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Commissioner Greg Sankey kicked off Southeastern Conference media days Monday with his regular state of the conference address.

Here are five topics Sankey touched on.

Don't believe division realignment talk

Auburn and Missouri swapping divisions has been a topic since spring. It gained momentum when Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs endorsed the idea at the SEC spring meetings in May.

Auburn would move to the East Division, where it could rekindle rivalries with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, and the Tigers still could play Alabama as a divisional crossover game. And Missouri would move to the West Division, making more geographical sense. Of course, that could put the Alabama-Tennessee annual rivalry game in jeopardy, unless the conference schedule was expanded to nine games.

So what did Sankey think about the realignment talk? He dismissed it as merely media speculation.

"It has not been an agenda item at meetings," Sankey said. "It has been a conversation at most large press conferences in which I have appeared. That's the extent of the conversation."

Vanderbilt coach is on recruiting committee

National signing day has been expanded to an early signing period. In addition to the traditional date of the first Wednesday in February, football players also can sign during a 72-hour period in December. This year it will be Dec. 20-22.

Sankey said the NCAA will review the ramifications of the new recruiting calendar over the next two years, so the SEC has created a committee of four coaches and two athletics directors to keep the conference up to date on potential issues. The coaches are Vanderbilt's Derek Mason, LSU's Ed Orgeron, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Alabama's Nick Saban. The athletics directors are Florida's Scott Stricklin and Arkansas' Jeff Long.

A 14-week season is still being discussed

Sankey said the SEC still could expand to a 14-week regular season, keeping 12 games and adding a second bye week.

But he doesn't want to start preseason camp earlier, so the first game potentially could be played one week earlier than the current schedule to make room for the extra bye week.

"There is not opposition here to a 14-week season. There is curiosity and interest," Sankey said. "But I want to be very careful about not moving football practice even earlier into the summer."

Remembering integration in football

Sankey honored the history of integration for all 14 SEC schools, beginning with the Kentucky football foursome of Nate Northington, Greg Page, Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett Jr. in 1967. Page died on the eve of the historic game that integrated SEC football.

Three surviving members and Page's family will attend the SEC championship game in December to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the first varsity black athletes to play in a conference football game.

All we do is win, win, win

Sankey's opening remarks featured a list of the SEC's accomplishments over the last year. That included national championships in six sports, having only SEC teams in the NCAA women's basketball final and NCAA College World Series baseball final, having all 13 SEC softball teams in the NCAA tournament and having three men's basketball teams in the NCAA Elite Eight.

Sankey also noted that for the 10th time since 2008 an SEC football team played in the national championship game, as Alabama lost 35-31 to Clemson.

Sparks writes for The (Nashville) Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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July 11, 2017


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