The Tim May Podcast.

Tim May Podcast

Kirk Herbstreit details career journey, new book, college football landscape

COLUMBUS — The offseason is still full of storylines this time of year for Ohio State, and the Tim May Podcast is here with another episode to break it all down with a huge guest.

Tim welcomes Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward on the show to talk about some of the most intriguing storylines about the Buckeyes as they prepare to head into spring practice next week.

Tim also welcomes on former Ohio State quarterback and now-national college football commentator Kirk Herbstreit to discuss his new book, what name, image and likeness legislation means for Ohio State and college football, how the college football landscape is shifting and much more.

Don’t miss the latest edition.

Transcript of Tim May’s interview with Kirk Herbstreit:

Tim May:

And as promised, ladies and gentlemen, welcoming Kirk Herbstreit back to the Tim May podcast. How are you doing Kirk?

Kirk Herbstreit:

I’m doing good, bud. How are you?

Tim May:

I’m doing great, man. I talked to you a couple of times last year. I appreciate you coming on my podcast. Any chance I get to have you on, you’re always, well, everybody knows who you are, but everybody knows your expertise, et cetera. But, the reason I’ve got you on today is I got this alert last week by email that you’ve got a book coming out that you co-wrote with Gene Wojciechowski, One of the great journalists we’ve had covering college football for a long, long time. And I just wanted to jump right into that real quick. What was the spur that got you going on wanting to get something out there book-wise?

Kirk Herbstreit:

I’ve been asked by a number of people over the years to potentially write a book. I’ve never obviously written one. I didn’t know all that went into it. And I just put it on the back burner. I just never really thought, maybe when I retired, I’d maybe look at it. Gene came to me about a year or two ago and asked me if I had any interest in doing it. I kind of told him the same thing. I said, “Man, maybe down the road. And if I do, I’d love for you to be involved.” Because I have such respect for him. And so, it was almost a year ago right now when COVID really hit and everybody just quarantined and shut down. In my case, my boys came back from Clemson. My other two boys were already here. This was back when it first started, like how are we going to get groceries? Nobody was going anywhere and you didn’t really leave your house there for a few weeks.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And he called me about a week or two after that and said, “Hey, would you have any interest in maybe revisiting it?” I don’t know why, I just said yeah. I said, “Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow? Who knows what’s going on with our lives right now. Let’s maybe look at it and let’s talk about what we’d want to do.” Because there’s a variety of different themes you could do. You could do a season of College GameDay. You could do a lot of different things, coaches, players. But we just decided to talk a little bit about where my life started, basically in Trotwood, Ohio, and just go through some of my life lessons and some of the trials and tribulations that I’ve lived through, not just as an athlete, but coming from a divorced family and having a lot of dysfunction within my family that I’ve had to endure and how I managed that.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Being painfully shy, when I first sat down with you, by then I’d played high school quarterback, and I had some experience with guys like Chick Ludwig at the Dayton Daily News, and some of the local TV stations, so I at least had gotten some reps. But I’m talking about if they asked me to stand up in fifth grade and give a speech, that was the worst possible thing you could do to me. So just to go from that to now, I speak in front of millions of people on an average fall weekend with college football. So it was a lot on just my journey, and then of course we get into the sports part of it as well.

Tim May:

Yeah. I think you’ve got a lot of family stuff in there too, like you pointed out. And I’m just wondering, was having all your family back under one roof, was that kind of a spur too? Because I would think at this moment in your life, you’re always going to get criticism if you talk too bad about Alabama or Ohio State or Texas or somebody. You understand what I’m saying?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

But, having them all under one roof and how blessed your life has been, especially from a family situation, your own family. It gives you goosebumps a little bit, doesn’t it?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah, yeah. I think I was about eight years old when my mom and dad got a divorce. And then, I went to a different school almost every year. I think I ended up going from second grade to ninth grade, I think I went to a new school about every year, with just a lot of different moves. My mom remarried. I went from Trotwood to Centerville, to Franklin, Ohio, to Cincinnati, Wyoming, back to Centerville. And for a guy who’s really shy, that’s a really hard thing to manage. And then my ninth grade year, my mom and my dad decided to move in together after all that they’d both been remarried and divorced and full circle came back. And just as friends, not to be a couple, but just for me to have some semblance of normalcy, they decided for my high school years to live together. And they did, and it was an amazing experience for me after going through some of the headaches I went through from third, fourth grade, all the way into high school.

