HOOVER, Ala. — On his Twitter page, new Southeastern Conference commissioner and fitness devotee Greg Sankey has a photo of himself flipping a tractor tire.
It’s perfectly symbolic of the kind of heavy lifting he’ll have to do on the job that is one of the prime leadership roles in all of college athletics.
We have a few more tasks for Greg to add to his load, if he’s willing (or even if he’s not):
1. Call the moving vans
Birmingham is a wonderful city, but it’s the last place the SEC office should be. The perception of the SEC is that it always bends policy to the will of Alabama (and, to a much lesser degree, Auburn), which is just about an hour down the road. That it employs too many Alabama people on its payroll.
How about moving to Atlanta, airline hub to the universe and home of the SEC Championship Game? Or Nashville, mostly permanent home of the SEC men’s basketball tournament, with its live music spilling into the streets? Or how about even Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the SEC Network?
We have a feeling SEC Media Days will be heading to Charlotte pretty soon so the folks at the SEC Network don’t have to work a nerve and move their high-definition show to Birmingham. The SEC Network, by the way, is in Charlotte for two reasons: 1. ESPN already had a production facility and studios there; and 2. It’s a neutral site. ESPN didn’t want to be accused of playing favorites.
It’s a good template for the SEC overall to follow.
2. Blow up the football ... schedule
The NFL has had Deflategate. The SEC has Schedulegate.
OK, the SEC’s football scheduling format isn’t a scandal, but it is a travesty. The SEC’s current format of playing everyone in the division and retaining a permanent opponent from the opposite division while rotating the other six teams from the opposite is the blueprint for competitive imbalance, all for the sake of protecting cross-divisional rivalries like (you guessed it) Alabama vs. Tennessee.
The new commissioner should relegate the current 6-1-1 scheduling format to the SEC mausoleum and adopt a fairer 6-2 format. That would have teams playing two opponents from the opposite division each year, home and home. Then you would rotate on to the next pair. Or you could split up the games, thus insuring that every SEC team would play every other SEC team at least once within the traditional four-year span of a football player’s college career.
Sounds fair to us.
3. Take it on the road
Another thing anchored in Alabama is the SEC baseball tournament. While I don’t want to seem hypocritical and say it’s good for the men’s basketball tournament to be in Nashville while it’s bad for baseball to be glued down in Hoover, in fact a compromise is better.
The basketball tournament will move occasionally (St. Louis in 2017, Tampa in 2022). The baseball tournament should do the same. There are plenty of great ballparks scattered across the SEC.
Let’s say two years in Hoover, then every third year in a place like Tampa (home of the New York Yankees’ top-notch spring training home, Steinbrenner Field) or beautiful Auto Zone Park in Memphis, or Zephyr Field in New Orleans.
How cool would it be for the SEC’s players to have their tournament once in a while at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, or the Atlanta Braves’ new park when it’s built, or Busch Stadium in St. Louis?
4. Stand pat
There is some renewed chatter of late about SEC expansion to 16 teams. But unless there is a real chance of bringing North Carolina and Duke into the fold (and even then, it’s dubious whether that would do much for the SEC in football), the conference should stay with its current 14-team alignment.
Texas and Oklahoma would be worthy additions, but the SEC is already in Texas with Texas A&M, and Oklahoma isn’t going to add any significant TV markets. Plus, Texas isn’t going to forsake its lucrative Longhorn Network for a slice of even the SEC’s considerable pie.
And at what point does a conference become simply too ponderous? It’s the SEC, not the NFL.
5. And, one last thing
Make all teams, in all sports, put names on the back of their jerseys. No hashtags, no slogans and no blank spots. Just last names.
Fans, and media, will sing your praises.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.