One-On-One Interview:  Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis

Seth Davis, the award winning writer, college basketball analyst and host of Campus Insiders’ Seth Davis show, sat down with us to discuss the new season of The Seth Davis Show, the current state of NCAA, predictions and the best part about his job.

CraveOnline: With The Seth Davis Show kicking off this week, what can we expect for the upcoming season?

Seth Davis: We have a pretty good start of high level guests. We had a good first year so I’m always kind of looking to take it to the next level so to speak and part of that is broadening the lens a little bit. College sports and particularly college football and basketball coaches will always kind of be our wheelhouse. But if you look at the opening line-up of guests, we have football coaches in there. We got Charlie Strong from Texas, Art Briles from Baylor, and Steve Sarkisian from USC but then I also, have two NFL football players, Robert Griffin III and Larry Fitzgerald  and then also, interviewed Vin Scully.

When we first conceived of this show, I made a little video and touted it as ‘smart conversations with interesting people.’ So that could bleed over into politics, that could bleed into entertainment, bleed into professional sports, athletes, owners, coaches, executives, and just interesting people. So stay tuned cause I like to be unpredictable in my life and in my career and I’m trying to make our guest list a little more unpredictable than what it was last year. 

CraveOnline: We have to pick your brain when it comes to college sports. The four team college football playoff starts this season. Do you think that will be a successful implementation and if you were in charge, what would you change?

Seth Davis: Well, let’s see how it works with four. A lot of people are already clamoring for eight, I’m definitely one of them. My guess is that when people see how much fun the four team playoff is eventually it will lead to eight. But they have a 12 year contract so the only way its going to go eight is if they kind of rip up the contract and re-do that but if there is a will there is a way and if there’s money there is a will. 

I also, think that when you throw in the new structure of the NCAA with this autonomy proposal from the power five conferences, I think its going to make it easier for them to make that kind of change. i think what hardcore college football fans will come to appreciate is that it will not diminish the value of the regular season. In a lot of respects, its going to increase interest in the regular season cause you’re going to have teams vying for four spots instead of two. Its certainly going to be an improvement on what we had and I’m big fan of it and I’m really excited that it finally happened. 

CraveOnline: Which four teams do you think make the playoff?

Seth Davis: Florida State, UCLA, Oklahoma, and Alabama.

CraveOnline: The NCAA has been under intense scrutiny as of late. Do you see the NCAA existing five years from now or you think its inevitable that the power conferences will break away and form an allegiance of super conferences?

Seth Davis: No, the NCAA is not going anywhere. That’s not gonna happen. if there had been a problem with this autonomy proposal, that would have been a logical next step. Its not in their interest to break away from the NCAA. They found a way to be able to operate inside the NCAA which will allow them to make the changes that really should have been made. The problem that we’ve had is there are about 350 schools that call themselves D1 but there’s really only about 60 or 70 schools that are really driving the bus. They’re making the most money, yes, but they’re also, spending the most money. 

Even more significantly, is they’re the ones who are getting sued. Ed O’bannon is not suing the University of South Alabama. He’s suing the University of Alabama.  Those are the ones facing the most legal exposure so they need to change the way they do business and do a better job of taking care of their athletes and conform with the law.

CraveOnline: What can we expect for the 2014-2015 college basketball season? Who are the top teams and players this season?

Seth Davis: Its going to be a lot of the usual suspects with Duke and Kentucky at the very top. Arizona is gonna be really good. Texas has come back in a major way. Wichita State is gonna be good again. What we’re not going to have quite the same buzz about the freshmen. Although, they’re pretty good but next year’s freshmen class is going to take a significant step back.

CraveOnline: Give us your extremely early Final Four predictions and champion. Don’t worry, we won’t hold you to this, Seth.

Seth Davis: I’ll go Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, and let’s go with Gonzaga. Why not? They’re due. They’re going to break through one of these years. 

Kentucky is really good. I watched some of their games in the Bahamas but when you think of Kentucky as the “quote unquote” one and done, Duke actually has the better freshmen class. I think Duke has three one and done guys in their freshmen class. Kentucky potentially could have a starting line-up without any freshmen. I never like to talk about undefeated seasons because I think its near impossible but the SEC is not real strong so Kentucky could run the table; they really could. 

CraveOnline: Who is at the top of the college sports mountain right now? Kentucky’s John Calipari, Alabama’s Nick Saban, or someone else? 

