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SEC Media Days 2015 Marks the Start of a New Era for SEC

This is the biggest media days in years for a variety of reasons.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Media Days is the unofficial start to the athletic calendar for the conference. It's the most high profile event the league has that doesn't involve a sport being played.

Even though he officially took over on June 1, Greg Sankey truly becomes SEC commissioner today with his first state of the conference address today. He takes over from Mike Slive, who both completed a lot of work and exited during a time of great change.

Slive's stated goal when he took over in 2002 was to clean up a conference that had recently gone through high profile scandals thanks to Mike DuBose, Hal Mumme, and Jim Donnan, among others. Looking at the NCAA's searchable database, I believe Tennessee is the only program currently on probation, and that term ends on August 23. Unless something big gets uncovered in the next two months, the 2015 SEC football season will kick off without anyone on probation. It took a while, but the days of Surely Everyone's Cheating are largely over. No major program is entirely clean, of course, but things in the SEC are no longer worse than they are in the other power conferences.

Slive also oversaw the expansion of the conference with Texas A&M and Missouri, was a major player in the formation of the College Football Playoff, and guided the advent of the SEC Network. The network has been a smashing success, exceeding revenue expectations before even turning a year old. Slive got a lot done in his last few years before handing things off to Sankey.

That said, Sankey takes over the conference in an unsettled time for college athletics. The Power 5 conferences voted themselves some autonomy within the NCAA system, and we've only scratched the surface of what that will end up meaning. It's starting with cost of attendance payments, an issue that still is developing as time goes on. The NCAA is appealing its loss in the Ed O'Bannon case, and Jeffrey Kessler's lawsuit against the NCAA and the Power 5 conferences seeks to end amateurism for good. The future of pay TV has never been murkier, which has giant implications for one of the conference's primary revenue streams along with its shiny new network.

Slive oversaw the conference during what was a golden age for college athletics. With all the aforementioned uncertainty plus other factors like declining attendance in the premier college sport, that golden age is probably ending if it's not already over.

I don't expect Sankey to have answers to all of the issues facing the conference, since he's not (to my knowledge) legitimately clairvoyant. His presser is probably going to be like Slive's were with a lot of touting achievements and the strength of the league. He'll make it sound like the SEC is in a great spot.

And it is in a great spot. Keeping it there will be an enormous challenge, and not all of the factors determining whether it will stay there are in his control. Good luck, commissioner.