ThePostGame recently caught up with the CBS broadcaster and former first-round draft pick of the Indiana Pacers. In addition to his work in the booth and as the Vice President of Player Relations for the Pacers, Kellogg is currently touring on behalf of the Capital One Cup, an NCAA Division I athletic award given annually to the top men's and women's college athletics program.
ThePostGame: By a lot of measures the Big Ten has become the top conference in the country. You played in the conference and have been around it for a while, is this the highest level of play you’ve ever seen from the Big Ten?
CLARK KELLOGG: I would have to look at some years way back beyond the last 10 or 12 to make that statement. Clearly it's one of the stronger years, particularly at the top. I think when you look at the top 10 teams, other than Nebraska and Penn State. Penn State suffered a terrible injury to Tim Frazier for the year, which really puts them in a tough spot. Nebraska is just trying to build its program on the basketball side.
But you look at those top 10 teams, you've got 6 of them that are ranked, and then Purdue is always going to fight and win some games that you don’t expect them to win. And Illinois has had a terrific start to the season in spite of being [2-4] in conference play right now. It's certainly as strong as it's been anytime in the last seven or eight years, I'd say.
TPG: Speaking of the top of the Big Ten, Indiana is having a spectacular season. They're near the top of the Big Ten and the Capital One Cup standings, along with North Carolina, Stanford and Maryland. What's your take on how that competition is going?
KELLOGG: We actually just released the fall standings, and North Carolina is leading the women's standings, along with Penn State. They're both tied atop the Capital One Cup Standings. On the men's side, we've got three teams that are locked in in first place: Alabama, Indiana and North Dakota State. Indiana won the men's soccer championship and Alabama and North Dakota State both won football championships.
That bodes well for what the race is going to look like as we go through the winter sports and then the spring sports. And ultimately we'll have a program on the men's and women's side that will earn the Capital One Cup Trophy and a combined $400,000 in student scholarships to go to the winning programs.
I'm looking forward to it, it's always a fun race. The last two years, we've had Florida win the men's Capital One Cup Trophy and Stanford win the women’s Capital One Cup Trophy. So we'll see if somebody can crash the party on those two schools.
TPG: It seems these days that the landscape of college athletics is really changing due to conference realignment. Conference realignment is driven mainly by football, but in your eyes what does the shifting conference scene mean for basketball?
KELLOGG: I'd first say it's a bit disheartening that this kind of movement is taking place at a rapid-fire pace and really across the country in a big way. I know there's been conference realignment and movement in the past, it's not something new, but it's happening far more frequently and with more schools being involved.
And that's disheartening on some levels. You lose some rivalries and you lose the natural geographic connections between leagues. It certainly smells of money grabs because these conferences and schools are trying to position themselves for the best TV contracts they can get. Obviously all of that is part of the equation, and we're part of it. We at CBS and the other folks that carry college sports are involved in wanting to have the best competition that we can have on the air.
It's a situation of multiple dynamics. As far as how it impacts basketball, it's gonna have an effect. I'm not sure exactly to what degree, I think the top teams that have perennially been top teams are going to continue to be based on resources, success and tradition. They’re going to continue to excel, it's just a matter of where they’ll be excelling now as the conference arrangements shift.
I'm not quite ready to say it's terrible and awful, we'll see how it plays out. But clearly it's changing some of the natural boundaries that once existed. But that's where we are, and we just have to kind of adjust to it and recognize that there's not a whole lot that any of us can do to stiff the tide. That's the way the train is moving right now.
TPG: Switching gears to your work with the Indiana Pacers, a lot of people might not be familiar with what you do for the organization. For those who don’t know, how long have you been with the team, and what are your responsibilities?
KELLOGG: Well, I've had multiple positions. I was drafted here back in 1982 as a player and spent five years doing that before knee injuries cut short my career. After retiring back in 1987, I started my broadcasting career with the Pacers. I did radio for the Indiana Pacers for two seasons and then just finished 24 years of Indiana Pacers television two years ago.
Three years ago I took a job as Vice President of Player Relations, and that's the role that I serve now in terms of helping our players in their development and growth away from basketball. Community involvement, self-education, basically helping our guys develop in areas away from the game that will serve them while they're playing but also prepare them for when the ball eventually stops bouncing.
I'm more than busy between college hoops broadcasting and my work as a Vice President of Player Relations here with the Indiana Pacers, in addition to my role as Advisory Board Member of the Capital One Cup. As my wife says, "You've got too many jobs."
TPG: You've spent a lot of time with some very talented basketball players, including the President of the United States. How would you rate his basketball skills and knowledge of the game?
KELLOGG: I would give him high marks in both. Really high marks. He has a tremendous passion for the game and knowledge of it. You can tell he’s more than just a fan of the game, he's a student of the game and a player of the game. I have not played an actual game with him, but I've seen clips and I’ve heard from people that have. They say he knows what he’s doing out there, he understands the way to play. I can tell from my interaction with him that he's definitely got a sweet left-handed jump shot. There's no question about that, as he was able to take me down in a game of P-O-T-U-S we played a few years ago. And that was legit, he can shoot it.
He actually wasn't bad at talking a little trash while he was shooting. I have great respect for him as our Commander-in-Chief and President of the United States, but he raised my level of respect even more when he started spitting a little trash at me while he was knocking down jumpers.
TPG: Are there any plans for a P-O-T-U-S rematch in the works?
KELLOGG: [laughs] I think his plate is extremely full as he embarks on this second term and looking to make an impact on the lives of those of us here in the country and around the world. So if it happened I would welcome it, but if it doesn't I would certainly understand.