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Kirk Herbstreit elaborates on saying Pac-12 should thank ESPN for broadcasting games

Kirk Herbstreit
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit ticked off a lot of people on Saturday morning when he said teams in the Pac-12 should be thankful ESPN broadcasts their games at all.

He made the comment appearing on ESPN’s College GameDay early Saturday morning. It was a direct response to Washington head coach Chris Petersen, who had made it clear he was frustrated his highly-ranked program wasn’t getting the kind of time slots that other major programs get earlier in the day. His Huskies started their Week 6 game at 10:45 p.m. ET and have yet to start a game before 8 p.m. ET.

So it was easy for folks to get upset when Herbstreit so casually said, “Washington “should be thanking ESPN” for airing its games, regardless of kickoff time.

In an effort to explain his rationale, Herbstreit joined hosts Mike Salk and Brock Huard on 710 ESPN Seattle. He said he understands why people would be upset. He also said it is rare for Petersen to make a fuss out of anything, so he must have really been upset (you think?).

“…I have been doing ‘GameDay’ since the ‘90s when Brock was playing and I love the Pac-12. And I take offense — not to the degree you guys do living out there — but I take offense when I’m in the SEC or the Big Ten at how either people are uninformed about the Pac-12 or kind of slight the Pac-12 or just don’t see the Pac-12. … They just don’t get the play (attention) that other conferences get. So I’ve taken a sense of pride on ‘GameDay’ and other shows of trying to make sure we as our show try to get the Pac-12, when it deserves to be out there, try to get them out there and get some recognition. So when (Petersen) said that, my mistake was I took that personally as an individual, that I feel like we as a show really try to battle for not only Washington for the whole conference.”

Herbstreit also pointed to the fact that being on late at night on ESPN is actually great for ratings.

“I’m not saying this because I work at ESPN; this is just a reality if you watch ratings. The greatest thing that happened as far as getting more exposure are those night games because they are on ESPN and because people in the Big Ten and the SEC and the ACC and the Big 12 get a little bit more familiar with the Washington brand and Myles Gaskin or Jake Browning. And they get a little more familiar hopefully with Bryce Love and Stanford. Other than just USC. It felt like forever it’s just USC is the 8 o’clock (Eastern time) ABC game, and I just thought, ‘Man, this is going to be great’ that ESPN’s going to finally have a relationship with the Pac-12 and they’re going to be able televise some of those games that otherwise are not seen or never even heard of. So when I said something like, ‘They should be thanking ESPN,’ that’s more of as a conference they should be happy to be on ESPN and be able to get the exposure. This was not me backhanding Chris Petersen — ‘how dare you question our authority.’ If you know me and have watched me for 22 years, I’m not that guy. I just don’t do that. I took it more as, ‘Man, Pete, you’re my guy. You should be happy that these games are at night. At least they’re on a big network on ESPN.’”

Herbstreit also said he didn’t realize until afterwards that Washington hasn’t started a game until 8 p.m. ET, at the earliest. He also said Petersen isn’t the only coach who’s been frustrated by all the late start times. Stanford head coach David Shaw has as well, and he spoke with Herbstreit Monday about it. He said he loves the Pac-12 and has long been an advocate for the conference to get the same kind of national attention the other major conferences do.

“So I guess the reason, if I made a mistake anywhere, I get offended because I feel like I’m with you trying to help you and your conference get more recognition. So if I made a mistake it’s, man, I’m on your side with you. This is a good thing. If it takes playing games at night, then so be it.”