Tim May:

Dude, dude that’s crazy though. That’s crazy. Like you just pointed out a while ago, to think about you, afraid to stand up in a fifth or sixth grade class, maybe even to say your name, Ki-Kirk Herbstreit.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I was terrified.

Tim May:

Dude. I don’t know, man.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I don’t know. I’d ask you, I think you’re born with that. I think you’re either-

Tim May:

I don’t know.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I feel like you’re born as an introvert. I’m just an introvert by nature. That’s just how I’m wired. And so, when you’re that way… The only time I would ever open up is if I was within my circle of buddies, then I’d feel like I could be myself and not worry about it. But if I didn’t know the people in a room, or I wasn’t real comfortable with them, and I had to stand up, my face would get immediately red. And I’d just feel heat. It’s more of an uncomfortable feeling than anything. Almost, I guess, like social anxiety. And the only way I really got through it was talking to guys like you, and doing interviews, and getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And I think doing it rep after rep, after rep, after rep, by the time I was a senior at Ohio State, and I would sit there and I’d have, you were there, there’d be anywhere from 15, 20, 30 reporters around me with all these cameras and microphones and the old cassette tapes that you guys would have just pointed at me. And I got to a point where I was really comfortable doing that. That was really a turning point, I think for me, on a personal level. I still wasn’t comfortable giving us nearly a speech, but I could at least get up and talk about, “Hey, John Cooper thinks this, this or that, or what do you think about playing Michigan or Syracuse or whatever?” I could at least stand up, and be confident, and be comfortable talking about whatever we were talking about. And for me, that was a long way from where I was years before that.

Tim May:

Yeah. But at least by then finally and blessedly, you’d been named the starting quarterback at Ohio State. We all went through… We could talk forever, but that would be another-

Kirk Herbstreit:

I tell you, man, the hardest part was being honest about Elliot Uzelac And Ron Hudson in the book. I feel like, and Gene taught me this, I’ve always been a guy that tries to say the right thing. I’ve always been a guy that’s tried to… even, going after people. And I had to be honest about that 1990, 1991, a lot of it was me, a lot of it was on me and my skill level and where I was. But, I wouldn’t wish those two on my worst enemies as far as their style and how they handle players. I was honest about them.

Tim May:

Yeah, I was going to say, man, you lived through the Robert Smith episode and everything else. There was a lot going on there behind the scenes. I had several coaches on our staff who took a while for them to ever like me again, because we were writing about stuff that was right in front of you and stuff. But it’s really funny, Ron Hudson… I remember Nick Cochran threw a touchdown pass in a spring game one year and I went down and you know how we talk, [inaudible 00:09:16] you guys way back then, remember? And I said, “Yeah, what you think about that?” He was mad at Nick Cochran for throwing that pass. And I go, “Why are you mad?” He goes, “Well, that won’t be open in a real game.” I just went, “What in the hell is he talking about?” Poor Nick.

Kirk Herbstreit:

A really quick story that we actually put in the book. So my senior year, you’ll remember this, we opened up with Louisville home game. Students weren’t on campus yet. And you know how it is at Ohio stadium, when the students aren’t on campus and you’re playing a team you’re supposed to beat, it’s kind of a flat atmosphere. And we did just enough.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah, we did just enough. And they were actually a good team. Jeff Brahm was the quarterback. We did just enough to hold on to beat them. The next week we played Gary Blackney in Bowling Green. Bowling Green ended up, I think 10 and 1 that year. They were a really good team. We lose Galloway to an ACL. We lose Allen Klein, Robert Smith cracks ribs. I hurt my ankle.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

We had a lot of problems go on, but we just get through Bowling Green. So we, at home, beat Louisville, at home beat Bowling Green. We’re basically getting booed off the field at our own stadium and we’re 2 and 0, and we’re going to Syracuse and nobody gives us a chance to play Syracuse. They’re a top 5 or top 10 team.

Tim May:

Not only that, they had beaten you guys in the Outback Bowl the previous year.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. Almost the whole team was back, Marvin Graves and that kind of group. And so opening drive, I’m shot up pretty good on my ankle. I can’t really feel my leg. Opening drive, we had through film studies seen that their free safety when they went single high, he came down really aggressively on play action. So it was just one of those, throw it up and hope the safety comes up. There’s really not a read or a check down. It’s just sell the fake hard to Raymont. I think it was Raymont Harris. I think my backfield, Robert Smith, Raymont Harris, Eddie George, were my [crosstalk 00:11:21].

Tim May:

That’s pretty good. Pretty good lineup.

