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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey addresses the crowd on the first day of the 2019 SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, on July 15, 2019. Sankey talked about the upcoming football season as well as the accomplishments of the SEC in the past football season. (Photo/Daniela Rico)

HOOVER, Ala. — As the first to speak at SEC Media Days, Commissioner Greg Sankey laid out a few themes the conference is looking at heading into the season. 

Commissioner Sankey spoke on a range of topics, but sports gambling, mental health and officiating were three of the standouts. 

On sports gambling, the commissioner emphasized the conferences dedication to maintaining the game’s integrity. 

The commissioner spoke of gambling on sports as a shifting cultural attitude and something the conference will inevitably have to deal with. 

“We’re mindful of the changes happening around college athletics everyday,” Sankey said. “[Legalized sports gambling] is one of those changes we’re trying to solve.” 

As he finished talking about legalized sports gambling, Sankey shifted to talking about the mental health of SEC athletes, and how legalized gambling could exacerbate the growing problem. 

“Ten years ago, [student athlete advisors] would have commonly discussed campus parking issues and answering the question of ‘why do I have to return my textbooks at the end of the semester?’” Sankey said. “Now, in every meeting, our student athletes themselves ask to discuss issues around mental health.” 

After talking about the mental health of the players, Sankey shifted to talking about officiating and helping fans, writers and coaches understand the split-second decisions officials make during the run of play. 

Sankey emphasized the SEC will attempt to speak more openly about officiating decisions during broadcasts and on social media. The conference is also working on a new section of its website to educate fans on decisions and rule changes. 

It will be interesting to see how these three broad themes develop as topics at this year’s media event. 

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