SEC's Greg Sankey Gets Into Tense Discussion About Sports' Return
As universities and coaching staffs across the nation seem determined to resume activities in the COVID-19 environment, #RealSports speaks with Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the SEC, about plans to restart. Tune in July 21 at 10PM on @HBO. pic.twitter.com/JI6OI3vTSL— Real Sports (@RealSportsHBO) July 20, 2020
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey last night discussed how the conference is preparing for the college football season on HBO's "Real Sports," and his interview with the net's David Scott quickly turned tense. Scott asked Sankey, “To the extent that you have already flown, I gather, hundreds of athletes back to your campuses for training, haven’t you already put them at an increased risk of infection?” Sankey: “First of all, let’s be clear. We haven’t flown student-athletes back to our campuses. Some of our student-athletes will drive, others will make their own arrangements so we haven't done that. Again, you’re asking a question in comparison, so in comparison to what? To having them workout in home gyms that may have been their own hot spots, without oversight of sports medicine specialists, without strength and conditioning coaches? And that reality informed what I still believe was the right decision." Here are some more highlights of the interview:
Scott: “Can I ask you, sir, to speak to your own numbers in the conference? How many of the SEC schools have seen positive COVID test results?”
Sankey: “Those are questions best and appropriately asked of campuses.”
Scott: “Surely it is the business of the SEC if conference schools are reporting positive COVID tests. Do you know the answer?”
Sankey: “I have regular updates as we go through our regular calls.”
Scott: “You don't want to tell us how many of your 14 schools have had positive COVID tests so far? Seems like a fair question.”
Sankey: “I don’t dispute you have the right to ask me the question, just as I have a right to provide the answer I’ve offered.”
Scott: “From the point of view of your student-athletes and parents, how are they supposed to be able to evaluate the level of risk if there is not full public disclosure of the results of those tests?”
Sankey: “Well, as part of our care and communication that takes place, as I've indicated to you, at the athletic department and campus level.”
Scott: “Tennessee is requiring student-athletes to sign a kind of waiver indemnifying the schools by affirming that they are ‘willing to assume the risk’ ultimately of contracting COVID. Isn’t that a pretty good indication that you have already put them at increased risk and that you know it?”
Sankey: “Tennessee’s chancellor confirmed to me yesterday they have removed that document. Our programs have felt it important to make people aware of the shared responsibility we all have and I think providing the right kind of information is important. But as we've learned about those types of documents, we’ve pulled back from that perceived or real liability piece and want to make sure the focus is on education and information” ("Real Sports," HBO, 7/21).
TRYING TO PREDICT THE FUTURE: The SEC has not eliminated non-conference games, like the Big Ten and Pac-12 have done, and Sankey during an appearance Monday on Dan Patrick's radio show admitted, “We’re all concerned about what happens in the fall, and if there are significant disruptions. By slimming one’s schedule and building more time in to complete that schedule, you contemplate disruption.” However, Patrick later asked Sankey if the SEC could play in the fall when other conferences do not. He responded, “Others have made decisions that drive us in a direction, but with my colleagues in the ACC and Big 12, I think all three of us have been diligent to communicate since the decisions of a week-and-a-half ago, first by the Big Ten and then the Pac-12. My inclination is not to just run off and play our own football. I think our connection is important, yet some of that may be dictated by the decisions around COVID and the different circumstances. We’ll try to be patient. My colleagues have expressed patience at this time, and to the extent we can stay connected given our relationships I think is important” ("The Dan Patrick Show," 7/20).
NOT FOCUSED ON SPRING: Sankey's media tour continued yesterday on ESPN, where he addressed the possibility of playing in the spring. He said that was “on a list of alternatives, but I’ve not had the explanation of how we’ll be assured some reality come spring we’ll be better than the fall.” Sankey: “As you look at cold and flu season, which people have talked about, the deeper you go the more problematic that can be. We’re all in this world of unpredictability, we are building the bridge as we cross the river and writing the instruction manual as we do so.” The focus of the SEC is “what can we achieve in the fall." Sankey: "To the extent that doesn’t become possible to support in a healthy way, we have to pivot and we’ll be prepared to pivot quickly. But (we) want to focus right now on how do we support healthy activity in the next few months” (“College Football Live,” ESPN, 7/21).