Kirk Herbstreit:

So it was a hard play fake from about the 50. And just basically take two hitches and throw it as far and as high as you can. And the safety actually did not come up that far. So he was enabled to get back in position, but I still was supposed to throw it up and hope that Brian Stablein can go out and make a play. And he did. Stablein was so gifted as an athlete, went up and over, made a play, and we scored. And here we are supposed to get blown out. First series we’re up seven, nothing and our sidelines… You know how when you have a chip on your shoulder because you’re told you can’t win a game. We were so unified that game. I’m over the sideline and everyone’s cussing and yelling, “I told you. I told you we could do this.”

Kirk Herbstreit:

And I go over to the phone. The quarterback guy said, “Hey, Coach Hudson wants to talk to you.” I pick up the phone. I’m like, “Yeah coach, what’s up?” And he’s like, “All right. All right. All right. All right. Settle down, settle down.” And he’s like, “Listen, let’s go back to that second down on that tight end, that drag. What were you thinking?” And I looked at this phone and I was like, after all I’d been through with him, I go, “F you.” And I hung up the phone. Didn’t talk to him the rest of the game.

Tim May:

Are you kidding? You never told me that story.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:12:44] how can you possibly? What made me think of that, was you saying Nick Cochran threw a touchdown pass and you went down to say, “Boy, what a great throw by Nick.” And he’s like, “Ah, what’s he thinking? That’s not going to be open in a game.” It’s like, what are you talking about?

Tim May:

I know, exactly. Crazy. I’m surprised you survived all that. Hey, real quick though. I didn’t want to touch on this with you. I don’t know if you touch on it in the book, but I remember talking to Gene about it, because I haven’t seen the book yet. I remember like it was five minutes ago, when you guys came trotting out for practice the day you were told Kent Graham was going to be the starting quarterback. And I remember y’all were doing special teams, warm ups, and you were catching the snaps for the field goal. And man, I already knew… No offense, I was a really good reporter back then. I already knew what you’d been told. You know?

Tim May:

But I could see it. And I just watched you and I just watched the disappointment. You catch a snap and you put it down and you kind of looked at the ground and stuff. How tough was that to go through as an athlete? You were the superstar coming into Ohio State. Really, you were. You were that first big commitment to John Cooper and stuff. But how tough was that, year to year, to year, being told you weren’t the guy they wanted to lead the team, and then compared-

Tim May:

Guy they wanted to lead the team. Then compare that with the exaltation you had when you were finally told you were that. I’m sure that’s maybe a lesson you touched on in the book or at least go through?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. I mean, I came in … When I signed, it was like, “Oh, we got this Herbstreit kid out of Centerville. He’s going to start for four years. Lead the Rose bowls.” It was that kind of feeling. I’ll be honest with you, I was coming out of a triple option attack, wishbone attack. All my movements were down the line and reading the front. [inaudible 00:14:36] when I play in Jim Colorado’s offense and it’s like a West coast offense we’re dropping back. It’s one thing to think how you think as an 18, 19 and 20 year old. It’s another thing to think about it when you look back and think about it 30 years later. I’ll be really honest with myself, and I always am, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to play as a freshman.

Kirk Herbstreit:

It was a humiliating experience when you come in with those kinds of expectations and you are perceived to fall flat on your face. My wheels were spinning. Those first two or three years I was getting just very, very cynical. I was getting upset. I was down on myself. I wanted to give up on the game. I wanted to go play baseball. I just didn’t want to do it anymore by my third year. We played air force that year in a bowl game, that was my one saving grace is that we ran air force as offense in high school. So I requested to go back down to the scout team for the air force game so I could run that triple option to try to get our defense ready and had a lot of fun and a lot of success that bowl prep getting ready. But I’d really mentally, already checked out if I’m being, again, honest. I was done after my third year.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Jim Colletto, he would go on to lead, but he was just a lot to deal with for me. He’s kind of a smart ass type of guy. When you weren’t living up to the expectations he was tough to deal with. So I went to my dad who played at Ohio State and was a captain coached with Woody and told him, “I think this is it for me.” He didn’t get upset or anything, but he encouraged me to give it another spring. That I’d come too far to give up on it. He wanted me to keep battling. I’m glad he gave me that advice because it wasn’t like, “You’re not going to quit! You don’t quit, we’re Herbs-”

Kirk Herbstreit:

