The SEC’s moves beyond CWS go beyond football, as Greg Sankey likes

OMAHA, Neb. – One hallway of the South East Conference offices has recently been remodeled. It now hangs a photo display of every national championship game or event where two league teams played.

“A new tradition,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. “There is still room to add to this collection.”

Sankey has come to Omaha from Birmingham, Ala., Looking for the following photo. On Saturday, as he watched Arkansas and Ole Miss win in the second day of the College World Series, Sankey wore a green shirt adorned with the SEC logo. It’s the only color that won’t bother him here, because nothing in it shows the support of one of his programs for another.

These are the problems of the Commissioner, whose conference dominates sport.

SEC baseball is what SEC football strives for – a balanced and relentless mix of teams, almost every one of whom can win the national championship for most of the year, likely to defeat the league races off the season.

Sankey, who has been at odds with other Power 5 commissioners over the past year over the details of the expansion of the college football playoffs, can sit quietly in front of the CWS and smile. She can imagine Ole Miss-Auburn in the eighth final of the football version. Or a bitter knockout race between Texas and Texas A&M, as Sankey saw at CWS on Sunday, where the winner is still alive in his national title.

Five of the SEC’s 12 baseball programs have won seven of the last 12 championship titles. None of the five are among the SEC’s four players who were allowed to play in Omaha this year.

The SEC team has played with the SEC team three times in football and three times in baseball for the national title. Since the fall of 1998, when college football unveiled the BCS system to identify the champion, no other conference has ever done it in football, baseball or men’s basketball.

SEC vs. SEC for the title


In 2011

South Carolina





The year 2021




In 2011






The year 2021



“You don’t do it out of mediocrity,” Sankey said. “You’re doing it against the best. And now and in the future, when we add Oklahoma and Texas, that expectation is clearer than at any other weekly conference. That’s why SEC football is special. That’s what makes baseball special.

“The future is incredibly bright for people who want to rise and be part of it.”

With the exception of Oklahoma and Texas, both of which operate on Sunday and plan to join the SEC over the next three years, the SEC office will record the number of teams from one conference in the largest number of CWSs last designated by the SEC in 2019.

Tennessee, which is the best team in the country in the regular season, is not present. It bumped into Notre Dame’s highlands. The same thing happened last year with Arkansas at 50:11 before NC State banned the Razorbacks from traveling to Omaha with a couple of victories.

Arkansas achieved this this year. And after Saturday’s 17: 2 win over Stanford, it will be playing with Ole Miss on Monday night. The winner owns the inner track of the championship starting on Saturday.

And when it comes to Ole Miss, this is perhaps the hottest team in the entire tournament. The Rebels marched through six post-season games after great shots after losing five of the six weekends in the SEC and sneaking into the 64-team NCAA field as the last big team of their choice.

This is convincing evidence that no SEC team deserves to be labeled an underdog.

“The SEC is preparing you like no other conference,” said Ole Miss left-back Kevin Graham, who played in a 5: 1 win over Auburn on Saturday night. “It’s a glove. You have to run through it. Everyone can win everyone. It doesn’t win the best team. It’s the team that plays best.”

The SEC’s preparation does not guarantee CWS victory, according to Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, but reduces the likelihood of surprise.

“Whether it’s a high-speed left-handed or a plus-slider right-handed, you’ve seen it,” Van Horn said. “There are other teams in other leagues that are good, but we just have a lot of great teams.”

Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle, who was on the Aggies team for the first year at TCU after 18 seasons, said he watched SEC baseball from afar and admired the competition. He admired the atmosphere.

“But you’re also like the whole phrase, ‘It just means more,’ it’s a bit elitist,” Schlossnagle said. “And it doesn’t mean that it means more, no disrespect to the SEC or Commissioner Sankey. It means more to more people.

“The league itself is literally certain, because every team is at the game level. Alabama and Kentucky didn’t make it to the NCAA. If you had told me two weeks ago that Alabama and Kentucky were in Omaha, it wouldn’t have shocked me in the slightest.

Sankey developed the theory that the 2020 season, which was canceled less than a month after the COVID-19 pandemic began, led to increased intensity among SEC baseball fans and players, which has not yet subsided.

When the stadiums reopened in 2021, a flood of emotions broke out, Sankey said.

“People were so eager to be a part of it when the stadium’s capacity returned to normal,” he said, “the switch was turned over.”

He acknowledges the SEC’s baseball-related energy last year, which culminated in the CWS Championship Series, which deserves to be featured when Mississippi State won the Vanderbilt, increasing intensity at the start of the 2021 football season. Sankey played in Clemson-Georgia, Texas-Arkansas and Alabama-Florida in September.

“It was another level of intensity,” Sankey said. “It was just charged energy and it started when we opened baseball stadiums.”

This year, by the way, the reigning state champion Mississippi was the last in the SEC – and not because it was a bad team.

Texas and Oklahoma are noticing. Both programs returned to Omaha in the first year after announcing their move to the SEC.

The bar is raised high. The momentum is on the rise. On Friday, the morning of the opening of the CWS, Oklahoma unveiled a $ 30 million renovation plan for its baseball stadium.

“They showed me the field,” Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson said. “It was incredible. It’s really going to be a new stadium. I mean, we’re going to go to the SEC. They’re moving in that direction.”

He never wants to outdo himself, Texas also wants to grow. Coach David Pierce said he wants to limit the Disch-Falk Field and double the 6,985 seats as an SEC program.

“There’s a chance you’re playing Friday night’s games and there’s 15,000 (visitors),” Pierce said. “It’s pretty awesome. And you face it every weekend on the road. It’s a whole second level when you get to those fan bases and bring in these types of schools that are not only good at baseball, they also have a history of athletics.”

New York-born Sankey, who played baseball at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, has found a second home in Omaha. This is the second time he has come to CWS’s opening weekend this June.

Other trips brought him to the championship. However, with 75 percent of CWS Square now or in the coming years tied to his league, Sankey said he felt he had to step in early. The eighth-year commissioner traveled here for the first time with his wife, Cathy.

When Texas and Notre Dame entered the field on Friday night, Sankeys left the ball. They booked dinner at 801 Chophouse, the city’s first-class steakhouse. It was a powerful move, unlike the pictures hanging in the Birmingham corridor of the man in charge of the league, who continues to be the head of college sports, one championship at a time.

(Photo of Ole Miss celebrating Auburn’s defeat: Steven Branscombe / USA Today)

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