SEC may not ‘land plane’ on schedule decision this week

SEC presidents in Florida, could table vote on eight- or nine-game schedule

MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. — SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is having way too much fun with his airplane analogy.

Since Monday night, when he first briefed reporters on the eight- versus nine-game scheduling decision that was to be debated during the SEC Spring Meetings this week, he has referred to the matter as an airplane circling an airport and needing to land soon.

Three days later, that plane remains in a holding pattern. It’s even possible now that the SEC’s plane may have to alter course and seek another destination.

Following was Sankey’s humorous exchange with reporters Wednesday evening after eight hours of deliberations. At its core, though, the situation is not that funny:

Is it fair to say that hope for a nine-game schedule is fading?

Sankey: “No.”

Where is it right now?

Sankey: “It’s not here.”

Is the plane is still in the air?

Sankey: “Since I got tricked into this the other day, there are a lot of schedules on that plane.”

Do you need a bigger plane?

Sankey: “No, it’s a very small plane. … Two pilots, two engines. Just kind of broaden your thinking about maybe there are different ways to approach this.”

Would you be surprised if it ends as eight?

Sankey: “We’ll see. I’m embedded in the conversation, so I don’t think you can use the word ‘surprised’ with this.”

Would you be disappointed if it ended as eight?

Sankey: “Um, I’m unemotionally attached to a football schedule.”

And so the debate went into Thursday morning’s proceedings. The coaches left, wrapping up their portion of the meeting Wednesday afternoon and jumping on their respective planes to fly to their campuses to resume the business of convincing elite athletes to come play for them.

They left seemingly more confused about the situation than when they arrived. Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said he came in feeling one way, is leaving feeling another, but has no clue how it might end up.

“I really don’t have a preference right now,” said Pittman, a Georgia assistant coach three years ago. “I did. I wanted the nine, but I’ve kind of changed my mind now. I don’t think it really matters. … I anticipate it’s going to be another three or four days, and they’ll probably figure it all out.”

The problem is the SEC doesn’t have another three or four days to figure this out at the spring meetings. They conclude Friday with the presidents’ votes. They will deliberate all day Thursday and take straw polls on each issue. The presidents actually will vote on several matters, but it’s the eight- or nine-game football schedule that has everyone’s attention.

It’s possible the decision could get tabled, as it did last year, but a conclusion ultimately must be reached before Oklahoma and Texas join July 1, 2024.

“We have to land the airplane,” Sankey concluded. “People will have different reasons for why they have a perspective, but I know we’ve been really diligent providing information. We also have a new reality, and there are ways to move into that with careful intent that are not about two or three pieces of paper.”

Asked again if he foresaw a final decision being made this week, Sankey shrugged.

“We’ll see. Stay tuned.”