It was nothing like that. It was more encouragement. It was more from love, not more out of, “You’re an embarrassment. What are you doing?” It wasn’t like that at all. So I went through the spring and Kent Graham was there and Joe Pickens was the latest crown jewel coming in out of Cleveland St. Ignatius. I was that forgotten guy. Well, I worked my ass off to get better as a passer and went into it. Ron Hudson said, “Listen, nobody’s got a starting job, Greg Frey’s gone. We’re going to track every seven on seven throw. We’re going to track every team throw. We’re going to look at those numbers and based on that, that’s how we’re going to make a decision throughout spring and in the summer.” So I went back to my old style.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I was now invested again. I hadn’t been in three years. Now I was back to being like, “I can do this.” I really was. I was to a point where I was able to make most of the throws in our offense. So to to feel like I performed with Kent, maybe above him, throughout that spring and even into summer, and then to be told, “You’re not going to get it.” It just felt it was predetermined. The thing that kept me going is guys like Bernard Edwards, guys that were on our team that really wanted me to be the guy. With all due respect to Kent, he had a wife, he had a baby. He was a man, a young man.

Tim May:

Yeah, and he had transferred there from Notre Dame [crosstalk 00:17:58] go ahead.

Kirk Herbstreit:

He wasn’t one of the guys, hanging out and doing stuff that we all did. He just wasn’t at that stage of his life. So I had a lot of comradery with the fellows, with the guys. When I was in the huddle, man, I was talking to him like, I was like, “Let’s do this thing.” They just seem to feed off of that. So I got some opportunities early my junior year, Washington State, Kent got hurt and I started against Drew Bledsoe and performed pretty well. Kent still was kind of the guy and he would play some and I would come in. Anyway, that went on most of the year like that. But I feel like the disappointment you’re talking about is when you feel like you reinvested and you put everything into it and you performed as well.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Then to be told, “We’re going with the other guy.” It was just another kick in the ribs. But thankfully my teammates, that’s what really got me through that is I was so close to becoming the guy that it wasn’t like, “Another disappointment screw and I’m out of here.” It was, I wanted to accelerate it. I wanted to push even harder because of the way my teammates were encouraging me and really making me feel like they wanted me to be the guy. That’s why I kept pushing. Then it all paid off towards the-

Tim May:

Oh, I was going to say, the funny thing about it was I thought Ohio State’s offense had moved more toward your strengths anyway, after [Cleto 00:19:33] Left. Because Cleto ran basically pro-style passing attack. You remember that? I mean, it was interesting. I mean, he was an interesting dude that is for sure, you’re right about that. But that’s why I thought it was almost … Because I like Kent Graham to this day. He’s one of my favorite guys ever. But so are you. It’s really funny, but it’s almost like, “Hey, this guy transferred here from Notre Dame, blah, blah, blah. Benefit of the doubt. He is more of the stand in the pocket thrower, even though that’s not what we’re doing anymore.” But I just thought it was so poetically strange or poisoning that you finally are named the starting quarterback in ’92 and then you sprain your ankle.

Tim May:

Dude, people don’t remember watching you play, you had some wheels, my friend. You had elusive moves, etc. To sprain an ankle, that’s like taking your left arm and tying around your back or something. Right? Did you feel that way?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. I mean, I had that high ankle sprain my entire pretty much-

Tim May:

Doesn’t go away, yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

What’s was amazing is going, back to my high school years, I’ve watched Michigan quite a bit. Michigan and Notre Dame in those years when they would get into short yardage and goal line situations, they would go into a wishbone look and they would run the triple option with Jim Harbaugh and Tony rice. So when I was at Ohio state, finally my senior year, I went up to Joe Hollis who took over for LAU Slack as the offensive coordinator. This was before I got hurt. Jeff [Kauthern 00:21:03] was a really talented tailback who had grown into a fullback. I said, “Hey, coach …” Like in early June, I said, “Coach, if I work with Jeff on that mesh,” I said, “Do you think we could implement some triple option? Could you imagine defense? It takes a whole week to get ready to defend a triple option, a true triple option. You just don’t have the time. So if you’re getting ready for all the other stuff we’re doing, now you got to get ready for a triple in the short yardage and goal line.”

Kirk Herbstreit:

He goes, “I love that idea. If you and Jeff work really hard and get really, really prolific at it, we’ll put it in. We’ll put it in, in those short yardage and goal line situations.” I was so fired up because it was a wrinkle no one has ever heard of or seen at Ohio state. It was wheelhouse for me, it was very natural for me. I just had to get Jeff, for people that don’t know in a triple option you put … It’s really like modern football today with zone read.

