There’s not much downtime for SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in any given week, but he always finds time to catch his breath at church every Sunday.
This Sunday however, the events of the week forced Sankey to spend his only moment of peace contemplating the SEC’s role in bringing people of different backgrounds together.
“Have you done enough or what have you done becomes a difficult question,” Sankey said. “Because I interact with people of all races, backgrounds and colors, yet you’re reminded that the answer is likely not [enough].”
As someone who lived in Dallas, Texas for 11 years, watching events unfold on familiar streets affected Sankey on a personal level.
“The reality of the strife, the concern is one to which I don’t think any of us are inattentive,” Sankey said. “I observe, we provide opportunities for a lot of people on our campuses. Sports brings people together. I think our universities do as well, and we need to be mindful and attentive to that reality and the opportunities associated with that reality.”
On Monday, Sankey introduced the world to the SEC’s new campaign slogan: it just means more. And more is exactly what Sankey wants. He wants more championships in every sport, more graduates but ultimately he wants to see coaches and athletes do more than just exceed on the field or in the gym.
Sankey’s expectations are high, but former athletes, coaches and other administrators have left a blueprint behind the new generation can follow.
“Pat [Summitt] was a pillar of the Southeastern Conference,” Sankey said. “She’s on par with many of the great names, may have set the standard for all of the great names that are a part of this conference. Her impact is felt every day in the lives of the young people she mentored. Their ongoing success is living proof of Pat’s influence and truly positive impact of intercollegiate athletics.”
Sankey also thanked Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley who saw the Gators secure 27 national championships across all sports and three in football during his tenure. Foley retires on Oct. 1.
With the passing of Summitt and the retirement of Foley the SEC must find new leaders for the next generation, and Sankey believes there are plenty of extraordinary individuals currently competing in the SEC on the football field.
“Alabama defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson had to overcome the loss of both parents and two knee surgeries,” Sankey said. “He’s fulfilling a promise to his mother working on his master’s degree and also plays the trumpet and saxophone.”
Tomlinson was far from the only athlete that Sankey called attention to on Monday. He mentioned Georgia lineman (and perhaps the only notary on a Division I football roster) Brandon Kublanow. He also praised multiple SEC football players for taking time to give back on service trips to other countries.
Sankey’s praise didn’t stop with football players. He said the conference projects that 125 current or former SEC athletes will compete in the Rio Olympics.
“It’s the same pride that comes from seeing the joy shown by Arkansas pole vaulter Lexi Weeks when she cleared her personal best to make the team,” Sankey said. “She had not even landed back in the pad and she began celebrating her achievement. And then if you watch, you watched the pride and the emotion when she realized she would be part of the United States Olympic team.”
The Olympics and community based mission trips aren’t the only ways the conference is impacting the world at large.
“For all across Africa, a materials science network that spans the continent, thanks to our Professor of the Year, LSU’s Dr. Isiah Warner. That means more,” Sankey said. “…I want us all to be proud of what we do together, and to continue to add to the legacy, the amazing legacy, of the Southeastern Conference.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports