It’s a tradition unlike any other in college football: SEC Cupcake Week.
Ah yes, that week in late November when all the great directional schools of the south collect a paycheck from SEC schools in exchange for a glorified scrimmage at the business end of what’s supposed to be the most meaningful regular season in sports.
Western Carolina, South Alabama, Eastern Kentucky, Charleston Southern, and Samford filled the SEC non-conference schedule on Saturday, contributing to one of the worst college football weeks in recent memory.
As discouraging as it may be, in practice it is an evil genius scheduling stroke by the SEC. They play a conference game early, get to make a great first impression with inflated preseason rankings, and ride the momentum throughout the season. Don’t think it makes a difference? A mediocre South Carolina team was arbitrarily ranked #9 at the beginning of the season. Texas A&M beat them Week 1 and shot into the Top 10. Missisippi State then beat A&M and found themselves in the Top 3. It’s brilliant, even if it’s messing with the system.
The College GameDay crew called out the scheduling practice on GameDay, with Kirk Herbstreit going as far as saying it was “the worst thing that goes on in college football.” I might say the worst thing in college football is the exploitation of athletes and the ineptitude/corruption of the NCAA, but yea, nobody wants to see Alabama-Western Carolina in November…
Fowler, Herbstreit, and Howard are absolutely right. The teams playing these games should be penalized. It is disrespectful to fans. Furthermore, the critical commentary of the SEC’s scheduling practices might poke a hole in any “ESPN-SEC bias” arguments for the time being.
Alabama, and all of these SEC schools scheduling cupcakes in November is smart. It’s also an embarrassment to college football. But what Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir did after the game was arguably a bigger embarrassment. He singled out Kirk Herbstreit for his comments on College GameDay ripping SEC schools for scheduling FCS cupcakes on the second-to-last weekend of the season. Via AL.com:
“A guy had a silver spoon in his mouth all his life, Ohio State, primadonna state quarterback talking about, ‘It’s an embarrassment,'” Speir said. “He ain’t ever coached.”
This quote makes absolutely no sense. When has anyone ever criticized Kirk Herbstreit for having a “silver spoon” in his mouth? When has anyone ever criticized him for being a primadonna? Or not being a coach? Is it mere jealousy because he’s handsome and has a great television gig? Is it because he’s forged an incredibly successful career as one of the best analysts in sports?
Let’s deal with facts here: Kirk Herbstreit was the Ohio Player of the Year in high school and the starting quarterback at Ohio State. Disagree with what he said, but don’t inaccurately question his bonafides and take unfounded personal shots because it just undermines everything you’re trying to say. Speir continued:
“Coach (Nick) Saban had a lot of great things before and after the game about FCS playing the big boys,” Speir said. “Alabama needed this game. Like I said, whether they win or lose, Alabama, I think those fans had a good time today.
“I’m just proud of FCS football, I’m proud of our football team, I hope America doesn’t listen to a guy who sits behind a mike that hasn’t ever done it, with that silver spoon in his mouth, he never had probably a bloody nose or a callous like some of these guys.”
First of all, Herbstreit made his comments at the site of Harvard-Yale, an FCS football game. GameDay made the trip to Harvard and chose to highlight the Ivy League because there were no truly great games on the FBS calendar. What he, and the rest of his GameDay cohorts, said was not a condemnation of FCS football – they were a condemnation of the SEC’s scheduling practices. Nobody’s blaming Western Carolina for collecting nearly a half million dollars to travel to Alabama and play a game to fund their program.
Second of all, what’s with the non-sensical silver spoon obsession? Once again, Speir mockingly suggests Herbstreit never had a bloody nose as if to question his toughness over a football opinion. Once again, Speir is dead wrong:
Let’s make this abundantly clear if it wasn’t already: Kirk Herbstreit was the starting quarterback at Ohio State. He played college football at the absolute highest level. On the other hand, Mark Speir was a student assistant at Clemson before embarking on a college football coaching career. Perhaps Speir should look in the mirror before launching into personal attacks that are not based in reality.
The Western Carolina-Alabama game may be a win-win for both schools. Western Carolina got their $480,000 paycheck that will be a major boost for their program. Alabama got a glorified scrimmage to rest and prepare for the Iron Bowl. But the “game” was a loss for the SEC and a loss for college football.
When the penultimate week of the season is defined as SEC Cupcake Week, it betrays everything we’ve heard about what college football is supposed to be about. And to try to defend this “game” with totally inaccurate personal attacks against people who don’t agree with it is just asinine.