College Football: Others should not assume Greg Sankey is bluffing

[Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Sec Media Days
[Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]Sec Media Days /

For college football fans, offseasons are painfully slow and at times, outright dull. In contrast, the last two weeks have been anything but dull.

In a span of just days, Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher have provided more sizzle than several offseasons. The ‘buying players’ issue is not going away even if Saban tempers his claims and Jimbo stops hyperventilating.

Not to be outdone, Greg Sankey produced his own bombshell. Sankey stunned the CFB world recently by stating the SEC will discuss staging its own Playoff, as in separate from any other Playoff.

An eight-team, seven-game SEC Playoff would garner a huge media rights deal. It would also de-value any other competing Playoff, even if four of the other current Power Fives staged one.

No one who follows college football closely should be surprised. When the 12-team CFB Playoff format was defeated, Sankey said that expansion was best for college football but not necessarily best for the SEC.

Underestimating what Sankey and the SEC might be willing to do is a mistake for other conference commissioners. On ESPN’s ‘Get Up’ Heather Dinich said Sankey and the SEC are “posturing.” That verb form of the word posture means, according to Merriam-Webster, to assume an artificial or pretended attitude.

Word of caution to College Football

A word of caution to the rest of college football – Greg Sankey is not pretending. The SEC will be able to package a new Playoff product and auction it off for a staggering financial return. The SEC winner would then gladly play the winner of any other credible Playoff format.

There is far more doubt about what conferences would be involved in the ‘other’ format. There may be no Power Five at that point, but the other two or three (and maybe still four) conferences could conduct a Playoff with their winner playing the SEC winner.

Another possibility is the Big Ten does not want to align with the ‘lesser’ conferences. In that scenario, and for pretty much the same reason (money) the Big Ten copies the SEC. The result would be a National Championship contest between the Big Ten and SEC Playoff winners.

Whatever teams left in the ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 at that point, could also stage a Playoff. The media rights package would not come close to SEC and Big Ten deals. The perception of such an alternate Playoff would likely be that, at best, the winner could claim to be No. 3 in the nation.

Another possibility is the three ‘other’ conferences could include some Group of Five teams and create a large enough Playoff, the winner could ‘claim’ a National Championship.

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Whatever evolves, the 2026 season is the probable time frame. Currently, there is no Playoff after the 2025 season. Should the SEC decide to act boldly with a new product, a decision would need to be made sometime in 2023.