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- American football player and analyst
- All-American college football player, professional football player, wide receiver, Heisman Trophy winner
Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Pete Thamel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde discuss Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard’s comments on ESPN’s College GameDay about players who opted out of bowl games to focus on the NFL Draft.
DAN WETZEL: "Isn't that what we do as football players? We compete. I don't know if changing it, expanding it is going to change anything. I really don't," Herbstreit said on "College Gameday" last weekend, setting off a tumultuous fire. "I think this era of player just doesn't love football." Desmond Howard then agreed. Herbstreit later clarified that, of course, some players love the game the same today as ever but some don't. I'll always love the players of this game and sorry if people thought I generalized them.
It's a good controversy because it's fairly harmless. I thought the pile-on was a little much. I will say this, I think we will all just get this out of the way. Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit are both really good guys who work hard and are great for college football. And yes, look, if these guys don't think that, then so be it. I disagree. I don't know. I don't know whether they love football as much. They might not. I really have no-- that's a hard one to quantify, but the Bowl opt-outs and the lack of the Bowl, I just think it's a terrible way to try to figure that out.
And to not mention Brian Kelly bailed on his team while they still could have made the playoffs and Lincoln Riley bailed on them. All these guys bailed on Bowl games and not bring up-- look, the ball games just don't matter that much to anybody I think was their mistake on that. What did you think of the kerfuffle, Pat?
PAT FORDE: Yeah, I wrote about it Saturday night. I really didn't intend to write about it because I thought, kind of like you, Dan, that there was such a kind of almost an overreaction during the day. But when I saw Matt Corral got hurt Saturday night in the Sugar Bowl and he comes out on crutches I was like, OK, I think there's a column. That on the same day that Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard kind of decried today's players not playing in Bowl games, Matt Corral showed why there's a good reason players don't play in Bowl games.
Now, I think Matt Corrall is going to be fine. I don't think his pro stock is probably going to be affected. He should be-- whatever the injury is, and we usually never know for sure, but if the X-rays were negative, if it's something that he will be able to rehab and be able to perform at a Pro day, at a scouting combine, whatever he needs to do.
But that injury, you watch that play-- OK, yeah. Could have been worse. And you watch what happened to Jaylen Smith for Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl five, six years ago, and Jake Butt, what happened to him in the Orange Ball, and there are reasons that players don't want to play in games that aren't absolutely materially vital to their season's success. And it doesn't mean they don't love football and it doesn't mean they're entitled.
The coaches and the programs have made it very clear for the last decade or so that the Bowl games are of secondary importance by what they do with hirings and firings, and the players are looking at that saying well, OK, why do I have to put it on the line here when I'm worried and I've got an agent talking to me and I've got an advisor and I've got my mom and dad saying, don't get hurt, you know? So, I really cannot blame players for sitting out any games that are non playoff games.
PETE THAMEL: So, the business has changed and all that we've seen is the players getting wise to the business, right?
PAT FORDE: Yeah.
PETE THAMEL: Like, Lincoln Riley went and got his, Brian Kelly went and got his, and all these players who are headed to the draft, they're just ready to go get theirs. Like, they have followed the example set to them by the coaches and the leaders in the sport. And, you know, if you look back from Herbstreit's time to now and Desmond Howard's time to now, ESPN has went and got theirs too. They've doubled the inventory of Bowls and they make a lot of money off it.
So, everyone's making business decisions here. That's all there is. It's quite simple and linear and I certainly have no problem with the players making the business decisions that they did and really didn't from the start. Because, look, people are still watching, the games are entertaining, everybody's getting what they want out of this. The system isn't radically different.
Now, are there are less people who care about the Peach Bowl because Kenneth Walker and Kenny Pickett aren't there? Sure. You know what? And that's the Peach Bowl's fault and that's the commissioners' faults for not looping that showcase in to matter more where those guys would have definitely played, so. And it's, again, you're not going to expand the playoff and end opt-outs, but if you expand the playoff you make the postseason more vibrant and relevant for longer, and it matters more and more places, like we talked about in the last pod, and that's what really helps the sport.