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Transcript: SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey

Mon, Jul 10, 2017

MODERATOR: I would like to welcome you to the 2017 Southeast Conference Football Media Days. We're glad you're here. We'll lead off today's festivities with the Southeast Conference Commissioner, Mr. Greg Sankey.

GREG SANKEY: Thank you, Kevin. Welcome, everyone. It's good to have you in Hoover for SEC Media Days. Just one correction to Kevin's instructions about live video, we've made an exception for the SEC

Network, so that one's okay.I was reminded actually two years ago, I walked in and periscoped walking into Media Days. And a number of you corrected me via Twitter that that's actually prohibited by our credentials. So we do take that particular issue seriously. Well, I hope you enjoyed the 12 days between the finale of the college world series and today, the unofficial kickoff to college football -- college football season, what we know as SEC Football Media Days.

We used to sing 12 days of Christmas. We're working on 12 Days of Summer as a new song. It does go quickly. But we also hope that despite the activity, I know there's a lot that happens, a lot of moving parts, that this is a productive week for each of you. We have our staff who served greatly through these next few days, the staffs from our universities and a number of volunteers to help support your efforts. So please take advantage of them.

I also want to welcome in addition to all of the media, those of you who are affiliated, whether it be with Bowl games, who are part of either the College Football Playoff, the College Football Universe, or particularly those with whom we have relationship, those of you who are parts of foundations or associations. All of which support the great sport of college football. You are important to us.

Also important to us is that later this year, in fact on December 9th, we will mark 85 years since the Southeastern Conference was created. It happened back in 1932 in the Old Farragut Hotel in Downtown Knoxville. It's hard to believe that such a great organization came out of times when we are in a Great Depression, for example, as a country, and yet we still thrive. It's important because time moves so quickly that we take moments and be intentional to stop and remember both important events and special people who contributed to the fabric of the Southeastern Conference.

Now, we like to think every year in the SEC is special and last year was no exception. For example, the SEC won national championships in six different sports. We saw the National Championship Finals in women's basketball and in baseball comprised of only SEC teams. I think maybe the most remarkable statistic, and they're all important, is that every one of our 13 softball teams was selected to participate in the NCAA softball tournament. In outdoor track and field, we have eight of the top men's teams and five of the seven top women's teams.

They provided three of the Elite 8 men's basketball including an all SEC final in Madison Square Garden between Florida and South Carolina, which produced our Final Four team this year, the University of South Carolina men's basketball team. And for the tenth time since 2006, an SEC team played for the College Football National Championship.

As a reminder, SEC teams have won 8 of the last 11 national championships. Four different teams have claimed those titles, unique among the conferences. 

 Q. Greg, I wonder if you guys have evolved any further towards a comprehensive plan for football game interruptions due to tropical storms and other natural disasters that might happen?

GREG SANKEY: Obviously a lot of learning last year. We didn't have a policy as a conference once you move past game day. That's has to be the authority of the Commissioner to designate the game day. That has been corrected. The membership voted, both our athletics directors and our presidents unanimously to say the Conference Commissioner has the authority to place that game, number one.

Number two, we also had a couple pieces of policy that set the expectation that all eight conference games be played in order to be eligible for the conference championship. We've made that now an explicit Commissioner's regulation. Again, our athletics directors and our presidents voted 14-0 to endorse that clarity of rule. We've also talked since our athletics directors' meeting in December about the very specific contingency plans that happen on our campuses. We meet with our athletic directors next month, and those items will be another topic of conversation. And if you can imagine, just from a practical standpoint, we had a few war games in our office about what if. We will engage in that process as we move towards football season again. The two key policy changes to say explicitly, it's no longer about two schools agreeing, it's about the Commissioner having the authority to designate when the game may be played, and that was adopted by our membership.

 Q. There's been some buzz about division realignment. What are the possibilities that at some point could happen when we think of the Auburn Tigers and other schools when we think about that?

GREG SANKEY: Has not been an agenda item in the meeting. It is a conversation in most large press conferences in which I appear, and that's the extent of the conversation.

 Q. Given the somewhat volatile state of cable television, I'm wondering if the conference has faced any specific challenges with the SEC Network, or if there are any hurdles ahead that you might have to clear?

GREG SANKEY: I think we've experienced over three years great success with the SEC Network. We're attentive to the change. I don't -- people use different adjectives, volatile, whatever it might be. I just look at the reality that change is happening around us, so we're completely attentive to that. We know that ESPN as well is attentive to that. Since launch, what we've seen is international distribution opportunities as these new distribution methods are created. We've been positioned well by ESPN. So really, despite the change, there's a lot of good news, but we are still attentive to that change. I know that I watch a lot more on my phone and iPad, and I'm 53 years old. And it's clear that if I'm becoming accustomed to that, others are consuming media in a different way. And that's why it's important that we have those new opportunities.

 Q. Sort of a follow-up to that question, in your projections, do you see your TV revenue stream flattening out, expanding? What do you see that as?

GREG SANKEY: Keep in mind that we have contracts that are long term that include specific revenue. So we have an understanding of what those include. We have seen and expected to see great progress on the revenue front where the network is created. And the lack of that 20, 50, 70 percent year-over-year increase is not related so much to the cable industry, but now we have a much more mature network. And so to my points earlier about those new distribution opportunities, those are important as is maintaining as many households as possible in the current environment. So any flattening or normalizing of revenue is basically a standard outcome of what we do and that to which we become accustomed to over time. We have contractual and then some variable revenue, but it still continues to progress is the good news.

 Q. Greg, have you ever seen the day maybe when you all in -- the conference have a uniform drug policy rather than each school having a policy and kind of bending it their way?

GREG SANKEY: We've gone through that discussion, Ron, three or four times in my almost 15 years here, in our schools, including us looking at developing what the framework of that plan may be. Our schools have not, in majority, supported adopting a policy at the conference level. Part of my expectation is that will at some point be a conversation because we've had so much turnover in personnel that it's now asked with more frequency in meetings. And from a staff standpoint, we're prepared for that conversation. As I mentioned, having a student athlete conduct working group, that may be an agenda item we assign there. I wouldn't predict when other than it will be another agenda item at some point is my anticipation. But keep in mind our schools make the determination. And hidden in my reference is the changing personnel, I think, probably prompt that discussion in the future.

 Q. Commissioner, do you favor some kind of standardized format for injury reporting in football?

GREG SANKEY: I think that's probably the second time I've been asked, and that's just not been a conversation that we've ever had. I understand the basis for the question, but I've not had to take a position other than allowing what we do to continue. And I suspect that's the feeling of our member universities at this point as well.