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SEC Commissioner takes aim at ACC

Greg Sankey likes to say he does not deal in hypotheticals and typically walks a fairly tight, politically correct line in the world of college athletics.

The Southeastern Conference commissioner on Wednesday deviated from those norms in a conversation with CBS Sports.

Specifically, Sankey took aim at the Atlantic Coast Conference – which both cancelled and moved some games from its scheduled slate for Dec. 12.

The ACC eliminated Notre Dame's trip to Wake Forest and will instead send the Demon Deacons to Louisville.

The moved locked up an ACC Championship game for Notre Dame and also assured both the Fighting Irish and Clemson would conclude their regular-season play this weekend. Clemson will visit Virginia Tech Saturday for its finale.

As long as the Tigers, heavy favorites, take care of business in Lane Stadium, they'll secure a rematch on Dec. 19 against the Fighting Irish. And both teams will have two weeks to both prepare and work to remain healthy and mitigate COVID-19 risks.

"I was surprised to see the (ACC's) announcement,” Sankey said Wednesday in an interview with CBS Sports, barely 24 hours on the heels of the ACC's decision. "It begs one question: If (the ACC's) two most highly ranked teams were, for instance, five and six in the (College Football Playoff) rankings, would this decision have been made?"

Instead, the ACC's top-two CFP teams, Notre Dame and Clemson, are ranked second and third, respectively. The Irish (9-0, 8-0 ACC) host Syracuse Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The SEC has the No. 1 (Alabama), No. 5 (Texas A&M) and No 6 (Florida) teams in this week's CFP tabulations.

The ACC said it made the move, after a meeting of its athletics directors throughout the league, to ensure that all of its member teams played a nine-game league schedule. Notre Dame is in a one-year stint as a provisional member eligible for the ACC title game.

"We committed to playing a 10-game schedule,” Sankey said. “Which is certainly unique to see some other decisions this week. …

"We're still moving forward with the opportunity for all 14 of our teams to play 10 games."

What Sankey did not mention is that the ACC also is full of teams looking to complete 10-game schedules; the league just happened to allow one non-conference contest for each member school. Notre Dame hosted South Florida in September; Clemson hosted The Citadel.

But Sankey posed that above hypothetical just weeks after emphasizing on a conference call with reporters that he typically does not deal with what-ifs.

“I could hypothesize,” Sankey said on a question about the late-season prevalence of COVID-19 issues for a number of SEC schools, “but many of you know my reluctance to deal with hypotheticals. It's a reality and no matter the exact set of issues that put us here it's a reality with which we have to deal with and work to move forward.”

That was the same day Sankey emphasized the SEC's targeted finish line of its championship game on Dec. 19 and indicated last month an unwillingness to potentially delay the start of the CFP.

“We have finish lines right now,” Sankey said at the time. “So my focus is on December 19th for an SEC Championship game. I've said that. The semifinals are on the first (of January). The championship on the 11th. The reality is if you walk in the back of my building, there's a sign that says be flexible.

“When you walk in, it's a reminder to everyone who walks in this building with their masks on as they put on their KINEXON device to maintain distance. I'm not going to hypothesize about change, but I'm not inattentive to the potential that change may need to occur at a number of different levels.”

Head here to read the full piece from CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.