published Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Herbstreit speaks ahead of Man Xpo

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    Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN analyst, will be the special guest at the Times Free Press Man Xpo on June 28.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Even the most casual of college football fans is quite familiar with Kirk Herbstreit.

Once a quarterback at Ohio State, Herbstreit provides color commentary on ABC and ESPN telecasts, and he is an analyst on ESPN's "College GameDay" show. The 44-year-old husband and father to four sons will be the featured speaker Saturday afternoon at Chattanooga's inaugural Man Xpo at Finley Stadium.

Herbstreit previewed his visit this past week as a guest on "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 The Zone.

Q: What is your advice for guys who want to cling to their college football Saturdays but have wives or girlfriends with lengthy to-do lists?

A: "My advice is to put in your time now and get some time in the bank, so when football season gets here you have an opportunity to watch as many games as possible. I'm a big believer of doing what you can when you can, so when you have the opportunity to watch games, they will remember that you've got the money in the bank."

Q: College football is going to a four-team playoff this season that will be determined by a selection committee. Are you excited about this?

A: "I am excited. I was a fan of the BCS, and I think it did a lot for the sport. When I played, we had what was called the bowl coalition, and the Big Ten and Pac-10 were really left on the outside from the rest of the country. Even if you had a team ranked No. 2, you couldn't go to the Orange Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl. You had to go to the Rose Bowl, and as much as I appreciated that tradition, I thought the BCS really brought fan bases all over the country into one big pool.

"Tennessee fans, Florida fans and Georgia fans were having to pay attention to the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, and vice versa, because you now had Oregon fans paying attention to Alabama. Now we have a four-team playoff, and it seems like in most years there are four or five teams who truly deserve that shot to continue on.

"I don't know how you voted in the Harris Poll, but when I voted in the AP poll, I really rewarded teams on their schedule and where they played teams and that if you played a lesser schedule, you needed to look really impressive in doing it. Teams who are willing to go outside the conference in September and play these big matchups should be rewarded by the committee, even if they lose a close game, as opposed to teams who instead play that home game to help the athletic department budget.

"I have a lot of confidence in the committee, but I'm really looking forward to seeing how they vote."

Q: In this time of great change in college football, what do you think is the biggest issue that needs addressing as soon as possible?

A: "Just the whole governing body of the NCAA, because there are so many different levels that need to be re-evaluated and obviously are now with the Ed O'Bannon case. I think a lot will change when this case is done, and I think what you'll see is a breaking away with the big five conferences. I don't know who their governing body will be, whether it's their conference commissioners, but they will have to police one another and play by their own rules when it comes to their revenue and recruiting and the violations that are out there.

"It's hard to have a blanket statement over all of the NCAA when you're dealing with the bigger five conferences and the schools of the other conferences. It's unfair to to both sides, and I think they need to figure that part of it out. Hopefully we'll have some more answers, and even with some of Northwestern's players coming out and saying they wanted to form a union, the NCAA came out a couple of days later talking about reform to make sure these players are taken care of.

"There are things that are happening that are long overdue, but I'm not a guy jumping up and down claiming that if Johnny Manziel can sell jerseys that we need to change everything to give players carte blanche over revenue. That would be chaotic when you think about all of the possible autograph shows. That would be nuts."

Q: You live outside of Nashville after moving from Ohio. You have to be objective as an analyst, and you've been open that it's been a minuscule portion of Ohio State fans who led to your family moving. Are you glad you made that decision, and is it still something you felt you needed to do?

A: "I grew up in the Dayton-Cincinnati area and graduated from Ohio State in the spring of 1993 and had lived there ever since until we moved a few years ago. No matter what, I will always look at Columbus as my home and Ohio State as my school. I'm very proud of it and always will be. I grew up worshiping Ohio State and was very fortunate to play there.

"People who know me know how I really feel about my school and how I always will, but like any fan base, you have that radical bunch, and every fan base has them. For me, living there was like living in a spotlight, and I thought the move was as much about my wife and boys to try and get away from some of that as much as we could.

"It didn't mean we didn't value or appreciate our time there. It just meant that I was trying to slow down some of the attention on my family and my boys especially, so they could live a normal childhood. I am a normal guy who just happens to do something in the college football world that is high-profile. Whenever I go back to Ohio, I love it, so I don't have any hard feelings and never will.

"We've found some great schools and some great families in Tennessee. We feel very welcome here, and my older two boys just finished their first year at Montgomery Bell. We're just kind of blending in the best we can."

Q: You were 0-2 against the SEC while at Ohio State. Did you ever have a disdain for the SEC?

A: "I never really did. I always had an appreciation for the athletic ability and the speed of the conference. When you're a Big Ten guy, some of the cockiness and the arrogance of the SEC you can't help but not like, especially as a player, but you want to beat them because you want to beat the best."

Q: In seven months, is Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin going to be closer to a Frank Broyles Award or a hot seat?

A: "A Frank Broyles Award. I think [quarterback Jacob] Coker coming over [from Florida State] will be great, and I think people will be shocked to see just how well he fits into Nick Saban's system."

Q: You're hearing about Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Oklahoma and Oregon being the top teams this season. Who is a team outside the top 10 on these preseason lists that can be a dark horse candidate?

A: "I would say UCLA is a team people should look out for. Not many people are familiar with them. Their quarterback, Brett Hundley, will be up for the Heisman. They've got a schedule that is challenging, but a lot of their tougher games are at home. I think they could surprise Stanford and Oregon and get up into the top five."

Q: If the over/under on Tennessee this season is six wins, where are you going?

A: "A lot of Tennessee fans reach out to me on Twitter, and I tell them that they're two years away from being a real contender in the East. It's funny you bring up six, because six would be the number I would set them at with a goal of getting to a bowl game. I would say six and possibly over because of who they might match up against in a bowl game, but obviously they've got to find a quarterback and a better tailback."

Q: Where does the 2013 Iron Bowl rank as far as games you've had to analyze?

A: "The entire game was great, and I don't know in my entire life if I've seen anything like that with so much at stake. I don't know if any of us have, and there are a lot of people who have watched this game a lot longer than me. I would rank that right at the top of 'Did that really just happen?'

"That was incredible, because Alabama was likely on its way to another national championship game."

Q: Are you watching the World Cup, and what do you expect from the U.S. against Portugal?

A: "I'm into it. I really am. The older I've gotten, the more open-minded I've become to all sports. I love all sports, but I've never really watched soccer and never really understood the fascination of it. I've opened up to this World Cup and have really appreciated the athletic ability.

"I was pumped to see how the Americans won against Ghana, and I'm hoping in the very least that they find a way to get a tie. I'll be tuned in for sure."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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