When ESPN’s college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit reported during a show that student-athletes that choose not to participate in college bowls don’t love the game of football, many criticized his failure to address students that have been seriously injured from participating in bowls.
“I think this era of players just doesn’t love football,” the 52-year-old ESPN host commented during an episode of College Gameday. Then, fellow host, Desmond Howard responded to Herbstreit and said, “That’s what I was about to say.”
Likely, the analysts feel as though players who opt out of bowls aren’t honoring a college football tradition and therefore do not have the same love for football as others. However, they fail to address that as time progresses, different expectations and risks arise. As for today, it is becoming more and more common for players to not want to participate knowing that the bowls cater to organizations rather than the sport, and players can risk a substantial injury.
An example can be seen through the case Ole Miss quarterback, Matt Corral Notre Dame’s former player, Jaylon Smith.
On Saturday, the University of Mississippi’s star quarterback, Matt Corral, exited the Allstate Sugar Bowl game against Baylor during the first quarter. Why? Because he suffered a sprained ankle and was unable to put any weight on his right foot. Although he is expected to make a full comeback, some aren’t so lucky.
In 2016, second-round draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys, Jaylon Smith, participated in the Fiesta Bowl, representing his school of Notre Dame. What Smith didn’t anticipate was leaving the game and possibly never walking again.
The Fiesta Bowl left the talented player with an unforeseen leg injury that left him contemplating his future in the NFL. Doctors told him he would likely never walk again, let alone play football, but after 18 months of intense rehab, he regained motion in his leg.
The purpose of bringing up these cases is to demonstrate that opting out of games that aren’t impactful or helpful for a player’s long-term career shouldn’t immediately be written off as not loving the game. Putting a player’s health and career at risk for one bowl isn’t productive; it’s harmful.
Kirk Herbstreit apologizes for commentary
Despite all of this, Herbstreit has made an effort to apologize and emphasized that he didn’t mean to make generalizations about this era of football players.
“Just wanted to clarify some of my comments from earlier today. Of course, some players love the game the same today as ever. But some don’t,” Herbstreit wrote on Twitter. He went on to conclude, “I’ll always love the players of this game, and sorry if people thought I generalized or lumped them all into one category.”
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