SEC commissioner Greg Sankey praised Camping World Stadium and the city of Orlando as a first-class bowl destination this week in an address to Florida Citrus Sports members.
— Greg Sankey (@GregSankey) October 25, 2017
Sankey’s comments came during an intimate “Chalk Talk” luncheon — the second hosted by Florida Citrus Sports this year — which was relocated to Amway Center to accommodate a Food for Florida event being held at Camping World Stadium.
The inaugural Chalk Talk, featuring former Pitt and NFL head coach and current FOX Sports football analyst Dave Wannstedt, was held in June in the Camping World Stadium locker room.
“It’s very important,” Sankey said of the longtime relationship between the SEC and the city of Orlando Wednesday. “It starts in November, this conversation about, ‘Where are we going?’ and candidly, I wish we had 11 bowl games in the state of Florida. That’s not going to happen, and you don’t have that interest, necessarily, but that’s a reflection of what you’ve done … and the special place (Orlando) holds as a destination, not just on the East Coast, but across the country.”
During his 56 minutes at the dais with emcee and Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan — 20 minutes of which was spent answering crowd questions on everything from length of games to transfer rules — Sankey also specifically commended the impact Florida Citrus Sports has had on the 32805 zip code through the LIFT Orlando program.
“The government can’t do it alone,” Sankey said of LIFT, which plans to start moving tenants into the Pendana at West Lakes apartments this spring, in addition to other great works in the West Lakes neighborhoods. “And what you’ve done around the stadium and the impact it’s had on the community is a credit to the vision associated with Florida Citrus Sports. We need those types of initiatives more now than ever.”
Among the questions Sankey fielded during the Q&A portion was one about the state of SEC football, which had two teams in the top four heading into the Week 9 slate of games.
“We’ve got two of the top three or four teams, both undefeated, and four of the top 25. What’s fascinating, then, is that we’re told it’s a ‘down year’ for the Southeastern Conference. So there are these expectations built for us that are difficult to attain, and you don’t come to this league and sit in my chair unless your absolutely comfortable being a part of those high expectations.”
He also spoke to the lasting impact bowl games — those played in Orlando and elsewhere — have on the student-athletes who participate in them.
“I was in Shreveport last year with Vanderbilt the day after Christmas, and it was cold and gray,” Sankey recalled. “We then, in February, have what I’ve called the Student Athlete Leadership Council, and Ralph Webb, (Vanderbilt’s) starting running back, said, ‘That meant a lot for our team to have another opportunity to play.’ And those of you who are competitors, who have been in a locker room, understand that. He said, ‘It didn’t matter if it was Shreveport or wherever, it meant so much to have that opportunity,’ and I think that’s a great representation of what bowl games mean.
“There are a lot more of them now, and 70 years ago, it was a different culture,” Sankey continued, referring to the inaugural Citrus Bowl, played as the Tangerine Bowl in 1947. “But I bet you 70 years ago, a young person would have said the same exact thing that Ralph Webb said after his experience in the Independence Bowl last year.”
Chalk Talk is one of many events included in Florida Citrus Sports membership, in addition to the Camping World Bowl and Citrus Bowl. To learn more about membership options, visit our information page.