Kirk Herbstreit:

You put the ball into the belly of the fullback and you’re not looking at him, you’re both looking at the Reed. Usually that first defense alignment outside of the guard. So you put that ball in there, you’re looking right at him and you ride the fullback. If that guy commits down to the fullback, to Jeff Kauthren, you pull it out and then you go to the end man on the line of scrimmage and you would pitch off of him or fake a pitch and run. If he stays wide, you just hand it off to Jeff. It’s really, if it’s run right, you can’t defend it. Especially if you don’t spend time during your week of practice. So I got Jeff, Jeff is such a great guy. Jeff would work hard on it in the summer. We got to a point where we were really starting to feel good about it and we weren’t going to really show it in the Louisville and Bowling Green game. Then I ended up really tearing my ankle up and part of my Achilles. I’m just trying to limp through.

Kirk Herbstreit:

So we never really could implement that part of our offense. Which I think would have been a game changer, really. If I were 100% healthy and able to run it with Jeff.

Tim May:

I thought it was pretty funny, you were all healthy your first four years there. Then your senior year, you get hurt basically, but now you’re their guy. It’s pretty funny. Because man, I’ll never forget that day like two years earlier when John Cooper came walking up with you and, well y’all walked up to me and said, Coach Cooper said, “Tim, Kirk’s got something to tell you.” He goes, “He’s going to be …” I’m just paraphrasing here, “But we’re moving him from a quarterback to safety.” I think it was. You were like, you were giving me this half assed gung-ho look. Of course, I think two weeks later you were back at quarterback. But you were trying to get on the field for Ohio State, right?

Kirk Herbstreit:

I was and I started to cover kickoffs and scout team. I had so much rage and anger in me, even on the scout team and kick off coverage to think that this is where the five star guy two years later is. He’s on a scout team covering kickoffs. I was really upset. So I was covering these kickoffs and scout team, basically like a wedge buster, just running down. I was a big guy. I was 6’3″, 230lbs that could run a 46. So I’m running down there as hard as I can. I’m not afraid to hit people. I was hitting people. Then they ended up saying, “Man, let’s put him into the game and let him cover a kickoff.” So I started covering kickoffs like a mad man hitting people.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I wouldn’t move to safety yet. I was still just a quarterback. Then that’s when John Cooper pulled me into his office after a couple of games of covering kickoffs in real games, making some tackles. He said, “Herbie, we love you. We think you’re a big athletic guy that we’re wasting on the bench. We feel like you can help us. We’re going to move you over to safety. We want you to buy into that if that’s something you’ll consider.” I was like, “Yeah.” At that point I was like, “Man, coach I’ll do anything. I just want to play. I just want to play.” So I went over there and Beau Pollini was the starting free safety. God bless Beau. I mean, he was trying as best as he could to try to coach me up.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Brunswick was a defensive back coach. We had Benny Clark and all these really talented guys and I’m sitting here, I hadn’t played defense since I was in fifth or sixth grade. I’m sitting there trying to backpedal and do these drills. Like you said, now I had bigger shoulder pads. I was wearing these red Newman gloves, back in those days. It lasted about a week and a half and I was just like, “You know what? As much as I can’t stand Ron Hudson, I think I want to go back and be a quarterback again.”

Tim May:

Hey listen here, because we don’t have much time left, but I just want to say, what are the lessons you, in your book with Gene, what are the lessons you think you teach in there? Is it about perseverance? Is it about you know who you are more than the guy maybe coaching you? What are those lessons you pass along your four boys? I mean, you’ve been blessed, like I said, I mean with a great family. Just what have you pushed on them more than anything else about your athletic experience?

Kirk Herbstreit:

I heard a pastor one time say, “You’re either in the middle of a storm, you’re coming out of a storm, or you’re heading into a storm.” I think that’s just life, right? I mean, we live in the world of adversity as adults. That was my first real adversity that I had to cope with and manage. That’s why when we talk about opting out, when I see players opting out, and a lot of times just instantly going to another school. I can only speak on my experience. What I went through was hell, what I went through was not easy. What I went through was embarrassing and humiliating. Yet my dad’s encouragement, my dad’s not, “You’d better get your ass back in there.” It wasn’t that, it was encouragement and belief and my teammates, belief in me got me to the other side.

