SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Wednesday that the new strategic partnership between his conference and the Big Ten is a response to a need for leadership that can "introduce some new perspective, new ideas, some new thinking or maybe even more important help cut through the bureaucratic tape we face so often in college athletics," but said the relationship is not intended to circumvent the NCAA.
In an interview on "The Paul Finebaum Show," Sankey said the partnership with the Big Ten would not act unilaterally but would instead be focused on creating a more streamlined approach to identifying solutions to college football's biggest issues, including the College Football Playoff; name, image and likeness rules; and the litany of ongoing litigation facing college athletics.
"What keeps me up at night is people thinking I have a set of magical answers," Sankey said. "There are magical answers to our historic realities that have worked really well in college sports for decades, but now we're being challenged in different ways -- challenged within our own campus settings, challenged in courts, challenged in state legislatures and challenged in Congress."
Sankey said he first considered the partnership with the Big Ten after feeling frustrated by a lack of progress during meetings on the College Football Playoff and with the Division I council last month. After the latter meetings, Sankey said a number of stakeholders approached him asking for the SEC and Big Ten to simply identify their goals.
Sankey then reached out to Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti, and they gained approval from their membership to pursue a partnership.
"We're going to try to take that responsibility of leadership and see if we can develop some ideas that can help us," Sankey said.
During the interview, Finebaum alluded to the partnership as an "alliance," a term previously used by the commissioners of the ACC and Pac-12 and former Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to describe an ill-fated consortium aimed at countering the SEC's power following the decision of Texas and Oklahoma to join that league in 2021.
Sankey quickly noted that "that's a bad word. We can't use that word."
Sankey later suggested his relationships with some other members of college athletics' leadership were harmed by the SEC's addition of Texas and Oklahoma, a move that kicked off the latest round of realignment that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Pac-12, which now includes just two members -- Oregon State and Washington State.
Still, Sankey insisted he's not interested in cutting out the NCAA or other conferences from decision-making moving forward, instead seeing the role of the SEC-Big Ten partnership as more of a think tank that will then advance key suggestions on to the larger group.
"This effort to form an advisory group is not about the NCAA," he said. "We need a healthy national governing body. To the extent we can contribute to that in any way, that explains more what our focus will be."