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 126.96.36.199, 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.
If there was ever a doubt about the value of having your own conference-branded television network or the College Football Playoff, look no further than the latest revenue distribution figures coming out. The SEC distributed an average of $41 million per school in the 2017 fiscal year according to tax documents obtained by USA Today. The same report reveals SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was paid $1.9 million in total compensation for 2016.
The University of Georgia received a distribution reported to be $42.8 million for the 2017 fiscal year, while four other unnamed schools received a share of $39.9 million. The combined revenue income to distribute totaled $650 million, and that is up from $639 million the previous year and $527 million the year prior to that according to USA Today.
More revenue distribution numbers will begin coming in as conferences settle their taxes and have their tax returns shared with the media, but the SEC is leading the charge with one of the top revenue distributions on record once again. The Big Ten is also expected to have a healthy revenue distribution to share, as it typically does. The Big Ten and SEC are typically among the leaders in the revenue distribution department, followed by the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12.
The revenues continued to go up, although the rate of increase did see a slight loss in momentum. That could be expected though considering no major differences in the media rights game from 2016 to 2017. The total combined revenue of local radio rights dipped, but not enough to counter-balance the added revenue generated from postseason events for the conference as a whole.