The legalization of sports gambling will change college sports, but Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey isn’t quite sure how.
Beginning the conference’s annual football media days here at the College Football Hall of Fame, Sankey said his league began to research sports gambling in 2011 and has been corresponding with the NFL, NBA, MLB and PGA offices about the topic.
He’s not opposed to requiring teams to release injury reports, but he said that likely won’t happen this season, and whenever those reports do start coming out, they won’t be just like NFL injury reports.
“FERPA and HIPAA requirements, academic suspensions, other team or athletics’ department imposed suspensions and NCAA eligibility issues make something more like an availability report relevant for discussion,” he said.
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If there’s one certain positive to the legalization, Sankey said, it’s that there will be more “sunshine” on the topic. Gambling will be out in the open.
“Those involved in legalized gambling are the best at knowing what’s happened,” he said in response to a question about how the conference would monitor gambling. “I think some of the state laws include expectations for communication around transparency. If there are oddities, I think that’s one much those elements that we would encourage.”
Sankey said the conference has not hired a service to monitor fishy gambling activity on the league’s games yet, but doing so remains “a topic of conversation.”
No plans to change conference schedule
Don’t expect the SEC to move away from its 6-1-1 football scheduling model, which includes six permanent divisional games, one permanent cross-division game and one rotating cross-division game.
Missouri’s permanent cross-division game is against Arkansas, which the conference has tried to turn into Tigers’ rival — though MU athletic director Jim Sterk recently said Mizzou’s rival varies by sport. Mizzou’s rotating cross-division game for this upcoming season is against Alabama, a school MU won’t play again until 2025, when the Crimson Tide come to Columbia.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is the only other Power Five league to use a eight-game conference schedule. Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 schools all play nine league games.
“I’ve seen observations that we should be (have a) nine-game (conference) schedule,” Sankey said. “One of those conversations that we’ve had with the College Football Playoff selection committee chair is about the conference schedule piece. And I want to try to be intentional: What they’ve said is, ‘We look at the entire schedule.’
“That’s the issue that our schools have to be and our teams have to be mindful of, is the entirety of their schedule needs to be robust,” added Sankey, whose conference had two schools — Alabama and Georgia — face off for the 2018 national title. “... The level of play in this league is uniquely robust, not simply in our opinion, but what has been reflected over time.”
Sankey said the current scheduling model has created some rivalries that fans like, and the conference doesn’t want to “interrupt” that.
“Could that change? That’s why we have conversations every year,” the commissioner said. “But those rivalries are really healthy and I think really unique, particularly in the number of those that exist in this conference.”
Media Days on the move again?
For the first time in 18 years, SEC Media Days aren’t in Hoover, Ala. Instead, they are taking place at the Omni Hotel and College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta. Sankey said the recent opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Atlanta Falcons play and where the 2018 national championship took place, was part of the impetus for moving media days. The conference even considered moving last year’s media days here.
“Construction made that a possibility that wasn’t real for us, so we had to make a change relatively early on — not really a change, but remain in Hoover,” he said as he stood on a podium atop a turf football field, across from a goal post. “But (considering a move) started a set of thoughts and preparations that led us here today. And then, believe it or not, there’s a lot of work with changing something you’ve done in the same place for well over a decade to relocating to a different city in a different facility.”
The event will move back to Hoover, a suburb of Birmingham, next year, and Sankey is open to having some “portability” after that.
In the College Football Hall of Fame lobby, fans are lining along a blue carpet to collect autographs, and Sankey figures moving media days has given fans a chance to experience the event for the first time.
“We can do that in different places,” Sankey said. “Just like we had a men’s basketball tournament in St. Louis in March this year.”
The SEC will continue to use centralized basketball replay monitoring out of its Birmingham office, Sankey said. Just before league play this past season, the conference began using the system, which has Terry Moore, the Birmingham-based SEC coordinator of men’s basketball replay, tell the lead official which camera angle to consult.
The league will begin offering centralized replay for baseball starting in 2019, too, and SEC volleyball games will now include a third official to review replays.
College basketball changes
Sankey expects the NCAA to adopt all of the Commission on College Basketball’s recommended changes in August.
Those changes include: allowing basketball players to remain their eligibility if they declare for the NBA Draft but are not drafted, contracting rule enforcement to an outside agency and creating recruiting events that would be outside of the AAU circuit and under NCAA control.