Kirk Herbstreit is concerned about the state of college football.
It isn’t so much that Texas and Oklahoma have both been invited and accepted invitations to join the SEC, it has more to do with that that represents.
Tradition and rivalries are what sets the college game apart from all other sports, the ESPN “College GameDay” analyst said. That, however, doesn’t appear to be a priority.
“I guess it’s our new world, our new reality,” Herbstreit said on SportsCenter. “I don’t know how you feel. I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I think when we did this realignment a few years ago and you saw teams like Nebraska leave and go to the Big Ten and Colorado leave. It was at that time we were thinking that Texas might leave and join the Big Ten or the Pac-12, and the Big 12 would have this same situation.
“What’s becoming abundantly clear, and I hate to say this because I’ve always tried to fight it, is people are trying to stay at the top. They’re trying to compete with the SEC, and it’s all about money. It’s no longer about tradition. It’s no longer about the things that I think college football have always kind of tried to stand itself on top of and really look at and appreciate rivalries and tradition and things of that nature.”
In votes Friday morning, Texas’ and Oklahoma’s board of regents voted to approve the move to the SEC.
A new television rights deal with ESPN is expected to pay the conference an extra $300 million annually doesn’t go into effect until 2024. However, that number will certainly increase with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma.
“Right now, I think it’s about money and keeping up with the Joneses and right now, Texas and OU, they’re looking over in the horizon to the east and they’re seeing that SEC and all that money, and they’re saying we can’t be left behind,” Herbstreit said. “We want to go into that neighborhood, and we want to join that group of teams, and that’s basically why we are where we are. And what this will do as far as the future, you know, if you and I are sitting here three years from now or five years from now, talking about college athletics, I have literally no idea where we are headed, but I feel like these are two big dominoes that are falling.”
And because of that, Herbstreit said, the college game is moving away from the unique things that make it great.
“I just hate losing the tradition of this sport,” he said. “I’ve always been, I guess naive to it. I’ve always tried to be the guy that’s like, ‘No, we’re gonna hold on to our traditions. People care about those traditions. They care about the rivalries.’
“Clearly, the decision-makers don’t. And we’re now in an arms race and it’s about the money.”
On the other hand, when it comes to looking at just the SEC, and not college football as a whole, Herbstreit’s can be summed up in one word: Wow.
Mark Heim is a sports reporter for The Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Heim.