By James Crepea
Alabama Media Group
Greg Sankey has been commissioner of the Southeastern Conference for over 10 months, though there are many aspects of the job he was familiar with before he began his tenure last June.
Sankey took part in what was a joint interview with then-commissioner Mike Slive during the APSE Southeast region meeting in Birmingham, where the conference office is located, last year. On Monday, Sankey had the stage for himself before a crowd of over 50 reporters, students and educators at the campus of UAB.
With the recent NCAA decision to end satellite camps, Sankey opened Monday’s talk by addressing an issue that his office has been vocal in opposing for years, before moving on to discuss improving SEC men’s basketball, the league’s “serious misconduct” policy for transfers, controversial state laws in the conference’s footprint and other topics.
“I do not view that we have removed opportunities for young people,” Sankey said of the ban of satellite camps. “We understand that people come from around the country into the Southeastern Conference’s footprint to evaluate and recruit young people. You have never once heard us complain about that fact. And you won’t. That’s reality.
“Rather than the notion that things have been taken away, rather than continuing to migrate football recruiting away from the scholastic environment, away from the agreed upon recruiting calendar developed by the American Football Coaches Association, the council action is entirely appropriate and consistent with how football recruiting should be conducted.”
Satellite camps were an issue on Sankey’s radar since 2011, though they entered the national spotlight during SEC Spring Meetings in May 2014 and again last year. The league’s coaches voiced their opposition to Penn State coach James Franklin’s camps in Georgia and Florida in 2014 and then again with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and others last year, threatening an all out blitz – Slive said the league’s coaches would “canvas the nation” – by the SEC if the practice was not stopped.
With the perception of the SEC being the leader in opposing the camps, which Sankey had dubbed “recruiting tours,” the commissioner pointed out it was a wider opposition in the end.
“The ACC and the SEC have been in lockstep on this issue over time, dating back years related to how we’re going to conduct football recruiting,” Sankey said. “Obviously it takes more than just the Southeastern Conference to accomplish this change. … I would say that people saw the potential problems that we could be creating for allowing to continue outweighing any perceived benefits associated with these recruiting events.”
Last May, the SEC implemented a new policy prohibiting transfers with past incidents of “serious misconduct,” specifically sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of sexual violence. The commissioner said feedback has been positive for the landmark legislation, which Sankey called “a leadership opportunity” for the league.
At the time and in the months since, there has been discussion of expanding the policy to include incoming high school signees. Sankey said talks are continuing on that topic.
“Some of the difficulties are knowing,” Sankey said. “You’re not going to know, even when someone is a minor, what may have happened. You’re relying on different sources of information when you reach the age of majority, there’s a bit more ability to access records.
“I also think we have to be careful, too, about some acts changing the course of one’s life greatly. There is accountability, so I don’t want it at all to diminish accountability but I do think we have to — and we are having what I would consider a balanced conversation about outcomes.”
There is a growing list of laws from Mississippi, to Missouri, to North Carolina and Georgia, many of them perceived to be discriminatory in nature. which Sankey said the SEC is monitoring.
With his first year on the job coming to an end in less than two months, Sankey looked back fondly on year full of travel across the conference.
“There is not another job that I ever want to have. The last year has been fun,” Sankey said. “The challenge, the opportunity, your days are full and the fact that when you show up, you never know what will happen.”
He committed to returning for another interview next year on two conditions.
“Only if we get a brighter light, he said, “and a hotter seat.”