By Noél Espinal
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey touted the league’s accomplishments and took questions for an hour at the Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast Regional meeting at Samford University on Monday, April 16.
“It has been a remarkable year.” Sankey said in his opening remarks, noting that an SEC school has won college football’s national championship nine times in the last dozen years and five of the highest-rated games on television involved SEC teams. He also pointed to the league’s success in men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball and other sports.
Sankey was asked about the issue of sale of alcohol beverages in stadiums, with NCAA member schools voting on abolishing the prohibition of alcohol at events. He seemed to indicate that the league is not quite ready for that step.
“The responsible way to handle this is to continue the dialogue.” Sankey said, explaining that the SEC strives to provide an appropriate environment so stadiums can be kept “family friendly.”
Asked if the ability to have alcoholic beverages in luxury seating areas in some stadiums is elitist, Sankey said it was more of a management issue for schools.
The commissioner was also asked about SEC schools that were interested in hiring former Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze, who left in the wake of an NCAA investigation after the discovery that he had made calls to an escort service. Sankey wasn’t forthcoming about his role in keeping Freeze from resurfacing in the league.
“I don’t share my responses,” he said. “Schools calling me asking my opinion on if (they) should hire someone is infrequent relative to other conversations.”
Sankey was also challenged with questions about the conference’s role in supporting open LGBT athletes.
“I think our campuses have demonstrated that they are welcoming and accommodating places.” Sankey said, adding that schools are continually fostering a supportive environment.