Ten questions for ... Howard Griffith
We expected him to be calling Illinois games on the radio this fall. But that was before the Big Ten Network made the former Illini great one of its featured analysts. The two-time Super Bowl champion doesn't hide his Illinois allegiance – on or off the air – in his role alongside Dave Revsine and Gerry DiNardo on "Big Ten Football Saturday." Sports editor Jim Rossow caught up with Griffith, who turns 40 in November, to talk about long hours, the BTN and the Illini's future.
JR: What's harder, working 15-hour Saturdays or scoring eight touchdowns in a game?
HG: The 15-hour Saturdays by far. As a player, you'd spend a couple hours playing the game. Being in studio, you're there all day and you're watching all these games. The story is a moving target, so it's a little harder. It's not as hard on the body though. That's the good part.
JR: Are you Dave Revsine's favorite all-time player?
HG: Dave knows so many so I'm having to think ... NO! Maybe if I'm sitting next to him I'm his favorite. But if I'm away, definitely not.
JR: What's your pre-show meal?
HG: I try do down a bagel and a little water. I relate preparing for a show to playing football: Absolutely I get nervous. When you're counting down to go live, just like when you're getting ready for a game, you still get that rush.
JR: Is the Big Ten down like everyone says?
HG: Not at all. You've had Michigan struggle and Ohio State experience growing pains at the quarterback positions. But a lot of teams are playing well, making strides.
JR: Juice Williams or Eddie McGee?
HG: Everyone want to see Juice continue to make progress as a passer. I don't think he's had his opportunity to come out and do that yet. But Ron Zook is right to come out and say Juice is his guy. You have to handle your quarterback that way. You don't want them looking over their shoulder during practice.
JR: Are you surprised Illinois is a 12-point favorite at Syracuse?
HG: Syracuse is not a very good football team right now. On the Illinois side, you see (Rashard) Mendenhall coming around and playing to his expectations. Illinois has every opportunity to go out and really explode offensively.
JR: Ever wear Illinois gear to work?
HG: I do. My cubicle has a lot of Illinois stuff. That's part of the fun about working in an office environment, which I've never done before. Everyone's proud of the school they attended, so there's a lot of grief going back and forth. Before the Missouri game, whenever I came up on (Missouri grad) Mike Hall's desk, I'd start chanting 'Juice is coming, Juice is coming.' "
JR: Do you worry about your Illinois allegiance being taken the wrong way by some in the BTN audience?
HG: You'll always have people that will say, 'Howard, you can't say we (as in Illinois).' To me, as long as I'm fair to everyone else, I don't think that's a problem. I've been critical of Illinois the last couple weeks. I don't have a problem with that. But to think I'm not pulling for them is ridiculous. As long as the coaches who I'm working with and getting information from know that I'm not picking up the phone and talking to Coach Zook and telling him what's going on, it's not a problem.
JR: Any chance of taking your Saturday show on the road, like ESPN does?
HG: Right now, we're going to be in the studio. Logistically, it's tough to take the show on the road. The ultimate goal is to get on the road for some games. Probably next year.
JR: Is Michigan ever going to win again?
HG: They recruit and get some of the best athletes in the country, so they'll bounce back. It's not like all of a sudden they're in the basement. When they'll win again, I don't know.
JR: Who is Michigan's next coach?
HG: That's a tough one. I think Lloyd Carr may have a hand in who's the next coach. It's fun for the fans and the pundits to try to figure it out, but I don't have a feel for that situation. There's not doubt in my mind Lloyd Carr will be there all year.
JR: Ever think about coaching?
HG: Not really. I have two sons (10-year-old Howard and 7-year-old Houston) that are active, and I like spending time with them. Coaching is a huge commitment. I'd say you have to spend a year in it to make an educated decision, and I haven't done that yet. As I get older, the opportunities are starting to fall away.
JR: Does Illinois need to get to a bowl game to satisfy its fans?
HG: I think they do. When I talk to Coach Zook, he talks about being in a bowl game this year. He talked to the seniors last year and told them he would like to have them on the sidelines at a bowl game this year. The pieces are there.