Ben Love: How did this [new job] come about? Was there just a need the SEC wanted to fill?
Herb Vincent: Charles [Bloom, former associate commissioner of media and public relations] left last November and I wasn’t looking to leave LSU, but obviously I have known a lot of people in the SEC office for a long time. My wife works there part-time. She actually coordinates the SEC football and basketball legends program, so she travels there about three times a year. So I am real familiar with all those people and the more I spoke with them about it, the more interested I became in the position, and found it to be something I really couldn’t pass up. I was never looking to leave LSU. I will always love it here and always hold LSU close to my heart, but this was something I couldn’t pass up. I couldn’t tell you at which point I decided to take the position. It was just something that was good for me and my family.
BL: And the position you mentioned, Associate Commissioner of Communications, for the folks out there wondering, let them know what you will be doing in Birmingham.
HV: It’s a lot similar to what I am doing here at LSU, just on the conference level. Its strategic communication and doing all those things necessary to promote the league, promote all the great things that happen on all of our campuses. But there is a lot that the Southeastern Conference is involved in and a lot of things happening in athletics today that intrigue me about the job. Obviously in 2014 there is going to be the new SEC network. I’ll be involved in that at some level. I think that’s all still in development stages. The SEC is very involved in college playoffs, so I’ll be involved in that as well. So there are a lot of new challenges and a lot to be learned. I am looking forward to a new chapter of my life. The really good thing about it, for me personally, is that it allows me to travel to all the campuses, including LSU, and it helps me maintain all the relationships I have developed over the years and do the things I enjoy doing. I won’t be very far away, and hope to still travel back to LSU on occasion and see a lot of LSU athletics.
BL: When you talk about the SEC network arriving in 2014 the two question I get from fans about it: will they have to pay for it? And what does it mean for the future of people like our friend Ronny Rantz and the CSTs of the world? Will they be folded in to some of this, or will ESPN have all their own employees doing some of the calls and all that work?
HV: Well there are a lot of questions I am getting as well. When it was announced I was taking the job, I heard an awful lot from my friends and colleagues who were interested about what is going on in the SEC, with the SEC network, and how it will impact those things you just talked about. I think those questions will still have to be answered and I hope to get them answered once I get there. I think that will be part of my job is to find out those answers as they evolve and to communicate them to the public, to let them know what the SEC Network is all about, and how that is going to impact people’s lives, and how its going to make the SEC and SEC athletics more available to people. Not only across the southeast but across the whole country. I don’t have too many answers for you today, but I think that will be part of my job — to get those answers and get them to you.
BL: Well obviously it’s still in development, but in a generic way, what is exciting about the SEC Network? What will it bring to fans, types of things that they aren’t already experiencing?
HV: Well there is going to be a home to go to. There is going to be a home dedicated specifically to SEC sports. I think you and I understand the real passion of the fans, the LSU fans and Alabama fans, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, all the way up the line. The fans of the Southeastern Conference have such a passion for their universities, and such an interest about how the other schools in the SEC are doing on a day-to-day basis. It’s something that has been in demand for a long time. I don’t know if you remember, but after I was here for twelve years, I left LSU to go work at a station called College Sports Southeast, based in Birmingham. It was the exact same concept. It was led by a gentleman named Kirk Woods, who worked in multimedia at the University of Alabama for a long time and was trying to create this channel dedicated to sports in the southeast. Unfortunately he just did not have the financial backing to make it go, but it is exactly what the SEC Network is, exactly what he envisioned at that time about 13 or 14 years ago. So it’s something we hope to have in every home in the southeast. The fans can know what that channel is, just like they go to ESPN or CNN or whatever it is their interest is. Those people interested in the SEC have a channel to go to.
BL: Another thing I hear a lot of is, “Now LSU is going to have a guy at the table.” With your professionalism, I’m sure that’s not how you view it, but how do you respond to the notion that on things like permanent opponents, LSU is represented in Birmingham?
HV: Well I have had a lot of people stop me and say that. I got that when I was in Omaha. People would tell me, “Hey now you can tell our side of the story.” I don’t know that its as one-sided as everybody thinks it is. Having known the folks in the SEC office for a long time, and I know how it operates. But I do think they are glad to add a new campus perspective. When you work in a conference office for a while, you’re removed from the campus, and you lose a little bit of the perspective of what’s going on all over campus on a day-to-day basis. I think that is what I can bring, maybe not just LSU awareness, but also the campus influence and what’s going on with the campuses and how the decisions impact day-to-day lives of student athletes, the fans, and the administrators on the campuses. That’s not all I hope to bring, but if I could bring some perspective of the western side of the conference I will certainly do that as well.
BL: When you look back at the place you are leaving — obviously you are very fond of LSU — do you ever allow yourself to think what’s down the road, and do you have career ambitions that you think could one day take you back to Baton Rouge?
HV: I have always taken one job at a time, and I will miss this place a lot. I’ve told Joe Alleva and Mike Slive this during the process — I have never left a job I was perfectly happen in. And in this case that is what’s happening. I love it here. I love the people here. It’s a wonderful place to be. It’s the best job on a college campus you can find as far as I’m concerned. But this is an opportunity that I thought if I didn’t take it, it probably would not come around again. So it’s a new challenge and it’s a good time to move. My daughter is only seven years old, so she’s not too happy about this, but I think she can adjust. My wife has lived with me in Birmingham before, so she’s excited about it. It was a tough decision for us to make because we have invested a lot of time here at LSU, but this a good move. Like I said earlier, it’s something that doesn’t remove you completely from the relationships I have developed here at LSU. I can travel back here for games, just like I will go to games at other campuses. So I hope to see you and a lot of other people down the road and maintain those relationships.
BL: Do you think the average SEC fan knows just what they have in Mike Slive and how fortunate the conference is to have him?
HV: I’m not sure. The commissioner of a conference is such a lightning rod that it’s easy to blame him with things that individual fans aren’t pleased with. But when you look at what he has accomplished and where the SEC stands right now, the financial position he and his leadership team have put the SEC in, in a very important and critical time, is very remarkable. You don’t see schools leaving the Southeastern Conference. You see that happening other places. You see schools wanting to come to the Southeastern Conference, and in all the disruption of the conference realignments, the SEC has stayed steady. I think that is a real tribute to what was in place when all these changes started to take place. But a number of institutions realized how lucky they were to be in the Southeastern Conference, and it says a lot for Mike Slive’s leadership and those people around him.
BL: You’ve been there for so many big athletic moments. You could go from the earthquake game to the Loyola Marymount basketball game, to a lot of different things. Give me one or two moments that you will take with you as some of the more special things that happened while you were at LSU.
HV: I am not even sure where to start. There are all the ones you mentioned, the Warren Morris homerun, and the ‘97 Florida game. I think some of the ones I enjoyed the most are the Gerry DiNardo “Bring Back the Magic Tour.” I enjoyed being in the police car with Les Miles when we went up to the balcony on Bourbon Street after winning the national championship, seeing that and realizing what a historical moment that was. I have some fond memories from the Curley Hallman days. Looking back on those, as bad as they were, there were some interesting and humorous moments back then that some of the players share to this day. You can go all up and down the line. Even the worst of days at LSU are the best of days somewhere else. I have fond memories of this place, and I could go on and on about some of the things I have seen, witnessed, and been apart of. I’m just thankful for all of it.