published Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Sankey says SEC not yet down over BCS

NASHVILLE — A week had passed since then-No. 1 Alabama fell to Texas A&M, dropping the defending national champions to fourth in the BCS standings and severely hampering the Southeastern Conference's hope for a seventh straight national title.

Yet SEC executive associate commissioner and CEO Greg Sankey said it was business as usual this past week at league headquarters in Birmingham.

"Everybody went into the season understanding what had to be done," Sankey said minutes before the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday night.

"What's out there this year is out there."

In other words, however much the future "Final Four" BCS format may help the SEC when it kicks into play during the 2014 season, the league isn't yet ready to complain about the current system, which allows only the top two teams in the BCS standings to play for a title.

Then again, with Oregon and Kansas State both losing Saturday night, the winner of the Dec. 1 SEC title game between Georgia and Alabama now figures to play in the BSC title game for a seventh straight season, each of those previous title-game appearances producing an SEC national champ.

"I know that we want to be successful," said Sankey, who rose to his position as head of daily operations last spring, not quite 10 years after first coming to the league in 2002.

"But I'm also sure that [other leagues] have their opinions and hopes."

The fact that six SEC schools hold down spots 4 through 9 in the current BCS rankings -- Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina, respectively -- is all you need to know about how successful the SEC expects to be in football.

But it took Sankey less than a week on the job after leaving the Southland Conference to appreciate the passion of the league in all sports, the SEC winning more than 60 national titles in all sports in the past 10 years, including nine national titles with runner-up national finishes in seven other sports last year alone.

"My first week on the job, a tennis issue arose," Sankey recalled. "The whole conference was mad. We were threatened with lawsuits, everything. I told my wife, 'I never saw anything like this in the Southland.' I realized then that there are no small issues in the SEC. Until you've experienced it, it's hard to understand how important sports are [in the SEC] to so many people."

Sankey could be forgiven his lack of SEC knowledge. He grew up in the Northeast, a graduate of Cortland State.

But that doesn't mean he hasn't come to love the conference he helps run.

"When the bowl season rolls around and our fans chant 'S-E-C! S-E-C!' that's one of my favorite times of the year," he said.

Especially if the league indeed reaches the BCS title game for a seventh straight year.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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