Kirk Herbstreit talks about ESPN's role in college football
The general feeling among some sports fans -- and some might call it a fear more than a feeling -- is that ESPN is on its way to controlling college football. Some say it already does. ESPN is the puppet master, the sport is the puppet, and hidden from above, ESPN pulls the strings to decide what happens to the sport. Now that it has taken over ownership of broadcasting the BCS bowl games, some believe ESPN eventually could guide college football down the path to more conference realignment and a playoff.
Some think ESPN favors conferences such as the Big Ten and SEC, and doesn't like little schools such as Boise State. Some might go so far as to suggest that ESPN secretly controls which teams could meet for the national title. There's little doubt that the network's highly popular College GameDay and late-night Saturday wrapup shows can help mold opinions about the polls and certain teams. But if the bigwigs in Bristol, Conn., ESPNs home, have an agenda, they haven't shared it with their on-air talent. That's what College GameDay co-host Kirk Herbstreit, who just might be the best college football analyst in the country, says. Speaking with reporters on a conference call Thursday, Herbstreit said the network never tailors a broadcast of its games or studio shows to lay groundwork for change.
Asked if ESPN is becoming akin to a dictator in college football, Herbstreit said, "ESPN has never come to me or any of my colleagues that I know of and said, 'This is how you need to talk about this subject. This is what you need to do in order to help us politically with this subject matter. Support this. Don't support this. Like this conference. Don't like this conference.' I've been there for 15 years now, and I've never, ever, ever had anybody tell me what to say or how to say it or what my opinion should be. … As far as my experience, there is never any agenda. There's never anything about trying to be the czar of college football.''
Herbstreit offered a few other interesting thoughts, including:
* He expects Miami to be on the national radar if -- and it's a big if -- it can either beat Ohio State or keep the game competitive in a loss when they meet Sept. 11. Then the Hurricanes play Pitt, Clemson and FSU. "I think they'll win the ACC championship this year,'' Herbstreit said. "I think there's enough talent on this Miami team that they can be a real factor on a national level. … (But) they need some success against Ohio State to really get them to where they could potentially have a magical year.''
* He expects Florida to be outstanding but said, "Can Florida find a chip on their shoulder? Can they take advantage of people wondering how they're going to be without (quarterback Tim) Tebow? Is that something they can rally around? Second thing is, where is the leadership going to come from?''