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How Valuable is ESPN's Investment in Kirk Herbstreit's Football Knowledge?

Jan 10, 2007 – 11:45 AM
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Ryan Ferguson

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Kirk Herbstreit in an interview after he failed in his campaign to get Michigan rematched with his alma mater, Ohio State:

"Here's the problem I had; I get paid to actually watch college football, from noon to 2 a.m. I watch every game there is, and I do that for 15 straight weeks. I'm in a position where I can make an opinion on more than, well right here on paper, it says Florida beat six top 25 teams ... I don't care. I don't care. I've watched Florida every week. Congratulations, 12-1 ... that's amazing. But am I going to penalize Michigan because the Big Ten is awful this year? Absolutely not. I don't care that they beat ND and ND is terrible. I don't care that they beat Wisconsin and we don't know how good Wisconsin is. I saw them play against every team this year.

"People can say look how they played against Ball State and look how they played against Northwestern. They were bored. The difference between that and Florida ... Florida was actually trying when they played and didn't execute against Georgia and Vanderbilt, and didn't execute against Kentucky and other teams they played."

Herbstreit's argument during that period was this: despite Florida's obviously superior resume; despite Florida competing in a tougher conference and winning 12 games, including a conference championship; despite beating a Top 5 BCS Team in LSU and playing four top-ranked opponents, Herbstreit could tell simply by looking that Ohio State and Michigan were better teams than Florida could hope to be.

In short, Herbstreit knows more about football than you, me, or anyone. He knows more than the voters. He is smarter than the BCS computer formulas. The facts weren't on his side, but he throws those out the window, because KIRK HERBSTREIT WATCHES FOOTBALL. KIRK HERBSTREIT KNOWS FOOTBALL.

It was after this interview that I believe Herbstreit lost most of his credibility as a college football "analyst." He blasted Gary Danielson, throwing the CBS analyst's reputation under the bus when he suggested that perhaps Danielson was put up to his short "campaign" stint for Florida during the SEC Championship Game against Arkansas -- by the executive producer.

"When I was watching that game that they put that graphic up, the only thing I could think of was that the coordinating producer would force them to do something like that to kind of destroy any credibility they'd all built over the years, just obviously by standing up and talking about an SEC school."

That is an incredibly arrogant and self-serving personal attack on a colleague who was guilty of nothing more than saying his mind -- something Herbstreit did for weeks after Michigan lost, campaigning day in and day out for a rematch.
The only logical conclusion I can reach is that Herbstreit wanted to help his alma mater to avoid Florida. It may sound somewhat like a conspiracy theory, but I'll be darned if I can come up with any other reason.

Kirk Herbstreit's final outburst in the interview I'm sure he'd rather forget included this statement: "I would just like to see Michigan and Ohio State go on to do well in their games."

Whoops. Michigan was routed by USC and Florida speared the Buckeyes like a helpless wriggling fish.

Herbstreit essentially batted a zero here, or a negative, if that's possible. His credibility is shot. The exact opposite of everything he predicted came true.

Gary Danielson said all along, "I watch a lot of football too. But you know what? I don't know who the best team is. That's impossible to know. So you go by the resume. And Florida has the resume."

Right on, Mr. Danielson. And now Florida has the crystal football, too.

ESPN might ought to reconsider their investment in Kirk Herbstreit's couch-potatodom. It didn't appear to pay any dividends in the games that really matter. And Herbstreit himself ought to do some soul-searching after all of this.
Filed under: Sports