Twenty-five years to the day after USC enthusiastically accepted an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference, the three most recent commissioners of the league participated in a panel discussion at the university and trumpeted the conference’s cohesion along with its competitive success.
“We always say that athletics is the front porch of the university, and if you have the SEC logo on your front porch, then, ‘Wow,’” said USC president Harris Pastides, who joined the trio of commissioners on stage at the W.W. Hootie Johnson Performance Hall at the Moore School of Business.
Greg Sankey, who has been commissioner of the league since May, Mike Slive, who served as commissioner of the league from 2002 until May, and Roy Kramer, commissioner from 1990 to 2002, were led through a 90-minute discussion by moderator Abraham Madkour, the executive editor of SportsBusiness Journal, SportsBusiness Daily and SportsBusiness Daily Global.
“There was never a regret or a concern that we invited South Carolina in,” said Kramer, who was in charge of the league when Carolina was invited and accepted on Sept. 25, 1990. “South Carolina has fulfilled everything that the conference expected when we asked them to come in.”
Art Smith, who was the university’s interim president when South Carolina accepted the invitation into the league, attended Friday evening’s lecture, as did current athletics director Ray Tanner and many of the school’s athletic administrators and trustees.
South Carolina has won 19 regular season and conference tournament titles since joining the league and all six of its national team titles have come since joining the league, but most of Friday’s discussion focused on the history and the structure of the league.
The solidarity of the SEC’s members is the key component to its long-term success, Slive said.
“The league is a public trust that we need to protect, and all of us up here are cognizant of that,” he said.
All three commissioners agreed that sentiment is best sounded out by the league’s fans, which often chant, “SEC, SEC, SEC,” at major sporting events.
“I’ve never heard anybody chant Big Ten. I’ve never heard anybody chant Pac-12,” Kramer said. “Our fans feel that.”
Sankey, Slive and Kramer all will attend Saturday’s South Carolina-UCF game at noon before traveling to Charlotte, N.C., to watch the rest of the day’s conference action from the studios of the SEC Network.
All three will be recognized on the field, and the school will make a special presentation for Slive for one of the SEC’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Games. Slive has battled prostate cancer and the Gamecocks will wear prostate cancer awareness helmet stickers this week as they did against Georgia.