Wanting ‘faculty soccer to be robust nationally,’ SEC commissioner Greg Sankey optimistic about expanded playoff

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Regardless of his league profitable 12 of the final 16 nationwide championships, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey mentioned some of the essential elements of an expanded 12-team Faculty Soccer Playoff can be serving to the game to not be so regionalized.

“My view is how do you deliver extra individuals into November, together with in our league,” Sankey instructed ESPN. “Our league can be advantageous, even at 16 groups with a four-team playoff. At 14, we have taken half the sphere a few occasions. No person else has performed that. Once we go to 16 and add Texas and Oklahoma, we’re not going to have much less alternative by including these two. We’ll have extra.

“However we have excluded the West Coast and the whole lot west of the Rockies for all however two years. We wish faculty soccer to be robust nationally, and I feel that is the duty all of us have.”

Sankey was a member of the Faculty Soccer Playoff working group, and after one other wave of realignment in August that included USC and UCLA transferring from the Pac-12 to the Large Ten, there’s a renewed push to expedite the proposed 12-team playoff to the 2024 season. Presently, the four-team format stays in place by means of the top of the 12-year tv contract that runs by means of the 2025 season.

Because the introduction of the Faculty Soccer Playoff in 2014, Oregon (2014) and Washington (2017) are the one two Pac-12 groups to make the playoff. In contrast, not less than one SEC staff has appeared in all eight playoffs. Alabama and Georgia have confronted off within the championship recreation two occasions — in 2017, with Alabama profitable 26-23 in extra time, and final season, with Georgia profitable 33-18.

“I am advantageous if we win the championship yearly, however we’ve a duty to consider the sport from an even bigger image,” Sankey mentioned. “I need to win and am not going to apologize for that, however I am additionally going to problem myself and us collectively to consider the large image.”

Sankey acknowledged that increasing the sphere does not essentially imply that extra groups will win championships. Through the CFP period, Alabama has received three titles, Clemson two titles, Georgia one title, LSU one title and Ohio State one title.

“However the great thing about going to 12 is you possibly can have as many as 40 groups with an opportunity to get into the playoff coming into November,” Sankey mentioned.

Sankey mentioned the primary obstacles in transferring up enlargement to 2024 stay lining up bowl dates, campus involvement, interplay of TV networks, not bumping up in opposition to the NFL and never extending the playoff too far into January. He stays annoyed that the present 12-team proposal is identical one which was first revealed in June 2021 however opposed by the ACC, Large Ten and Pac-12.

“The unlucky piece to me is that moderately than stroll by means of these points for the previous 12 months, individuals simply mentioned, ‘No,’ so now we’re making an attempt to maneuver it alongside,” Sankey mentioned.

“Impulsively, issues modified magically. I nonetheless assume it is doable, however individuals have to come back to the desk.”

Requested if he had been extra assured than he was a 12 months in the past that playoff enlargement might be expedited, Sankey joked, “After the final 12 months, I do not use the phrase ‘assured’ quite a bit.”

Sankey pressured that the SEC has been on board with enlargement the entire time.

“Return to 2019 in Santa Clara [site of the national title game to cap the 2018 season], the presidents mentioned they had been going to regulate the choice, however you had clamoring from each nook however ours about enlargement, both on the commissioner or presidential degree on the board, each nook of the soccer universe however ours,” Sankey mentioned. “So we labored by means of a course of, understanding individuals wished enlargement, and you then’re instructed to current a mannequin as a working group. We did precisely what was requested and tried to not get into, ‘We will not do that. We will not try this.'”

And, now — after an overhauling of the school soccer panorama with enlargement within the Large Ten, Large 12 and SEC — the game is correct again to that very same mannequin, which incorporates the six highest-ranked convention champions and 6 at-large groups.

“I suppose motivation modified over the summer time,” Sankey mentioned.

Sankey mentioned the SEC can be advantageous with what he referred to as “no conference-directed entry” to the playoff, but additionally understands the worth of convention championships and was keen to compromise.

“If you happen to’re the sixth greatest convention or seventh greatest convention and it is shut and you have got three or 4 groups vying for a championship in every, that is abruptly 20 groups which have a chance, which is sweet for the game,” Sankey mentioned.

Sankey mentioned former Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey was the primary particular person to say to him that 12 groups was the best quantity once they spoke at a Gator Bowl Corridor of Fame operate in January 2020.

“We had not even met but as a subgroup, and Doug calls me over and says, ‘Hey, it must be 12 groups,'” Sankey recounted. “I used to be shocked as a result of I hadn’t instructed individuals I assumed 12 groups was the quantity, the best construction. Not everyone goes to agree, however Doug type of reaffirmed what I used to be considering, that we would have liked to assume past a few of what was on the market, which was six or eight groups at that time.”

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