Herbstreit’s attack on NIU ‘baseless’


Kirk Herbstreit is one of the most respected analysts in college football and he has proven to be an unbiased commentator. This is why I was shocked he trashed the BCS system for allowing Northern Illinois, from the Mid-American Conference, to play in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. To say I was disappointed by his reaction would be a complete understatement.

“The fact that Northern Illinois is in the BCS in 2012 is really a sad state for college football and where we are with the current system,” Herbstreit said.

How is it sad that Northern Illinois is in the BCS? Is it sad for ESPN because ratings won’t be as high as it would be with a team from a power conference? Is Herbstreit assuming fans do not like teams from mid-major conferences to pull off upsets against teams from power conferences? If that is the case, he must have been asleep during Boise State’s upset against Oklahoma.

“They [Northern Illinois] don’t deserve to be in the BCS this year,” he continued.

This is where Herbstreit’s argument becomes baseless. This was not a football decision.

By rule, if a team from a non-BCS conference makes the top 16 in the final BCS poll and they are ranked higher than a BCS conference champion, they are in no matter what. This rule was put in place so the BCS would avoid an Anti-Trust lawsuit. Northern Illinois was ranked ahead of two BCS conference champions.

It just so happens Northern Illinois also won a conference entering seven teams into bowl games. That is the third highest in college football and highest among non-BCS conferences. It is not Northern Illinois’ fault Louisville plays in the free-falling Big East conference, nor is it their fault Nebraska horrifically lost in the Big Ten Championship game to a team only playing because Ohio State and Penn State were not eligible.

I understand analysts are paid to express their opinions about what is going on in their sports. If they want to say Northern Illinois has no chance of winning because Florida State is a superior team, then fine. If they want to say that the Huskies do not have as good of a team as Utah, TCU, and Boise State when they made the BCS that would be a valid point.

But to completely dismiss the rules in place and to just to bash a team is just wrong and unfair. It is wrong and unfair to the Northern Illinois team, which worked hard to be in this position. It is wrong for their students and fans that have supported this team throughout the entire season. It is also wrong and unfair to those teams in the MAC conference like Bowling Green, Kent State, and Toledo, among others, who have competed in one of the most competitive conferences in college football this season. But most importantly, it is wrong and unfair to the viewers of ESPN to use the airwaves to slam a team that earned a spot in the BCS by rule just because the usual favorites from the power conference teams did not get in.

Herbstreit has the responsibility to viewers to offer his opinion in a fair, unbalanced way. For years, he has done just that. But on the night of the BCS selection show, Herbstreit blew his opportunity. If Northern Illinois beats Florida State, he will be eating his words in front of a national audience.

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About The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project

The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project is a hub for teaching, research, and service related to sport media. The Project benefits students and faculty at Bowling Green State University, and offers outreach and media consulting to area and regional groups that work with student-athletes. Through collaborative efforts of the Sport Management program and the School of Media and Communication, BGSU students have the opportunity to learn such skills as sports writing, reporting, broadcasting, announcing, public relations, media relations, communication management and production. Faculty and other scholars have access to resources about the commercial and sociological aspects of sport.

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