The most intriguing story of College Football’s National Signing Day wasn’t about a recruit, but about an ESPN analyst. According to Dominic Raiola, father of the top three QB recruit Dylan Raiola, Kirk Herbstreit reached out to him to support Dylan’s decision to switch from Georgia to Nebraska. Here’s what the elder Raiola told Rivals: „When that happened, I mentioned the name of a man. His name is Kirk Herbstreit. When he saw the rumors of Dylan’s appearance in Nebraska, he called me. He said, ‚Man, is this true?‘ [Dylan] needs to do it. He has to do it.‘ [Herbstreit’s] affinity for Nebraska, for a guy like that telling me and standing behind me. I knew it, I knew [Dylan] had to do it. But I wouldn’t sit here and say, ‚You have to change this place or be part of changing this place.‘ When Kirk told me that, man. Other coaches have reached out to me and said, ‚The place is special.‘ Coach (Matt) Rhule is a special leader.“ At the end of the day, it turned out to be something really beautiful, and we’re really proud of the decision Dylan made,“ said Raiola.
For those who don’t know, Dominic was an All-American at Nebraska and it’s clear that he still loves the Big Red. While it’s nice to hear that he wanted to stay away from his son’s decision, passing on positive anecdotes about Rhule from Herbstreit and other coaches clearly helped influence Dylan’s decision to become a Cornhusker.
However, in college football, nothing remains a secret. There are too many channels, too many Twitter detectives, and too much coverage. Allegedly, Herbstreit calling an unprovoked action to support Rhule to the father of a recruit just because he likes him is absolutely foolish. If you’re the most visible college football analyst in the country, maybe send a text or have your alter ego, Kirk Henry, reach out with an atta-boy.
Despite the validity of the report, Georgia fans will likely move on and praise it as gospel. And why shouldn’t they? The Huskers lost more games last season than the Bulldogs have since 2019. UGA is currently objectively the better program and will likely continue to be after Dylan graduates or goes pro.
I don’t know if Dawgs fans will ever accept Raiola’s decision, but given his family ties to Nebraska, they might at least have understood it. However, they will never overcome their dislike of Herbstreit and now harbor a deep contempt for an easily influenced 18-year-old just trying to do what’s best for him.
This also happened after ESPN acquired the rights to SEC football, so Herbstreit not only upset UGA but likely also his employer by redirecting talent to the competing conference and network. I don’t know when the next college gameday will be in Athens, but it will probably happen before they return to Lincoln, and I can guarantee you that Herby will be vehemently booed every time it’s his turn to speak. I’d say just wait and see what the signs hold, but I suspect most will violate FCC standards or won’t make it on air.
For a man who played in the Big Ten, it’s a terrible sight which will get even worse because Herbstreit will likely decide many games between the hedges in the future. College football fans have held grudges for generations, love good conspiracy theories, and could be the worst sect of sports fans in the country. (Soccer fans are the winners on an international level.) We’re talking about people who actively follow and tweet high schoolers, so yes, conspire at your own risk, Kirk.