Kirk Herbstreit:

So my lesson that I learned was exactly what you’re talking about is perseverance and not giving up when things go sideways and keep doing the right thing and keep trusting it and keep working at it. Whether you end up becoming the starter and a captain and most inspirational player, I mean, I was fortunate on the back end of my journey all those things that happened on my back end. But if that wouldn’t have happened, I wonder where I would be as far as I would have been proud of myself I think that I lived through it. I fought through it. I didn’t give up. I think because of the way my-

Kirk Herbstreit:

… give up. And I think, because of the way my teammates and my really tight circle of family and friends, they were proud of me, more than anything, because I didn’t go play baseball, I didn’t transfer. I got out of that cynical way of living, that I was living, those first three years. And I hope people… these players that decide, wow, the coach yelled at me, the coach made me get up at six in the morning. This isn’t the place for me. I’m going to leave. I think we’re really cheating these kids out to give them these automatic, basically, get out of jail free card, because that’s not how life’s going to be.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

You’re going to have differences with your boss. You’re going to have differences with your wife. You’re going to have differences with your children. You got to learn how to cope with those things and manage those things and work through those things. And I just, I worry in college football right now, that we’re teaching kids, “Hey, when the going gets tough, just transfer.”

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

“And go to another school.” And so, I hope more and more people will try to get fight through it and keep trying to find a positive.

Tim May:

Yeah, you’re getting my yang, man, because I was going to… I was going to dovetail right into that. With the one-time transfer rule is coming down the pike, name, image, and likeness, which is another… And I’m not knocking it, because I’ve always thought, big time college football and basketball players do bring in revenue now, without a doubt, that wasn’t there, even when you were playing.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

And there’s no doubt that they should share, somewhere in that pie, they should get some of the filling. You know what I mean?

Kirk Herbstreit:

[inaudible 00:29:45].

Tim May:

But even that’s getting something now that, usually, in the old days or whatever, you had to kind of wait on, remuneration reward for one of another term and stuff. And just touched on that real quick. Kirk, do you feel like this is sort of a, I don’t know, a crossroads era we’re going to be going through? What’s just, your take on it?

Kirk Herbstreit:

I think this is the most critical time in my lifetime, maybe ever, for the sport, for the NCAA. And really, if you just take the NCAA out of it, just college football. I was with Saquon Barkley the other night at an event where he and I were speaking. And we were just talking about how players are skipping bowl games, not just the Bluebonnet-type of bowl that’s a third or fourth tier-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

… but, the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl or the Orange Bowl when they’re not in the rotation. And I just feel like we, forgetting the players for a second, we, meaning you and your coverage and me and my coverage, we are all so guilty. And especially, at ESPN, on a national level, of focusing on the playoff, the playoff-

Tim May:

Oh, yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

…. the play off that we’ve gotten away from like, Iowa might be playing, I don’t know, Michigan in a really interesting game, as far as those two teams and where they might finish in their season. They’re not close to a playoff maybe, but, man, it’s Iowa and it’s Michigan, and it’s a Kinnick. And it’s a night game and it’s going to be hyped up. We need to celebrate that kind of game.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Or Mississippi State’s playing Kentucky. I don’t know. And it’s, both these teams are off the grid, as far as the playoff but, boy, from Mark Stoops and what he’s building in Lexington, and what’s going on in [inaudible 00:31:30], that’s a great game. I feel like we’ve gotten away from just celebrating the sport and just competitive games. And it’s, “Oh, it’s not about to playoff. Don’t worry about it. Who cares?” And it’s like, so we have taught this generation of players that opt out. Those games don’t matter. The only thing that matters is the playoff.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And so, I really hope that we, the people that kind of set the tone and create the opinions, will broaden our scope and talk more about the sport and what we all love about a football Saturday in Columbus, or wherever you happen to be. And we celebrate the sport, because I think we are getting these players… All the players think about is, “I’m going to go to Ohio State.” And I’m not saying all of them. “Going to go to Ohio State. I’m going to go to Michigan State. I’m going to go to Florida State three years.” “Three?” “Yeah. I’m going to go three years. Then I’m going to the NFL.”

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

“In the middle of that, I’m going to get some money.” And then they don’t dig any roots into their school. And they don’t bring their families back to the oval, and like, “Oh yeah, I had a class over here.” There’s just none of that. It’s just a pit stop to go… to try to get to the NFL.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Keep in mind, 2% make it to the NFL, and we’re throwing all of our eggs into that basket. So, I think we are, with name, image, and likeness, with players opting out, with players transferring, skipping bowl games, we got to take a big step back, as a sport and remember why we play college football. It’s not just about going to the NFL. And I think when that’s the focus, and we get away from the experience and the education and the moments… I mean, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 on a college campus-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

… playing big-time, college football, a lot of times on national TV with your boys, I mean, are you kidding me? I’ve never interviewed an NFL player and have them say to me, “Man, I am so glad I’m done with college football. I would never want to go back there again. Every guy, you’ve done the same thing-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

… every single guy says, “What I would give to go back just one more time and play in that college campus, on that field for that team. Just one more time.”

