DALLAS — The most decorated football player at Monday's opening day of Big 12 Media Days wasn't on the stage or in front of a mic.
Former Ohio State and NFL standout Eddie George, the winner of the 1995 Heisman Trophy, was at the Omni preparing for the upcoming season as an analyst for Fox Sports 1. George sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about the state of college football, the Big 12, the pressures that go along with winning the Heisman and more.
What did you think of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby's comments about changes that need to happen in the NCAA?
I think he's dead on. There's so many issues with the NCAA and how they've handled certain situations in the past, the integrity that they claim to have--that they force upon the schools--they haven't demonstrated themselves. I think they lack institutional control. It needs to be blown up, it needs to be restructured, it needs to fall in alignment with our world today and where we live in terms of paying players, in terms of player development, allowing coaches to have more time with their players off the field so they can not have so many off-the-field issues and it needs to be looked at from a different lens. There needs to be a paradigm shift. As we move forward to this new era of football, the power conferences, the playoff system, lends itself to have new rules that need to apply (moving) forward. It's not even so much the money. It's the principle. It's doing what's admirable and what's right and what applies to today in order to survive as a college kid. Not make it so much as where we're going to stop you from being competitive in recruiting but to giving them a fair shot to be a student-athlete but also give them a fair shot to be successful after football. That's what comes into play.
What do you think about the Ed O'Bannon case against the NCAA?
I think it's an eye-opening event for the NCAA. Unfortunately, they're going to discontinue NCAA Football (video game), which I'm upset about because I play the game. But again there's an opportunity to really look at it and see how can we pay these players? Maybe there's an opportunity there to take some of the revenue generated from these games and give it back to the players. There's an opportunity there for everyone to maximize.
As a former Heisman Trophy winner, what do you think about Johnny Manziel and his comments last week about not changing much about how he acts away from the field?
He's right. He's 21. He's making his mistakes. I think the people that are covering him are 40-year-old men and we look at the world differently and we expect him to have a sense of responsibility. Well, guess what, he's a Heisman winner in college and he's doing what a college kid's going to do. However, for Johnny, he has to take on the responsibility and say, ‘Hey, my life has been totally changed. I can't do what anybody else can do. I can't go to a bar and drink from a bong and think it won't be on Twitter next day or I can't be late to a meeting.' Because you can't because all eyes are on you. There's a level of responsibility that he has to understand that he's not your typical 21-year-old anymore. You're a celebrity now. You are going to be on Twitter every six seconds, or Facebook, or you were just on Jay Leno's couch. You're not the typical 21-year-old so you can't behave that way. He has to understand that as well.
How did your life change winning the Heisman?
It's still changed. It evolves, it grows, it changes every single year since I won it. You're always going to be known as the Heisman Trophy winner. You're known for being an NFL legend, some guys are Hall of Famers but they don't go by that. You're always Eddie George the Heisman Trophy winner. That always reigns forever.
What do you make of the state of Oklahoma's program right now?
I think you reload at Oklahoma. The question is who's going to be the quarterback. Blake Bell is going to be there. The question is can he produce the same type of numbers that Landry was able to do over the last few years and Sam Bradford and some of the great Oklahoma quarterbacks have put up. What kind of style is going to bring to the table and based off that style, how are they going to surround him with the supporting cast to do it. The bigger question is the Oklahoma defense. It was so uncharacteristic to see that defense give up as many big plays as they did. At times, they showed brilliance--they smash-mouthed Texas. But outside of that, it was eye-opening to see a Tayvon Austin run for 300 yards on that defense and Johnny Manziel just put up 500 yards by himself. It's alarming to see that given the amount of great athletes that are on the defense. So the question is, up front--especially on the defensive end--who's going o develop there as an elite pass rusher and not just a guy.
Is that a development issue or is it a recruiting issue?
I think it's both. You've got to be able to find the right fit, the right kind of player at a position and you have to develop those guys. You can develop tenacity, you can have leadership on your defense where you can set principles and a standard by which you're going to play. I think Bob has done that but it comes to me when I look at Oklahoma, it comes down to who are the leaders in the locker room. You create the culture. I think they have to get guys to buy in to what Bob is trying to do and to be an extension of who he is and offer that level of accountability amongst each other versus just having a coach saying it week-in and week-out.
Are you surprised that college football's up-tempo offenses and use of mobile quarterbacks is starting to move into the NFL?
I'm not. There's elements of it now, especially with the younger quarterbacks coming in. It's something that they're used to doing. They're not taking a guy like Robert Griffin III and forcing his hand to play a pro-style offense. They're saying, ‘OK, what does he do well,' and incorporating that into the NFL and not letting that be the be-all, end-all, but allow that to be the starting point to build on his skill set and his knowledge of the game. He has to be efficient for the pocket but for now, for him to be the guy and continue to be successful, take what he knows and incorporate that into the team and then build on his skill set moving forward.
Is this a make or break year for Mack Brown?
I think it is. You look at it and Mack has done so many great things for the University of Texas and for college football. I have tremendous respect for him but moving forward in the future, when you continually get the type of recruits they have, winning eight or nine ballgames is not going to cut it at Texas for too long. They're built to win championships and at some point, the players have to be an extension of the coach and take ownership of the program to take it to another level. I haven't seen it out of this group as of yet. I know David Ash is a guy that can get it done. He's worked hard at it. But he's going to, from that position--the quarterback position--they're going to have to have a guy take the reins and be a leader for that team and for that football program.
What do you think about the chance for Fox Sports 1 to compete with ESPN head-to-head?
If it doesn't work this year, they'll reconfigure it next year and figure it out. One way or another, I think Fox will be a player because they're in it for the long haul. ESPN and GameDay, they're woven into the fabric of college football tradition. That's the tradition but what we want to offer is another alternative. There's nothing wrong with going with Pepsi after having Coke your who life. It just gives a different flavor. We all know what the tag line for Pepsi is--the choice of a new generation. Fox is doing the same thing. That could be what Fox is, it just gives you another flavor.