Don't forget SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey when counting Thanksgiving football blessings |Adams

John Adams
Knoxville News Sentinel

Singling out college conference commissioners for thanks probably isn’t part of your sports routine. I’m not in the habit of lavishing praise on college administrators myself. Who is?

But 2020 hasn’t been a routine year.

That’s why I’m including SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey when I count my blessings this Thanksgiving. SEC fans should do the same.

This college football season likely wouldn’t have worked out nearly as well without him. And that matters more in the Southeast than it does anywhere else.

What exactly did Sankey do? For starters, he did nothing. Don’t dismiss the significance of that.

Sometimes, that’s the best ploy when faced with a crucial decision. Yet it can be extremely difficult in a world where we are pressured to act. “Do something, even if it’s wrong” seems more appropriate in today’s culture.

Let’s back up to this summer when college football — and almost everything else — seemed at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Big Ten university presidents voted to cancel the 2020 football season. So did the Pac-12 and the MAC.

And the SEC? Well, it did nothing.

Sankey explained the conference's non-action in a tweet: “The best advice I’ve received since COVID-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making your decisions. This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day.’”

The decisions of other conferences didn’t prompt him to change his game plan. He kept waiting.

I’m not suggesting he made this decision without input, and the SEC presidents have the ultimate vote. However, it’s customary for them to follow the commissioner’s lead. That’s why they hired him.

It has worked out amazingly well under the circumstances.

That doesn’t mean the SEC season has gone smoothly. Neither has anything else during the pandemic.

There have been ups and downs and postponements. But the conference season has kept moving forward. Now, the finish line is in sight.

Thanks, in part, to Sankey.

A couple of other Power 5 conferences haven’t fared as well. Pressured for a return to football, the Pac-12 and Big Ten eventually relented. Big Ten football began in late October, and the Pac-12 the first Saturday in November. 

Both are playing an abbreviated season — eight games in the Big Ten, seven in the Pac-12 — compared to the SEC’s 10-game schedule. They’re also playing catchup to the SEC, ACC and Big 12. Those conferences joined the SEC with a September start.

The SEC didn’t start too soon or too late: Sept. 26 was just about right.

The schedule was right, too. No risking a precious Saturday of football with non-conference games. Go right to conference play.

All that's missing are the fans, who pack SEC stadiums and fill up parking lots with pregame tailgating. But there was nothing Sankey or anybody else could do about that during a pandemic.

The SEC made the best of an awful situation. It gave us a football season we didn't know we would have.

We can thank Sankey for that. 

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.