One of the goals of the Jacksonville Sports Council is to offer local fans new sports experiences.
The organization, part of Gator Bowl Sports, hosted its inaugural speaker series luncheon Thursday and based on the sold-out crowd at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront, fans approved.
“We scored a touchdown,” said Carl Cannon, council chairman, as more than 800 people filed out of the ballroom after hearing ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit opine for about an hour.
The event, planned quarterly, is designed to benefit sports fans and Jacksonville’s sports and entertainment economic development effort.
“We want to focus on major personalities that just don’t come to Jacksonville,” said Gator Bowl Sports Chief Operating Officer Alan Verlander. “We want to make sure successful and powerful people in sports come to our city.”
Herbstreit, who played quarterback at Ohio State from 1989-92, covered a variety of topics related to college football from the proposed plan to allow student-athletes to benefit financially while playing to the four-team format for the next national championship.
He said the NCAA is proposing allowing players to be remunerated while in college if their likeness is used for profit — video games or jersey sales, for example.
“That’s different from somebody sneaking a couple of hundred bucks in your pocket,” said Herbstreit.
No matter how well the system might be administered, however, college football won’t be able to ensure there won’t be abuses.
“Cash from boosters, that’s going to go on. The NCAA doesn’t have the power or authority or manpower to be everywhere they need to be,” he said.
With the room filled with Southeastern Conference fans, Herbstreit said he believes the University of Florida will have a “much-improved team” this year, but they probably won’t figure into the conference championship.
He predicted that Alabama and Georgia will play for the title, with Alabama coming out on top.
As for this season’s new format with four teams vying in a playoff format, having a committee charged with selecting the participants may or may not be an improvement on the previous Bowl Championship Series.
“To have a committee select the best four teams is subjective. You might have a 12-0 team that played no ranked teams and an 8-4 team that played seven ranked teams,” Herbstreit said. “It’s going to be a big debate.”
Although he prefaced his answer to a question about how the season will end by saying that predicting college football in August is like “taking a dart and throwing it at a board,” Herb-streit offered his best assessment, albeit a week before the season begins.
“It will be Florida State, Alabama, UCLA and Michigan,” he predicted. “And Florida State will be the national champion.”