Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey talked Friday to South Carolina’s Board of Trustees about the family atmosphere that he credits with much of the league’s success.
Then Sankey talked to reporters about the family’s most recent squabble. On Thursday, the league announced that the Florida-LSU game originally scheduled for Oct. 8 in Gainesville, Fla., will be played Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge, La. The game had to be postponed due to the potential impact of Hurricane Matthew.
“I’ve been concerned since Monday when lines are drawn in the sand,” Sankey said. “We are a conference that’s done really, really well at handling things inside. We talk about a family effect, I saw (Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley’s) remark about being part of a family, and I view that as important.”
Sankey’s “line in the sand” comment apparently is in reference to LSU athletics director Joe Aleva saying his school would not give up its Nov. 19 home game under any circumstances. The Tigers were originally scheduled to play South Alabama at home on that date, but have bought out that game. Florida also bought out a Nov. 19 non-conference game against Presbyterian in order to be able to play the rescheduled game with LSU.
“It is difficult to come to conclusions when we’re publicly stating lines in the sand. We can’t do that,” Sankey said. “I give great credit to Jeremy Foley, great credit for when we reached an impasse, stepping forward and I think in the best interests of the conference, showing a willingness to make an adjustment to this year’s schedule, flips next year’s game as well obviously, but it moved us forward. And I give credit to the University of Florida for stepping forward with that because we were coming to a place where we were going to have to take a very different approach, which I don’t think would have been healthy.
“There is a point at which, yes, before we had to go a whole other direction that might not have been healthy, it was the willingness to make that adjustment.”
Sankey declined to say what that “other direction” could have been. The 2017 game between Florida and LSU was scheduled to be played in Baton Rouge but will now be played in Gainesville.
Now the challenge for the SEC is to make sure similar squabbles don’t happen in the future.
“We clearly need to develop a set of protocols for how games that are affected or postponed are then played,” Sankey said. “Ultimately, there has to be specific authority granted to the commissioner. This is all fresh. We have work to do, but from a standpoint of vision, that would be a direction.”
South Carolina’s game against Georgia which was scheduled for Saturday was postponed until Sunday without any public acrimony between the schools. The Gamecocks also moved a scheduled home game to LSU last year due to flooding in the city of Columbia.
“When we work together behind closed doors that is appropriate, that’s why I think drawing lines in the sand is something we want to avoid going forward,” Sankey said.
In his visit with the school’s board, Sankey also:
-- Praised South Carolina football player Mason Zandi and basketball players Duane Notice and A’ja Wilson for their participation in SEC initiatives.
-- Said the conference will release its financial data for the most recent fiscal year in January. “We have not released our financial information yet, but we have continued to make progress in supporting our universities,” he said.
-- Said the conference has not considered a nine-game schedule since the league had its last round of scheduling discussions two-and-a-half years ago.
-- Dismissed the idea of SEC expansion in the near future. “We’ve been thoughtful and strategic in our evaluations over time and will continue to do so if that ever became more of a central thought,” he said.