Sankey discusses a few pressing topics
It's been a hectic week for the entire country as the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps across America impacting every city and causing sports leagues to postpone or cancel games.
The SEC isn't immune, announcing this week its canceled all spring activities for the remainder of the academic year, stretching through the end of all spring sports.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey met with the media this week, discussing a range of different topics. A few excerpts from his teleconference are below.
On how canceling could impact the conference from a fiscal aspect
Sankey: "Well, the financial impact, candidly, has not been at the forefront of our conversations. We’ve made decisions based on the health and the well-being of people around our programs. There certainly are revenue implications.
We have staff working through those. I’m certain every conference is working to assess the financial impact, and I’m not going to make predictions other than we’ve seen alterations in the NCAA tournament that, no doubt, will have a financial impact.
I’m grateful to be in the Southeastern Conference. There’s no place I’d rather be, in these tumultuous times, and – and I’m certain we’ll move forward financially in a positive way, but we’ll have to figure out all the adjustments and impacts in the days and weeks ahead."
On spring practice potentially resuming
Sankey: “We have said, no athletic activities through April 15. That doesn’t mean we’ll be back to normal or to practice activities April 16, it was just a date that allows our administrators to communicate with our coaches, our coaches with their student athletes, has resulted in – in the departures from campus.
If you look at the national public messaging about no gatherings above 50, (it is) certainly difficult to conduct any football practice under that limitation, and even with smaller numbers, it had been communicated 10, as often referenced, thereby making it impossible into May, has been stated.
So, I’m not going to be overly optimistic about the return to practice. We haven’t fully foreclosed that opportunity, but I think practically that window’s pretty narrow.”
On his preference about an extra year for spring athletes
Sankey: “I’m certainly open to that. I’ve seen the national messaging, I actually printed about eight pages of analysis from our conference compliance staff. Myself and my colleagues have had just preliminary discussions about what might this mean. I know among the conferences, there’s conversations, as well, you know, the first read is, that’s an appropriate step.
From my perspective, yet, we have to understand the full set of implications, and I hope we’ll move through those rapidly because I think one of the assets for our young people is knowing definitively what their eligibility status will be going forward.
I do want to say, I don’t think this is simply a senior issue. Everybody in our programs, particularly, spring sports, had their season disrupted, so my encouragement is we take a broad look at what type of opportunities we offer going forward.”
On spring practice continuing into May
Sankey: “Let’s not – what I’d say is, let’s not just define some structure. I’m confident, in fact, if we’re not able to practice further this spring, I’m confident that we’ll be seeking opportunities to make sure our teams our adequately prepared heading into the season.
Elements of that are going to be guided by the public health realities in front of us. By way of background, our athletics directors now have a daily conference call. We took Sunday off this past weekend, but we’ve spoken for an hour or more every day identifying issues.
I expect we’ll have a smaller group from our campuses examine issues around out of season practice in football, in soccer and in volleyball, to think about as we turn the page, head to the next chapter of 2020-21, given what’s occurred, the disruption that’s occurred, how do we best allow our teams and support our teams in preparation.
So that’s – I don’t mean to be obtuse in that answer, it’s just we’re dealing with a lot of these undefined circumstances, but know in our mind is how do we help our teams adequately prepare in advance of the fall season."
On eligibility for winter athletes
Sankey: “I think that applies to a set of winter sports and we’ll just observe my view that we need to deal in a time efficient manner with the spring sport situation. There does need to be a conversation about the disrupted winter sports, which, for us, would include both men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and diving, gymnastics, and equestrian.
I don’t have the answer to that right now, even in my mind. We have – with some sports that played their entire regular season, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, but had their national championship disrupted, we had some that completed their conference championship, as well, in women’s basketball, they had the whole tournament, not just the national championship event in front of them. And then, you know, men’s basketball, gymnastics and equestrian had more disruption.
I know that’s an agenda item nationally, I don’t have a prediction right now, just like with spring sports, I’m certainly open to the conversation, but I think spring sports needs to move forward in a time efficient manner, perhaps, there’s a deeper look into what happened with – what happens with winter sports eligibility.”
On if this hiatus could impact football season
Sankey: “Our focus is on preparing for the 2021 academic year, the fall seasons, as currently scheduled, so there’s a period on the end of that sentence.
Well obviously, I think about everything going forward because we’re being guided by public health information in decision making, but my hope is we can return to our normal organized activities, our normal experiences and be part of that celebration around soccer or volleyball, cross-country, football in the fall. But, we’ll have to see.”
On if he anticipates a full football season
Sankey: “I’m a half-full perspective person, so I have optimism. We have taken measures as have our colleague conferences, at this time, I think that if I read those health leaders, we’re going to have a period of time to see what happens with the growth of these cases and we’ll make decisions down the road.
So, for me, my responsibility is to continue to support the public health decision making, but also to be prepared to do our work as assigned to us, and we have – we’ve categorized things, Michael and everyone.
One is to be focused, one, on the work we have. The second is to make sure we’re prepared for next year as planned. And the third is to engage in big picture thinking which is contingency planning, but also, strategic planning.
And as we adjust to the fact that no-one’s complaining to me about umpires right now and that opens up a little bit of space, we want to use that time wisely. I did – we had a baseball coach’s conference call.
When I joined, I said I’d much rather be talking to some of you about baseball umpiring problems over the weekend than what we’re talking about now, but as we adjust to this new normal, we’re going to be thinking about a lot of things.”