The new head of the SEC opened up SEC Media Days by assuring everyone that - despite his New York upbringing - he's an SEC man through and through. Citing the many years he has lived in SEC country, the different SEC schools he has worked with, and the time he was worked for the conference itself, he made a strong case for forgiving his carpetbaggery. Sankey went on to thank Mike Slive for his leadership and service, announcing that each team in the SEC would designate a Prostate Cancer Awareness game in September in Slive's honor.
With that out of the way, please come drink from the fire hose of CHANGE he has in store.
Greg Sankey is the first SEC Commissioner with a Twitter account - an account that was live-tweeting his words as he spoke them through miracles of modern internship science. Sankey's guiding principles of "scholars, champions, and leaders" will define the new way that the SEC approaches academics, athletics, and development in the coming years. The position of Director of Student-Athlete Engagement will be created. William King will be hired onto his staff in the position of Associate Commissioner For Legal Affairs. The SEC Network will soon be wired directly into the human frontal lobe.
And just to make sure he was perfectly clear that this is a revolutionary world, he did something Mike Slive never did: he fielded questions.
But do these changes amount to anything more substantive than the coachspeak slathered over every speech at SECMD? Sankey's goals of scholars, champions, and leaders are hardly new ground here.
Every commissioner worth his salt stakes out education as a primary goal; how else to propagate the myth of the student-athlete? However Sankey has specifically targeted lifelong education goals. Among the examples he cited is Texas A&M great Dante Hall, who earned his degree from A&M in 2014 - fourteen years after leaving the Aggies to go to the NFL. While education may not be a new idea in the league, perhaps the focus is new.
The goal of champions seems obvious, and Sankey stated so outright. The SEC has always strove to win every championship, and that has not changed. As a person coming from a background in compliance (like his predecessor Slive), Sankey once again set a specific slant to that goal. The first foundation of his champions goal "is to never return a championship, never pull down a championship banner, never vacate any wins, and never have a team banned from postseason competition due to NCAA infractions or the lack of academic success under the NCAA's academic performance program."
This may sound like a bold new stance to outsiders who still base their opinion of the SEC on the 2002 vintage, but the fact of the matter is that the SEC has not experienced a postseason ban in a decade - unlike some of the other Power 5 conferences. Mike Slive worked hard to clean up the SEC. Now whether that was accomplished through growth or through proper litigation skills is a question that should be answered in the form of an angry internet forum or drunken post-game brawl.
The final goal - leaders - is the squishiest, a term steeped in vaguery and managerial bullshit. Though probably genuinely noble in intent, this goal is ideal in its very unidentifiable nature. Like "growing a brand" or "increasing a footprint", success is merely a matter of framing the results. Present the right statistics in the right light at the right time and anyone can win the argument of what constitutes success in creating leaders.
At least it's #classy though.
In all, Sankey accomplished exactly what he set out to do. He reassured the SEC that he is one of them, he promised to continue rolling the conference inexorably into the future, and he laid out a series of goals that would make your company weekend seminar proud. He did this because he knows the truth of the matter, that he has been handed the keys to a very successful money machine and all he has to do is not wrap it around a telephone pole.
When you inherit a billion dollar corporation, your first job is to not fuck it up.