Seth Davis: I’d have to go with Saban because its football. Football is king. I hate to say this because I’m a basketball guy but you could go to the most meaningless college football bowl game and it will have higher TV ratings than the most meaningful college basketball regular season game. The NCAA tournament is a different animal.

But Saban’s got four championships, Cal’s got one and he may have two coming up here. I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t mind being either one of those guy’s accountants.

CraveOnline: What could college basketball do to increase popularity?

Seth Davis: I think you have to stay modern. One thing that comes to mind, I would love for there to be an official opening day for college basketball. I think college basketball is exceptionally healthy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can’t do better but I’m here to tell you as someone who lives the sport and covers the sport, college basketball is very healthy. 

CraveOnline: You were at Duke during the glory years in the late 80s and early 90s. What was that like being on campus?

 Seth Davis: It was a thrill. Now remember I wasn’t just a student. I covered the team. I was one of the few guys on campus who was even interested in doing this stuff. They did have a student newspaper, student television station, and student radio station and I felt like that was all I needed and a great sports program. After my freshmen year, I did some work with the student TV station and asked them if I could do a show on the basketball team. So I started it, I produced it, I hosted it, edited it, and put it in the machine and pressed play so it would air [laughs]. My first guest was Coach K.

So for three years I had my own TV show about the basketball team. I had all of those guys; Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, all of those guys. Not only were those guys guests on my show, they were my friends. I’d cover them at games, write about them, and see them at fraternity parties. It was really cool. Actually, I don’t know what it was like to be a student in college and not have your team make the Final Four.

 CraveOnline: What games stand out the most to you during your career?

Seth Davis: I was at the 1991 Final Four when Duke beat UNLV. I was there as a fan/student. That was a real cool memory. Its pretty amazing to think now I work with Greg Anthony. That stands out. I’ve covered 20 Final Fours and so many of them were great. That Kentucky and Arizona championship game [1997] that went into overtime stands out as one of the better games I’ve seen. 

More as a fan, I grew up an Orioles fan, I’m a Nationals fan now but I was at the game where Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. That was a pretty historic event. 

CraveOnline: Do you have any favorite personal stories from your time as a writer? 

Seth Davis: One of my first interviews for Sports Illustrated, I flew out to Salt Lake City to interview Rick Majerus, who at the time was the head coach of Utah. Rick Majerus didn’t have a house and he didn’t have an apartment. He lived in the Salt Lake City Marriott. Literally, he lived there. He was a different guy. I went there and he was kind of in a rush since he was going to a Utah Jazz game and didn’t really want to talk to me and I had to explain to him that I flew over 3,000 miles for the purpose of talking to him. So he said I could go back with him to his hotel room while he got ready to go to the Jazz game. He was showering and changing and just got completely naked in front of me. At the time, I would generously list him at about 350 pounds; a huge man. He was a wonderful man but a different guy. I thought “Well, I made it. I saw Rick Majerus buck naked on one of my first assignments.”

CraveOnline: Oh, man. Anything else stand out?

Seth Davis: This is what I love about my Campus Insiders show. I can really stand back and say “Who do I want to talk to? Who do I want to interview?” For me to sit with Vin Scully for 25 minutes last week was a major bucket list. I have such admiration for the guy and there was no logical tie-in to a place called Campus Insiders which covers college sports, for me to be talking to Vin Scully. That’s going to be a very special memory for me.

CraveOnline: What’s the best thing about your job?

Seth Davis: The chance to really interact with very interesting people and talk about significant things. I’m not seeing them at an autograph show. I’m not running into them at a party.i’m sitting down with them and really talking to them about their lives, their careers, their mentors, their childhoods, and their mistakes. 

I’ll tell you a quick anecdote. About a month ago, I had dinner with Larry Brown down in Dallas. I was interviewing him for Sports Illustrated. I brought a tape recorder, we met at a steakhouse, ordered food, and sat there for two hours. Early in the conversation, He’s 73 years old, he’s got more money than God, and he’s done everything. Why’s he at SMU? I said to him “Why you still doing this?” He looked at me and said “I’ll bet you feel like you’ve never really worked.” I said “You know what? You’re right.” He said “Well, that’s how I feel. I love it. It doesn’t feel like work to me.” That’s how I feel.

Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a surfing enthusiast, an unhealthy college sports fanatic, and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like”CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.


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