Five Questions with Broadcaster Will Kennedy
Will Kennedy has a unique perspective on college football in the South. He attended college and worked as a television sports director in Texas, while furthering his broadcasting career in Charlotte, N.C., and in the heart of SEC Country with a stint in Huntsville, Ala., and now in Pensacola, Fla., at the University of West Florida where he serves as the “Voice of the Argonauts.”
Kennedy has seen a lot of football, whether it was covering the Carolina Panthers, as a student at the University of Texas or as a vagabond reporter following high school and college sports through virtually every state in the SEC.
Originally, The Rebel Walk was going to ask Kennedy about the Ole Miss-Texas A&M game, which was scheduled for Saturday, but COVID-19 had other plans.
Still, we wanted to sit down with Kennedy to get his thoughts on college football as a whole, how the playoffs could shake out, and his comparison of football in Texas versus in the other SEC states.
Kennedy graciously accepted to speak to us on those subjects and to even speak about his college archrival Aggies. He actually likes to speak about Texas. The last time Kennedy broadcast in the Lone Star State was last December when he called West Florida’s win over Minnesota-Mankato in McKinney, Texas to allow the Argonauts to claim the NCAA Division II football national title.
So, here is The Rebel Walk’s “Five Questions with….” Will Kennedy.
THE REBEL WALK: According to most “experts,” the only roadblock to Texas A&M finishing the rest of the season unbeaten was last week at Auburn. After beating the Tigers, A&M finishes the season against Tennessee. Does the postponement of the Texas A&M-Ole Miss game help or hurt the aggies and why?
WILL KENNEDY: Every win you can pick up helps build that playoff resume argument. Texas A&M has been sort of an enigma in the SEC for as long as the Aggies have been in the league. There is a certain “hey, didn’t you used to be Texas A&M” vibe with the program. So, there isn’t the built-in recognition the Aggies once had, or that Alabama, LSU or even Auburn carries in the division and the conference. Finishing the season with wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee might not cement an opportunity in the playoff, but it would not hurt. So not playing the game is something of a negative.
TRW: You have spent time in Texas as a broadcaster and a student. You have also covered football throughout the southeast. How are the fan bases different in SEC country and in the Lone Star State?
WK: The fan bases really aren’t that different. The expectations are high across the board. It’s no different in Texas. Even so many years removed from huge national impact, the expectations at a Texas or Texas A&M are still winning national titles – even if they probably shouldn’t be. I think the biggest difference is the prominence of high school football in Texas. High school ball is big across the South. But it’s a different thing in the Lone Star state. High school teams play in stadiums and have facilities that would make many college programs jealous. There are plenty of diehard college football fans in Texas, but some of those fans may care more about a high school program than the university they root for.
TRW: You did attend the University of Texas, but does Texas A&M deserve to be in the College Football Playoff should it win its last two games?
WK: That all depends on how some other things shake out. If the Aggies only loss is to Alabama, then they deserve to be in the discussion – even if Florida beats Bama in the SEC championship. But it may be tough to crack that final four from where the Aggies started. So much of college football is reputation and “what have you done for me lately”. Playing the SEC (and especially the West) helps though.
TRW: Speaking of the Longhorns, both Texas and Ole Miss are looking to get back into contention to win conference championships. What do Tom Herman and Lane Kiffin need to do to get back to a winning tradition at their respective schools?
WK: Tom Herman will need to hold on to his job first and foremost! Patience is not the greatest of virtues with Longhorn fans. Herman brought a lot of hype and initial excitement with him to Austin, but the 2018 season seems to be more of an exception than rule at this point. The question for Texas is can we find someone better? Is there a name, that will take the job, that will make a splash with boosters, alums and fans? It’s a “be careful what you wish for” deal. Texas A&M knows all about it. There are lots of Aggie fans who would love to have the 10 or 11 wins every season that RC Slocum provided back. Getting too greedy can be the undoing of a program.
For Texas, it’s not about name brand, facilities, the conference they play in, recruiting cache or anything like that. It’s a coaching and culture fix needed to get back to the level fans expect.
“Tom Herman is our coach.”
Tom Herman will remain the Texas head coach, AD says.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) December 12, 2020
For Ole Miss… I think all the aforementioned areas could be built up to improve the Rebels’ fortunes. Of course, the conference and division they play in will always be a major hurdle. How long will a Lane Kiffin hang in there? If he has some early success, is that a springboard to another job? A job like…Texas?
TRW: Finally, if the NCAA listened to you, what is the one rule change on the field or which existing rule off the field would you change and why?
WK: I’m not going to get into compensating players today. But that is the off-the-field area that needs change. On the field, I would like to see some of the college rules better reflect the NFL. Let’s start with pass interference. Make it a spot foul. It is still too much of a benefit for college defensive backs to grab a receiver if they are beaten. It’s only going to be 15 yards. College football is the minor league for the NFL. Might as well get the full on-the-job training experience.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.