Over the last two to three years College Game Day on ESPN has begun the slow, agonizing decent into a ChrisBermanafied copy of the network's rancid coverage of the NFL.
Herbstreit's head has expanded to near Horseshoe sized proportions. The network seems convinced that thirty seconds without Erin Andrews on camera will cause the sky to fall. Folwer is spending more and more time in his diary and less time giving meaningful direction to a rudderless show. Even the venerable Lee Corso is becoming a caricature of himself. They're covering spring practices for petesakes.
One of the wild cards in all of this has been the erratic contribution of former Wolverine Desmond Howard. Howard's had his highs and lows on Game Day. He's broken down bowl matchups that don't exist. He takes every opportunity he can to mention his Heisman trophy. He uses 50 words when 2 will do. On the flip side, he's provided excellent analysis on wide receivers, offensive sets and defensive backfield play. He's becoming a much more polished interviewer, and delivered an excellent Mario Manningham interview two years ago. More importantly, he's not afraid to make mistakes or to speak his mind. In the middle of as boring an off season as I can remember, thank god for the latter quality.
Smack in the middle of a Q&A session with Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News, Howard took game Day anchor Kirk Herstreit and ESPN to task for the UM/Les Miles "Done Deal Debacle." Saying the network should've made confirmation calls (including one to Howard) and done substantially more research before it aired its Miles-to-Michigan story. Further, Howard placed the blame for the deterioration of discussions with Miles squarely in the lap of his current employer and colleague.
Totally awesome Desmond Howard quote taken totally out of context? Check.
[Herbstreit]'s a seemingly intelligent guy.
In fairness, Howard did say he felt that if Herbstreit ran with the information he had, he certainly must've believed the voracity “veracity” (stupid words - Ed.) of it. However, Howard went on to say,
[Herbstreit's report] was wrong on so many levels. As a former player, unless I spoke to that coach and he told me it was cool, I would never have done that because he was still coaching a team that's about to play in a (SEC) championship game. ... His team, the first thing they saw when they woke up was that report. It was not fair to him and not fair to the players.
How often are you going to to see that out of a TV pundit, let alone one whose on camera track record is average at best? Keith Olbermann made a half hearted stab at Bristol, CT and was canned two days later. Howard apparently doesn't care, and that is to be admired to a certain degree.
While Desmond hasn't proven to be the best college announcer or commentator, he has been himself. Verbose. Unfiltered. Opinionated. And in this particular case, correct. I personally don't care if Miles was hired by Michigan. I was on record as not being particularly in favor of it, and actually supported Rich Rod's hire long before he was even a target. Either way, I think Michigan made out for the better. Irrespective of that, and just to kick a dead horse one more time, Herstreit was out of line running with that story prior to confirmation. Further, despite Herbie's assertions that his college affiliation has no impact on his coverage, he should've known because of them any announcement on Michigan in any context subjects him to a much harsher light than one about Boise. The fact that Howard was an ESPN employee, easily reachable, and on the search committee made him the perfect person to follow up with. But...
They have a Michigan guy on their crew and they knew how to get in contact with me, but no one ever called me.
Not so good.
That said, I'll be curious to see if there's any fallout from this one. Herbstreit really is the face of Game Day at this point and is clearly being groomed to take over as ABC's lead commentator for college football, if he isn't already. He's the golden boy and Howard just took him to task.
The World Wide Leader in Sports is known to have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to dissent. Desmond is a good, but by no means irreplaceable commentator. It will be interesting to see if Desmond's comments do more than just kick a dead horse.