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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Herbstreit, ‘GameDay’ must-watch for fans

by Wally Hall | August 23, 2022 at 3:51 a.m.

Expectations for Kirk Herbstreit's talk Monday at the Little Rock Touchdown Club were high.

He exceeded them.

With LRTDC founder David Bazzel leading him through an honest, open and transparent interview, Herbstreit hit a walk-off grand slam.

He gave some inside glimpses of working on the "College GameDay" show, especially with Lee Corso.

When Herbstreit replaced Craig James in 1996, on the set was him, Lee Corso and Chris Fowler.

The show has grown into a must-watch for college fans every Saturday and the crew has grown to include Rece Davis, Desmond Howard and David Pollack as the regulars with guest appearances by others.

Pollack, like Herbstreit is a former standout college football player. Pollack played at Georgia and with the Cincinnati Bengals until he broke a vertebrae and retired.

So the show has analysis from both sides of the ball and from Corso, who was a coach and just turned 87.

Herbstreit attracted a sellout Monday and if those in attendance hadn't known better, they would have thought he was an Arkansan.

That's how well he fit.

The crowd included several politicians as well as athletic directors Jeff Purinton from Arkansas State and Chris Robinson from Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Purinton knows Herbstreit professionally and personally.

Herbstreit was very candid about things like NIL, the transfer portal and conference realignment.

He said he is a traditionalist and while there are changes being made he doesn't necessarily like, he has to accept them.

Herbstreit was adamant that there is no leadership in football, that conferences have leadership but football as a whole is lacking.

He was also very against "bribing high school kids to attend a college," saying NIL is supposed to be about compensating players who are in college and have accomplished something that deserves to be rewarded.

He was candid about his relationship with his father, who also played at Oho State and was a team captain, and that while they didn't communicate well, his dad was his hero.

Part of the problem might have been that Herbstreit was incredibly shy as a youngster.

Yes, that's hard to believe watching him on ESPN. But the sincerity in his voice when he talked about going to eight different schools in nine years left no doubt, he avoided attention at all costs.

He did say being interviewed as an athlete helped him learn to compensate, which coming from personal experience is what a shy person has to learn to do.

Herbstreit had nice things to same about Arkansas football Coach Sam Pittman, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and defensive coordinator Barry Odom.

He did have a warning, and as someone who has been to every major college football stadium in America he would know.

"Provo is ornery," he said, referring to Provo, Utah, where Arkansas will Brigham Young on Oct. 15. "They'll have 70,000 to 75,000 people there who take it seriously."

He also talked about Arkansas' strength of schedule and how tough just being in the SEC West could be and that scheduling Cincinnati, BYU, Missouri State and Liberty was strong.

The most touching part of his talk came when he discussed about his considering to quit football while at Ohio State and he went to see a sports psychologist -- "After looking around to make sure none of my teammates saw me," -- and that was a game-changer for him.

There was also a moment of levity when he was asked who was his favorite player of all time. He thought for a second and then said there was linebacker for Arkansas who wore No. 53.

He even had video of the Baz tackling Bo Jackson.

Print Headline: Herbstreit, ‘GameDay’ must-watch for fans


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