Stephen A. Smith, Paul Finebaum and Chris Russo discuss Michigan on First Take Photo credit: ESPN

If Stephen A. Smith, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and Paul Finebaum are talking college football together, Finebaum shouldn’t be the one getting shut out of the conversation.

But that’s what happened Wednesday morning on First Take, where Finebaum was essentially relegated to being a spectator as Smith and Russo screamed about Michigan. With the NCAA continuing its investigation into Michigan’s sign-stealing scandal, Smith and Russo wrestled over the severity of punishment Jim Harbaugh’s football program should receive.

Tuesday, Smith took a particularly strong stance on Michigan, claiming the Wolverines should be barred from this season’s College Football Playoff even before the NCAA completes its investigation. On Wednesday, Smith and Russo invited Finebaum into their debate over the issue, but they didn’t always seem compelled to let the college football expert partake in the discussion.

“He should not coach the rest of the year, I’m with ya!” Russo yelled, believing Harbaugh should be suspended for the rest of the regular season. But not only did Russo think Michigan should be eligible for the College Football Playoff, he felt Harbaugh should be reinstated to coach those games, a take that baffled Smith.

“I’m talking about who’s gonna be robbed of the College Football Playoff because Michigan is in,” Smith argued, feeling that another program shouldn’t be pushed out by Harbaugh’s team amid their sign-stealing scandal.

“Oregon, go beat Washington. Alabama, go beat Georgia. Texas, go do your thing and you won’t be robbed! Take care of your own thing!” Russo yelled. “You are WRONG! WRONG! If you suspend Harbaugh now and they beat Penn State and Ohio State, nobody’s gonna say anything about Michigan being in the final four! You’re LOST! You are LOST!”

Smith dismissed Russo’s claims that he was wrong and lost by yelling the same thing right back at his debate partner. “No you’re wrong! You’re definitely wrong!” Smith yelled back. “You’re wrong! YOU’RE WRONG!”

Finebaum, meanwhile, was stuck in the middle. “I’m heading to the ER, I have whiplash listening to these two guys right now,” Finebaum said once he was finally able to speak.

Smith and Russo may have dominated the microphones during the segment, but the facial expressions by Finebaum and Molly Qerim stole the show. It went from a segment about Michigan, to a segment where Smith and Russo appeared hellbent on seeing who could yell louder than the other.

This is a great example of what sports debate shows are. Entertainment first, news and journalism second. Smith and Russo are not college football experts, but they were joined by a college football expert in Finebaum. Yet they still prioritized yelling at each other instead of giving Finebaum the platform to demonstrate his expertise.

[First Take]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to