In this day and age, officials are being scrutinized to degrees once never dreamed of. With multiple angles for instant replays on television and on the big stadium scoreboards, every little mistake by an official in a football game will come under fire from fans, coaches and players. Following a tough loss to Florida, South Carolina fans and their head coach, Will Muschamp, were not particularly pleased with some officiating decisions or lack of decisions made in the setback at home against the Gators. South Carolina’s issues were just the latest in a string of concerns folks around the SEC have had about the integrity of the officials calling their games, a story every fanbase in every conference can relate to in some way.
On Wednesday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addressed the general concerns fans about the officials working game sin his conference. In short, Sankey says nobody is perfect.
“The Southeastern Conference is entrusted with supporting an officiating program that is responsible for calling the games of our member schools. We take this duty most seriously,” Sankey wrote on the SEC’s official website. “We view perfection as our desired goal while also understanding it will always be an elusive standard in a game that is filled with surprises. And we are disappointed when we don’t get it right. Because our goal is to get it right, every time.”
Sankey continued to enforce the idea the SEC is constantly monitoring the performance of their officials and explained the assignments for officials may also be adjusted according to their ongoing in-season performance reviews. While the SEC does not make these assignment changes transparent once changes are made, the idea is to have the best officials working the best games without any potential issues becoming growing concerns in key moments.
Sankey also issued a reminder that coaches and administrators throughout the conference are not allowed to publicly rip the officials, a standard operating procedure in every conference (just ask Lane Kiffin about that).
The SEC has taken some strides in an effort to be more transparent about the officiating process with the launch of a new Twitter account (just don’t check the mentions on game days) and programming on the SEC Network to detail how the rules are governed and upheld during games.
With the SEC continuing to thrive as a conference, it should come as no surprise the commissioner is getting a contract extension. The SEC announced a contract extension for commissioner Greg Sankey that will run through at least 2023, according to the released statement.
“Greg Sankey has led the SEC through an important period of growth and change, advancing our conference’s national standing while ensuring superior experiences for our student-athletes,” said Dr. Harris Pastides, President of the University of South Carolina and current President of the SEC, in a released statement. “We look forward to working with him to achieve even greater success for the SEC at this important time in college athletics.”
“I am privileged to serve the universities and advance the academic and athletics pursuits of the student-athletes of the Southeastern Conference,” said Sankey. “We are in the midst of a time of change for college athletics and I look forward to working with campus leaders to chart a course that sustains the incredible success of our Conference and provides remarkable support for our student-athletes for generations to come.”
Sankey succeeded Mike Slive as the SEC commissioner in 2015 following the retirement of Slive. Under his leadership, the SEC continues to print money through television and revenue distributions through deals with the College Football Playoff and more. While Sankey has had a hand in improving all of the SEC’s sponsored sports, he has also been instrumental in continuing to enhance the visibility of the football brand. As an example, this past summer saw the SEC move its college football media days event to Atlanta, Georgia at the College Football Hall of Fame after a long-standing run in Hoover, Alabama.
The SEC Network continues to be a juggernaut for the conference as well and is a significant reason why revenue distributions throughout the conference have continued to rise and are among the highest per school compared to other power conferences.
After years of holding its annual media day extravaganza in Hoover, Alabama, the SEC set up shop in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame this week for the 2018 media day event. The SEC will head back to Alabama next year, however, and the conference may evaluate moving the media day fun around the region in the years after that.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced the plan is to hold the SEC Media Day event in Hoover, Alabama next summer. After that is anybody’s guess. Tony Barnhart of SEC Network suggested there will be a “serious discussion” about where to hold the event after that.
The SEC certainly has plenty of worthy options to consider if the conference seriously considers moving the event around a bit. Atlanta figures to be a popular destination option, of course. But the SEC could also capitalize on other locations around the SEC with desirable options in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas just for starters. SEC Media Days in Nashville? Memphis? Houston?
The possibilities are quite interesting and moving the event to different locations could allow for more fans to get a taste of the media day fun, which this year included a fan fest the day prior to the official start of the media day schedule.
One of the main attractions the Big Ten saw in adding Rutgers as a member during its most recent expansion was the ability to bring the Big Ten Network to more viewers in the New York metropolitan area. Now, the SEC is looking to get a slice of the Big Apple pie.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced on Monday at SEC media day the SEC Network will be coming to cable provider Altice in the New York metro viewing area. That is a nice addition for the SEC Network, as it will make its way to more than 3 million potential viewers. According to subscriber data from Statista, Altice had 3.38 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2018. Of course, as many cable providers have come to realize, the subscriber total has been on the decline since 2016.
What makes this even more significant of a development for the SEC is the addition of Altice to the distribution map will bring the SEC Network to every major television provider in the United States. (Take THAT, Pac-12 Network).
The SEC Network first went on the air in 2014 and it has quickly paid dividends for the entire conference. This may also be encouraging news for ACC fans, as the conference inches closer to launching its own conference-branded network with the assistance of ESPN. The ACC Network figures to take advantage of many of the same distribution plans as the SEC NEtwork, especially on the east coast as it initially goes on the air. With more of a footprint in the northeast, the future also looks optimistic for the ACC Network.
Former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has shown a desire to continue coaching some capacity. Unfortunately for him, that opportunity won’t be coming in the SEC. As some have speculated in recent months, the SEC allegedly blocked the hiring of the disgraced Rebels head coach for fear of how bad it would look for the entire SEC. According to a report from Al.com, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told Freeze and Alabama the conference would prefer Freeze go “off the radar for at least a little while” before any returning to work at any SEC institution.
In January, it was a poorly-kept secret that Alabama head coach Nick Saban was interested in hiring Freeze to fill a role as offensive coordinator. At the time, it was reported that hiring would not be allowed by the SEC despite Saban pushing to allow for it. What was not as well known at the time was Alabama was not the only school showing interest in Freeze in a coaching role. According to the Al.com report, LSU and Missouri each took a flyer on Freeze only to be locked out of the possibility by the SEC.
The basis for the apparent blackballing of Freeze around the SEC stems from a rule, bylaw 18.104.22.168, that states any school wishing to hire a coach associated with unethical conduct that has resulted in NCAA violations must consult with the league commissioner. Sankey, in this role, provides the oversight for hires around the conference in an effort to uphold the integrity of the SEC brand. With Ole Miss slapped with a two-year postseason ban, that means Freeze is a coach that must be approved by the commissioner of the SEC.
As of now, there has been no action by Freeze to fight this supposed hiring ban in the SEC. He remains unemployed while Ole Miss continues to work its way through sanctions he was ultimately responsible for. As the bylaw is written, Freeze is not actually ineligible to be hired within the SEC. Instead, any school wanting to hire him must convince Sankey why the hire would be beneficial and how it wouldn’t harm the SEC as a whole. But if not even Saban can make that case, Freeze may have to wait a little longer for the water in the SEC to cool before dipping his toes back into coaching in the southeast.