Kirk Herbstreit just answered a question.
The result was an all-out blitz on the ESPN “GameDay” host.
Last week, Herbstreit was asked his opinion on college football being played this season as the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said, citing COVID-19. His full response is here.
Since then, he has been Enemy No. 1 in college football.
ESPN’s Rece Davis was asked about his colleague’s comment. He said he was a little more “optimistic” than Herbstreit about the upcoming season.
On Wednesday, Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz took a shot during his Zoom press conference.
“No offense to Mr. Herbstreit but deciding who’s gonna win a game on College ‘GameDay’ is a lot different than getting the world in a panic about whether or not we’re going to play a college football season.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly offered his opinion, too: “Kirk does not know what he’s talking about. I mean, really?” Kelly said during an interview on Sportsbeat, per SI. “For him to talk in those terms … he’s not a scientist. He’s a college football analyst, so we’ll let the scientists determine those things.”
Since his initial comment, the Missouri coach apologized Wednesday during an appearance on “The Paul Finebaum Show.”
“I did not mean anything toward Kirk Herbstreit or to take a shot at him,” Drinkwitz said. “I hope he would accept my apology. My point was we are focused on today.”
Even after Herbstreit’s comments, the football analyst took to Twitter to explain he was simply answering a question.
“I really wasn’t trying to add to the fear or trying to scare anyone at all,” he tweeted to Larry the Cable Guy, which shows just how much weight his comments carry. “Simply answered a question that was posed to me. I just think this virus is real and until there’s a vaccine I’d be shocked if there was football. That’s all.”
Paul Finebaum, who joined Lee Shirvanian and me on “The Opening Kickoff” on WNSP-FM 105.5 on Thursday, was as surprised as anyone at the reaction the comments got. That’s saying something from the “Mouth of the South.”
“It’s absolutely ridiculous what has happened to Kirk Herbstreit,” Finebaum said Thursday. “He gave an honest, heart-felt opinion, and that’s all it was. I know that because I talked to him Friday and have communicated with him since.”
Finebaum added, based on what is being said every day about the pandemic, Herbstreit’s comments weren’t out of line.
“Kirk Herbstreit is the face of college football,” Finebaum said. “Nobody has done more promoting the game. No one has done more as an ambassador for the game in a classier manner thank Kirk has in recent years.
“It just shows you how narrow-minded we are about important issues.”
In the end, Finebaum’s right. Herbstreit’s comments were nothing more than an opinion, a responsible one at that. It’s just not the opinion you want to hear, no matter who it comes from.
The reaction to that comment is out of fear of the possibility that football will call a timeout. Herbstreit is simply an easy target for that fear and angst.
There is no one who wants to see the cancellation of football, especially Herbstreit, which makes his opinion on the topic that much more significant and astute.
Mark Heim is a sports reporter for The Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Heim.
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