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And these guys that are in college, they’re trying to get out, and everyone that’s left, they all want to come back in. These college players need to wake up and realize that they’ve got it pretty good.

Tim May:

Well, they’re not only trying to get out, but a lot of people around them are pushing, trying to get them out too. I mean-

Kirk Herbstreit:

[crosstalk 00:34:06].

Tim May:

… they all want to catch into being the contrail, the B52.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

It’s really interesting to me. It’s really funny, because hearing you talking here, I get charged up about college football, always have.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

And I was just… Everything you were saying there, people may not have seen, I was nodding at almost every point you were making. I’m just thinking back, Coastal Carolina, BYU is one of the great games you’re ever going to see-

Kirk Herbstreit:

[inaudible 00:34:30].

Tim May:

… this past year. Both of them were just trying to fight knocking on the door, “Hey, think about us in that final four thing.” But forget that, it was a hell of a football game.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. It’s like Ohio State, for example. If Ohio State makes a run, in a year-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Remember the year that they ended up coming a little bit short of the playoff and, they ended up going to the Cotton Bowl to play USC? And USC, they didn’t make it into the playoffs either-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

… and they ended up going to the Cotton Bowl. There was a percentage of fans that were like, “Oh, my God, what a terrible year.” Meanwhile, I think they played Sam Darnold-

Tim May:

They did.

Kirk Herbstreit:

If I’m not mistaken, and they ended up beating them, pretty convincingly. And it’s a… I don’t remember what year it was. What a great-

Tim May:

  1. I think ’17, but go ahead. Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

[crosstalk 00:35:15] great team that should be celebrated forever. And we’re to a point, “Ah, they didn’t make the playoff.” And it’s almost just like… So I think that we got to step back a little bit on, yeah, we all want to make a playoff. We all want to win the national championship. And when you’re at Ohio State, you should.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

But if you don’t make it, that’s still… It’s still okay.

Tim May:

Oh, yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

It’s still okay. It’s still a great year, and those players are still great players and they deserve a hundred percent support to get behind them. And I just feel like, you imagine if you don’t… You’re Ryan Day, you don’t make the playoff, it’s a fail…. you’re a failure.

Tim May:

Yeah. Hey, I talked about that last week, in the last couple of weeks, with Paul Finebaum, for example. I had him on and we were talking about, it’s like final four or bust. And the bust part, whether you liked Andy Geiger or not, he forecast this a long time ago, because he pointed out the fact that, college football is sort of a, at its guts, at its roots, is sort of a regional sport, in a lot of respects.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tim May:

There are very few national brands, and even two of the big… Maybe the two biggest national brands, going to Alabama and Ohio State, the viewership of that game, this past year was no… Of course, viewers just been down all across the board, because everybody’s got everything else going for them. But-

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

… But yeah, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water-

Kirk Herbstreit:

No.

Tim May:

… cliche here. And everybody… Now everybody’s pushing for four 18 playoff. I go… Really, you got to get the 14 thing figured out first-

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

… from an-

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

… [inaudible 00:36:45]. But I

Kirk Herbstreit:

[inaudible 00:36:45] when we were at two with a BCS-

Tim May:

Yes.

Kirk Herbstreit:

… every game… Those games in September, everybody was on the edge of their seat. Like-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

You can say whatever you want like, “Games matter or they don’t matter.” In that era, as much as we argued about computers shouldn’t be ranking teams, the one thing we all agreed on, is if Ohio State opened up with Oklahoma or whoever it might be, you felt like, “Oh my gosh. This is a huge game for Ohio State, or for whoever it might be.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And during the playoff era, I mean yeah, they’re big games, but you don’t… I don’t feel like that same sense of urgency that we had when we had the BCS. And if you go to eight or 12 or whatever you’re going to go to… I don’t know. I don’t know how we recapture the regular season mattering.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

[crosstalk 00:37:36].

Tim May:

My… Yeah. My famous point about that is, if you go… when you go to four, you got two or three teams that claim they should be in it. If you go to eight, there’s going to be eight or nine teams who think they should be number eight. You know what I mean?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

I mean, that’s… And if you go bigger than that, I mean, whatever, you’re going to throw everything else out that’s really made college football different. I mean, real… Hey, I know you don’t have much time. [inaudible 00:37:55] real quick… I’ve given you kudos privately and stuff, about this before, but I remember when you had the last mile scoop, way back when. Remember? Before they were playing in the SEC championship game, and you caught a lot of heat for that. In fact, you were very right, from everybody I’ve talked to about it and stuff, about him going to Michigan from LSU stuff.

