changes will be the responsibility of Sankey, and communicating with his new peer sin other conferences as well as his own conference’s leadership will be key. Sankey may just be there to carry out the wishes of the university presidents within the SEC, his opinions and thoughts will carry a great distance with tremendous volume. What he says will matter.
More importantly, Sankey has developed quite the reputation by having an influence on a number of the big topics floating around college sports today. Sankey has been involved with promoting player welfare. He has been helping to lead the charge to have schools provide full cost of attendance stipends that are finally coming this year. Sankey knows the issues, and seems to be on the cutting edge of the changes going on in the world of college sports.
Being the voice of the SEC will carry some great demands and expectations, but Sankey appears to be a leader who will be comfortable handling those responsibilities.