Kirk Herbstreit has been in and around college football for more than 30 years, first as a player and then as a reporter and analyst. However, he doesn’t need to draw upon any of his personal experiences to see what’s wrong with a sport facing its biggest crisis ever.
In fact, Herbstreit can fix college football and the NCAA in 15 minutes.
COVID-19 has college football reeling in 2020
The dominos started falling in quick succession in the past few days. The University of Connecticut became the first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program to drop the sport for the 2020 season. As an independent, UConn was facing all the normal challenges brought on by COVID-19 plus the loss of games against teams from conferences that dropped non-league contests from the schedule.
And then entire conferences started dropping the sport, first the Mid-American Conference and then the Mountain West. Now, the Big Ten is teetering on the brink of following suit. It’s become apparent that university presidents and coaches are at odds with each other, but the presidents generally win those debates 10 times out of 10.
Once the Big Ten or any of the other Power 5 conferences makes it official, the others will almost certainly have to do the same. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, either. Although the safety of players should be the No. 1 concern, Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, projects that the Power 5 would collectively lose more than $4 billion by not playing in 2020.
That’s an average of around $62 million per school, and schools with massive stadiums like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan will take even bigger hits.
ESPN and ABC college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit looks at numbers like that and asks a good question: Where’s the CEO?
Kirk Herbstreit has the credentials to discuss the crisis
Kirk Herbstreit has skin in the game on several levels as he observes the short-term demise of college football. Herbstreit played quarterback at Ohio State, where he was the first recruit to commit to incoming head coach John Cooper, and threw for 271 yards in a 13-13 tie with bitter rival Michigan in his senior season.
More recently, Herbstreit has worked his way up to become one of the most recognizable names and faces in college football through his frequent appearances on ESPN and ABC telecasts.
His most important reason for watching the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on college football has little to do with his job. Rather, he’s coming at it from a father’s point of view because his twin sons play for Clemson. Tye Herbstreit appeared in four games at wide receiver last fall and Jake Herbstreit got on the field at defensive back for the same number of contests.
Kirk Herbstreit knows what college football’s problem is
With the prospect of no college football at all in 2020 a possibility, ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit sees the confusion and uncertainty. He also has a solution that won’t make COVID-19 disappear but will cut through the chaos.
“It’s easy to say there’s a lack of leadership,” Herbstreit said Aug. 10 on ESPN’s College Football Live. “The reality is college football, without a commissioner and without the NCAA being able to govern the rules or whatever decisions need to be made, you basically have five leaders in college football: the Power 5 Conference commissioners.”
Because of that, they all amount to single-issue voters: The well-being of their member schools takes priority over the sport as a whole. No matter how sensible a decision by one of the Power 5 commissioners might by on COVID-19 or any other topic, none of the others are obligated to follow their lead.
“It’s hard to really get everybody on the same page because they’re all dealing with their own agenda and their own set of problems and issues.”Kirk Herbstreit
That’s no way to run a business, which is precisely what college football is now. The NCAA must take control of the FBS and put a competent leader in charge.