ATLANTA — Get a good look at SEC Football Media Days in Atlanta because it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be around long.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, first up on the podium in the main room on Monday, spoke proudly of the concept of bringing the annual preseason football convention to the largest city in the South. He said the league actually wanted to bring its show to Atlanta last year and base it in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But construction concerns for the new facility prevented it from happening last summer.
“But it started a set of thoughts and preparations that led us here today,” said Sankey, answering reporters’ questions after his half-hour speech on the simulated football field in the College Football Hall of Fame. “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. But … there’s just a feel around football here that’s
special and unique.”
That said, Sankey indicated Media Days won’t be hanging around Atlanta long.
“In my mind is some portability,” Sankey said. “I can see already there are fans who likely have not seen this event or been a part of this event who are here today. And we can do that in different places, just like we had a men’s basketball tournament.”
The men’s basketball tournament has settled on Nashville and Bridgestone Arena as a semi-permanent site. It was conducted in St. Louis last year but was in Nashville the previous three and will be there the next three before landing in Tampa in 2022.
SEC Football Media Days has been in Hoover, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham, every year since the late 1980s, and it will return their next year. But there is talk of moving it to major cities throughout the league’s footprint after that. People familiar with the process say the league has targeted Dallas, Texas, for 2020. Nashville also has been mentioned as a future destination.
Monday came with the resident problems of a first time major media undertaking. Internet connectivity was an issue in the hours leading up to Sankey’s remarks — it was resolved beforehand — and the sound went out halfway through the SEC Is Great hype video that was shown at the beginning of the proceedings. That issue was also fixed and the video in its entirety moments later.
Sankey waxed eloquent on all the wonderful things about Atlanta and the great accomplishments achieved by the league in the last year and previous years. He also touched on several interesting subjects surrounding the league at the moment. Among them:
- Schools and coaches still prefer the eight-game, 6-1-1 model for football conference scheduling. He does not expect a move to a nine-game schedule anytime soon. He cited the SEC having 10 teams play in postseason bowls for four straight years and four teams winning nine of the last 12 national championships as evidence the current formula works.
- There is some talk of adopting a league-wide, mandated “availability report” along the lines of the NFL’s injury report in the wake of the expanded legalized gambling. He doesn’t expect it to happen right away, however. “I do not believe this has to happen before the 2018 season, either on the part of this conference or the national level,” Sankey said. “I expect, however, the change in sports gambling could be and will be likely the impetus for the creation of such reports in our future.”
- Sankey talked about continuing to shorten the length of games and bragged about cutting them down an average of six minutes last year. They’ll continue that effort by introducing “a TV
timeout clock” managed by a “red-hat official” on the sideline that displays the actual length of each TV
timeout and counts down to the resumption of play.
There was a lot of other discussion and bragging, but little of it relevant to the coming season.
In the meantime, Sankey made sure to throw a few bones of praise to our fair city.
“Like the … song from the 1930’s made famous by Ray Charles, I had ‘Georgia On My Mind’ for this event for a couple years,” Sankey said in his opening remarks. “It’s really good to be in Atlanta.”
If only just for a short while.