There have been plenty of cases of broadcasters relaying only part of a comment from a coach or athlete on-air and that then causing problems. But it’s rare to see a broadcaster offer as detailed of an apology for that as Fox college football analyst Joel Klatt did this week. First, here’s the clip in question from Fox’s Michigan-Indiana broadcast Saturday, with play-by-play voice Gus Johnson and Klatt talking about comments from Penn State head coach James Franklin on Michigan’s scheduling:
On Fox's Indiana-Michigan broadcast, Gus Johnson said "According to James Franklin, Michigan's not playing anybody. They're opting out of contracts." And Joel Klatt said "Pretty rich for a guy playing UMass this week." Klatt has now walked that back. pic.twitter.com/Lxjamgr2lO
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 18, 2023
There, Johnson says “According to James Franklin, Michigan’s not playing anybody.” Klatt says “Well…”, Johnson says “They’re opting out of contracts,” and Klatt says “Pretty rich for a guy playing UMass this week.” Johnson laughs and sets up the next play, then Klatt says “Now my phone’s about to buzz,” and Johnson says “Oh, it’s going to blow up,” then calls the play.
Klatt then says “But, listen, I’m not taking a firm stance there. I think all three teams are very good. If there’s an edge, it would be a line-of-scrimmage edge towards Michigan, but I think the other two teams know that. But man, I mean, Penn State is so athletic, and they’re aggressive on defense, they’ve got a terrific running game, a quarterback coming into their own.” He then praises Ohio State as well and says “The defensive battle in the Big Ten East, Gus, is what I’m so excited to see down the stretch.”
Despite the subsequent praise for Penn State, that was definitely a shot at Franklin’s comments from Klatt. And it would have been an understandable one if Johnson had relayed Franklin’s comments accurately. But he really didn’t.
This all came from Franklin’s comments last Tuesday, which did include discussion of Big Ten teams setting up weak out-of-conference schedules (he did not specify Michigan, and there are other possibilities on the specific teams “buying out games to go in another direction,” including Indiana). However, he actually defended the practice as necessary in a current playoff structure that rewards being undefeated over strength of schedule.
But the first part of Franklin’s comments of “There’s a team in this conference that’s buying out a ton of game contracts to go in another direction. …You gotta do whatever you possibly can to give yourself a chance to be undefeated” got picked up on their own by many outlets, including Barstool Sports. And they were publicized as a direct shot at Michigan. And they were presented without the important closing comment, which actually seemed to be a more direct and positive reference to Michigan:
“If you’re not scheduling to be undefeated, you’re scheduling to have the least amount of losses possible to give yourself a chance to be in the Playoffs. There’s another team in this conference that has had a ton of success the last couple years, and again, I think it would follow the same argument.”
And on his podcast Monday, Klatt addressed this (near the end of the podcast) and apologized for how he handled this on the broadcast. And he then tweeted that clip separately Tuesday night:
Just want to be honest and transparent pic.twitter.com/Wf2g7TCiuW
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) October 18, 2023
“There was something brought up on the broadcast, and I just don’t like the way that I handled it. It was brought up that James Franklin had talked in a press conference about scheduling. And he gave a long and thoughtful answer about scheduling, and at one point had insinuated, you know, there was one part of the quote that insinuated like ‘Hey, there’s teams in this conference that are buying out of contracts in the non-conference, buying out of a tough game to just go play not a tough game.'”
“Because, the point he was trying to make is that undefeated is really the goal. Not strength of schedule, which is not what the intent of the playoff was, in its four-team format, at its inception. And his point is correct. He gave a much more thoughtful answer than just the quote that I referred to.”
“I want to be transparent enough with you, the listener, the viewer, and the fan of college football. You deserve to know when I feel like I wasn’t at my best. What I said on the broadcast was not my best. Earlier in my career, I remember saying something like, ‘Hey, I thought”…I gave a ‘Nick Saban might be close to being done’ take on Cowherd. It was stupid. And it was the dumbest thing I ever said on TV.”
“I just wanted to make sure I’m being transparent with you. I said on the game ‘That’s pretty rich for a guy playing UMass.’ Wrong way to handle it. Wish I could have had that one back. James had given a more thoughtful answer than that. And in live TV, stuff like that happens. My intent was not to take a shot at James Franklin. I’m here to tell you I wish I would have handled that differently.”
That’s a reasonable response from Klatt. And he’s quite right as well that live TV comes with challenges, and he seemed to realize this would be problematic soon after he said it, with the “Now my phone’s going to buzz” and the subsequent praise for Penn State. (And while Klatt doesn’t blame Johnson here, Johnson really was a big part of this with the specific way he referenced Franklin’s comments out of their full context, teeing up the reaction Klatt then provided.)
Mistakes unquestionably happen. And the mistakes here went well beyond Fox; this started with the hyperbolic and out-of-context coverage of Franklin’s initial remarks last week. But Johnson and Klatt could have done a better job of covering those remarks on the broadcast. And Klatt recognizes that, and it’s refreshing to see him note that he fell short and take accountability for that.
[Awful Announcing on Twitter; image from Joel Klatt on Twitter]