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Interview: ESPN’s Laura Rutledge discusses Florida, new show, “football prenup,” and impending parenthood

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The multi-platform ESPN star is busier than ever.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Sugar Bowl - CFP Semifinal - Alabama v Clemson Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When last Alligator Army spoke with Laura Rutledge, the University of Florida alumna and SEC Network broadcaster was busy as all get out — and that was before she was installed as host of The Moment with Laura Rutledge and announced she was expecting her first child. With a baby on the way, a new show on the air and the task of covering arguably the most potent conference in college football, she gracefully balances a full plate.

This week, new Alligator Army contributor Payton Titus had the opportunity to chat with Rutledge and discuss her fall season, along with some trade secrets pertaining to college football and juggling many hats.

Payton: After last weekend’s game against Miami, what are you looking forward to as college football starts back up?

Laura: I’m just glad that college football is back. It always feels like it’s just way too long until the next college football season. Week Zero was really a gift for college football fans like myself because it means they get to see college football a week early. Hopefully we’ll see that happen again.

As for Florida, I think there (are) a lot of question marks following that game. The one highlight is that it was a win. That’s always good. There are definitely things offensively that they need to work out. I think the good thing is that they’ve got a win under their belts; They’ve got a couple of weeks to figure those things out. There’s a lot to walk away from and say, “Okay, this can be adjusted; This needs to be fixed.”

There were some highlights from Feleipe Franks -- lowlights as well. There are a lot of things they can work on. I feel great about Florida’s defense. A lot of credit is deserved to Todd Grantham and the different looks that he brought (to the program). He’ll continue to really make quarterbacks uncomfortable throughout this year.

With four SEC schools ranked in the top 10 and teams like Auburn with schedules chock-full of ranked opponents, what does SEC Network plan on doing to make the most of the conference’s dominance this season? Do you have any predictions for SEC football this year such as teams or players to watch out for?

Yes, SEC Network is always profiling the dominance of the SEC. Thankfully, for the network, ever since its inception in 2014, we’ve had lots of dominance to talk about. Now a lot of it has had to do with Alabama, but we have had Alabama and Georgia both in the national championship game and a large presence in the College Football Playoff. I think this year will be no different. Once again, (we are) seeing teams that have a chance to be dominant on a national level out of the SEC.

I put Florida in that mix. (They’re) going to have to get some things fixed as I mentioned before, but I do feel that if you look at Florida’s path it all runs through Jacksonville. They’re going to meet Georgia and going to handle their business. But let’s say they get to the SEC Championship Game and are at that point they’re undefeated. Or maybe some havoc’s happened elsewhere and they’re in the mix for the College Football Playoff.

I think that’s when Florida fans will be really, really, really thrilled because that would be huge. Even if they’re just playing spoiler to Georgia, that’d be something that I think a lot of Florida fans would be excited about.

If I look around the SEC at a team that we should have our eye on that not as many people are talking about, I would point to Missouri. Especially for Florida, they could be a team that might contend a little in the East. I still think Florida (will be) the biggest challenge to Georgia. From a Missouri standpoint, a lot of (why Missouri could be a dark horse this season) has to do with the quarterback spot with Kelly Bryant -- I think they’re going to be good there.

As far as a break-out player or somebody that I think people should be paying more attention to, I would say Kadarius Toney on Florida’s team. He could be profiled and featured even more than he was against Miami to start the season.

A couple of months ago, you announced that you and your husband (former MLBer Josh Rutledge) were expecting. Congratulations! How do the two of you plan on balancing parenthood and career? How’s the Buffalo Wild Wings football prenup the two of you signed going to help with that?

Our football prenup (thanks to Buffalo Wild Wings) is going to be a huge help with everything that we have going on this fall.

It’s always a little difficult for us because Josh always roots for Alabama and I, of course, am looking at all the Florida games and wanting to watch all of them. We want each other to watch with us, so it’s always a battle (over) the remote.

Now, we have everything figured out. I have to watch every Alabama game with Josh but he has to watch every Florida game with me, which is going to be great.

When our baby gets here, we’re going to be balancing that as well. The thing is that she hasn’t signed a prenup at all. We’re going to have to sit down and she is going to have to make her own choice. I am sure that she will choose Florida because why wouldn’t she? We will have to include her as well.

You have to go and check out the prenup at www.footballprenup.com. It’s so much fun and there are all these ways to customize your agreement with your significant other. I really think you can solve a lot of problems in football-loving households.

Your fan-experience show The Moment with Laura Rutledge recently premiered on SEC Network. What do you want viewers to know about and take away from the series?

The whole idea of The Moment just came from me realizing that we don’t have enough positivity on television. The whole point is giving a fan an experience they couldn’t get otherwise. We wanted to reach out to the fans in the SEC and see what kind of stories they have. We got so many great submissions so we’re hoping to do more shows.

Telling their stories and giving them really special moments is kind of the whole point. I think what I wanted to come across in all of this was just how much we care about the fans throughout the SEC. It was very special to meet and be able to send time with these people and watch their faces as their surprise throughout. We are pumped.

We’ve got our next episode airing at 7:30 PM EST on Friday, August 30. This next one is about Alabama. The first one was about Tennessee. If you’re wondering when your school will be featured, it’s just a matter of time. We have some great stories for every SEC school. It’s really, really exciting stuff.

It’s no secret that sports media is a predominantly male industry. What advice would you offer young women aspiring for a career in the field?

I think the biggest thing is getting experience. It’s so important to marry your classwork and everything that you’re doing at (school) with some other experience that you can get.

While I was in school, I did mostly radio; I did a little bit of TV; really just anything that came my way I was saying yes to it. I tried doing some production work in a production truck and the editing side of television just to get the experience. I think that’s the biggest thing.

The other thing too is staying as up-to-date on every single thing in sports that you possibly can and being open. You (need to) say, “Hey, I may not be the biggest fan of lacrosse. But that might be my ‘in’ in sports media so I’m going to become an expert in lacrosse and put in that research.”

So much of what’s going on in sports media now has to do with being versatile – first and foremost – and being knowledgeable. Combining those two things in your time in college and in preparing for your career is the best way to have a lot of success.

This season, the ACC is launching their counterpart to SEC Network, ACC Network. As someone with experience covering ACC and SEC football, what excites you about this shift in the media to conference specific coverage?

I love it! I think it’s so cool. There really is an appetite for every conference. We’ve seen (interest) get big. I think one of the things that allowed the SEC Network to be so successful had to do with the people that were hired not only in front of the camera, but behind the scenes as well. We’ve got such a good team of people and the same is to be said for the ACC Network.

It’s exciting for them and it’s going to be an opportunity for a lot of young broadcasters. One of my favorite things about these conference networks, and this is specific to the SEC and ACC Networks, is that the broadcasting of a lot of the games are done out of control rooms at these different schools around the conference. We do that for the SEC Network and that is also going to be the plan for the ACC Network.

It’s just a great opportunity for young people and something that I certainly wish I had when I was in school. (These opportunities are) really a product of these conference networks. It isn’t talked about enough, but I really appreciate the chances that it gives to people who are in school and really do want this new experience.

Legitimately, these school control rooms are going to be responsible for getting those games on the air. It’s cool to know what kind of hands-on experience is going to be coming out of these (schools).