Maybe it’s just good for business.
Or maybe it’s just because Joel Klatt walked on to the Colorado football team without the sniff of a scholarship that he sympathizes with his game’s latest underdog.
That would be the Big 12, the lone “Power Five” conference that again finds itself on the outside looking in at the playoffs as the season heads to the finish line.
Klatt, Fox’s rookie lead college football game analyst, has emerged as the squeakiest of all the network talking wheels when it comes to plugging the Big 12. He’s also not afraid to take shots at the SEC and Big Ten, which he’s said should be re-labeled the “Super Power Two.”
“I don’t view it as standing up for one particular conference,” Klatt said in a telephone interview this week. “Rather, it’s standing up for what I believe in. … I try not to get sucked into what I believe is the perception of the strength of the SEC.”
Coincidentally, Klatt has made the loudest of his comments on the subject on Fox networks while working Big 12 games. But that’s not to say it’s wrong. Nor is Klatt alone. ESPN college kingpin Kirk Herbstreit also has taken up for the Big 12 in the discussion of College Football Playoff rankings. The latest has undefeated Baylor ranked sixth and undefeated Oklahoma State eighth behind Alabama and Notre Dame, each with one loss. Then there is undefeated Iowa, the second Big Ten school ranked ahead of the best the Big 12 has to offer.
Note: ESPN, just as Fox does, pours millions of dollars annually into the Big 12 coffers for football rights. The difference is that ESPN does business with the entire Power Five as well as Notre Dame. Meanwhile Fox is confined to the 12s – Big and Pac.
But there’s more to bringing up Herbstreit’s name here. In Klatt, who this season replaced Charles Davis alongside lead play-by-play voice Gus Johnson, Fox appears to have a worthy rival for Herbstreit.
Klatt is as engaged as Herbstreit. He appears as savvy. And he is not afraid to throw around opinions.
Klatt, like Ohio State’s Herbstreit, played quarterback in what is now a power conference. But while Herbstreit, an Ohio “player of the year” as a high school senior, strolled onto the Big Ten campus in Columbus, Klatt was offered only small-college scholarships.
Instead, signed with the San Diego Padres, who selected him in the 11th round of the 2000 MLB draft. When that didn’t work out, he returned home to his home state and walked on at Colorado, then a Big 12 school. As a freshman in 2002, he attempted three passes. All fell incomplete in a 34-0 victory over Baylor.
He returned as a 22-year old sophomore the next season, became the starter and left two seasons later with 20 school quarterback records.
Undrafted by the NFL, Klatt unsuccessfully tried out for the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions before using his economics degree to get into real estate.
He tiptoed into broadcasting in 2006 when the regional Fox Sports Rocky Mountain invited him to work high school games. Two years later, he was summoned to the Fox Sports Southwest studios in Las Colinas to provide analysis in the Big 12 studio. Eventually, Fox moved him to Los Angeles to work national Big 12 and Pac 12 games on FX.
When Fox Sports 1 launched in 2013, Klatt was installed as one of the network’s studio analysts. This season, he moved from the studio to the booth.
Here’s Klatt on TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, whose terrible game at Oklahoma State last week on Fox may have cost him a Heisman Trophy: “If he had a different logo on the side of his helmet there would be a different perception. People have written him off. Meanwhile (LSU running back Leonard) Fournette is still in the race.” Fournette gained 31 yards on 19 carries against Alabama.
Here is how Klatt sized up schools like Baylor and Oklahoma State against the likes of Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame: “It’s been taboo to talk about the power of brands in college football, but brands matter. Why not say so?”
Klatt said he hopes to share similar thoughts for a long time.
“I hope I can do this for the next 30 years,” he said. “I really love it.”
Read more at the Dallas News where this article was originally published