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The Son of New York Who Runs the South’s Most Envied Sports League

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The SEC’s leaders had set a gathering in 2015 to choose Slive’s successor. And though Daniel Jones, who was then Mississippi’s chancellor, had been gravely sick for months, he resolved to be there. He wished Sankey.

“I, a committed anti-charismatic guy, saw an impressive, committed anti-charismatic guy, and I thought he’d be just right,” Jones mentioned.

Other SEC chiefs have been making related calculations. David Gearhart, who was the Arkansas chancellor, mentioned Sankey was “not the flashy type, but that’s what we liked about him.”

Their vote was unanimous.

In his second yr as commissioner, Sankey confronted the sort of state of affairs that, at the time, counted as a disaster. Hurricane Matthew had pressured the cancellation of Louisiana State’s sport at Florida and fueled a spat between two of the league’s powerhouses and their gamers. (An L.S.U. linebacker, for example, accused the Gators of being “scared” to play in Baton Rouge.)

Neither college was notably happy with the consequence that Sankey helped devise: The universities mixed to spend $2 million to cancel nonconference video games so they might play one another later, and coverage modifications gave the SEC extra energy for related conditions in the future.

“A lot of people at that point were really wondering if he was going to be able to overcome it,” mentioned Paul Finebaum, who has coated the SEC for many years, now as an ESPN host. “I thought it was a critical moment where it could have gone two different ways. He played it very cautiously, and he may have lost a headline short-term, but, ultimately, he didn’t make a grievous error.”