Tim May:

What I’m getting to here is, just real quick, he’s in a lot of heat now. I’m talking about Les Miles is, and contrast that with Tom Allen sitting at Indiana. Indiana was probably the second best team in The Big 10 last year. Are you kidding? The big 10 got flipped upside down except for the team at the top.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. Yeah.

Tim May:

But just touch on those two things real quick. Les Miles, I mean, how serious a situation do you think this is, that Kansas has now put him on leave, et cetera, while they look into problems at LSU? And then Tom Allen, what’s your take on that?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. I mean the Les Miles thing, only thing I know is probably like you, just from what I’ve been reading, and it goes back to his days at LSU.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

It’s just sad to think that these are allegations, at this point. I don’t know if there’s truth to it or not. The reality is that, he’s been put on administrative leave for now. Jeff Long, who’s the AD there’s… I don’t know if Jeff’s going to be okay or not, based on everything you read. But clearly, Kansas is… People forget, you go back to 2007, I know there was a long time ago now, but, they had Mark Mangino. They were tough, man.

Tim May:

Oh, yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

They… And Glenn Mason. But they have been off the grid for a number… Turner Gill was there, Charlie Weis was there. David Beaty was there. Les Miles has been there. It’s almost like they’ve stopped playing football-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

… for the last decade. I mean, they’ve been way off. So I just feel bad. Anytime something like this goes down, I feel awful about it. On the other hand, Tom Allen… If you and I would have said that Tom Allen, when he took over for Kevin, that he was going to get them to this point-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I mean, he didn’t have any head coaching experience. He really didn’t know The Big 10-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

… that well. And Indiana’s always, for me, they’ve always kind of been like the equator of The Big 10. They might be at a five win season, they might be a six, seven. They’re just kind of-

Tim May:

That’s a good analogy

Kirk Herbstreit:

… [crosstalk 00:40:22] and that they don’t go too far down, they don’t go too far up, but they’re… Kevin did a really good job. Bill Mallory, years ago, did a really good job with them. But I didn’t know that they were capable of putting this kind of run together. And it just goes to show you where, I guess, we are in college football, if you can put a system together and build around a quarterback that has a certain skillset. But I think it’s bigger than that. When he stands up at a post-game meeting or a win, and he starts talking, Tim, to me-

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Some people may roll their eyes and guys crying, like Dick Vermeil, I think it’s genuine.

Tim May:

Oh, yeah. I do too.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And I think the reaction from his players when he talks about how much he loves them, even when they lost to Ohio State, the way they fought back, and he stood up in front of them after that game, we are not here for a moral victory. I mean, he just seems like a guy I’d want to play for.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

If you’re not a five-star, like we said, three and out to the NFL kind of guy, and you want to go somewhere and be a part of something special, I don’t know how you don’t look hard at Bloomington. So I don’t think this is a blip. I don’t think Indiana is going to pat them on the back, “Great job in 2020. We’ll see you back at the equator in 2021.” I don’t think so. I think they’ve been close with Kevin Wilson in the past. They’ve been close with Tom Allen and it’s the first time they finally got over the hump. And I don’t… I just don’t think they’re going to go away. He’s recruiting well. He’s got a heck of a roster coming back again this year.

Tim May:

Yep.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I think they’re paying him well. The facilities have been upgraded, like they have most places in The Big 10. But I’m a big fan of Tom Allen. Give me 10 second take on…

Kirk Herbstreit:

I’m a big fan of Tom Allen’s.

Tim May:

Ten second, give me ten second take on Jim Harbaugh. Do they get their act together? I mean football is such… People don’t understand, football is kind of like growing crops. If you get a great recruiting class, you get this early rising, what they call it a winter wheat and stuff. But what else has kind of come up in that field through the recruiting and stuff that’s going to materialize or what have you, you’re going to develop and stuff. And it really looks like Michigan took a big step back last year just from talent standpoint, et cetera. Has Jim Harbaugh do you think, does he have what it takes? I mean, I know you got to be a little political here because it is… You never know when somebody’s going to get it going. Indiana has got it going. Right?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah, yeah.

Tim May:

But just in 10 seconds, what do you think? What do you thinks coming?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Tell me the last great Michigan quarterback.

Tim May:

Yeah, there you go.

Kirk Herbstreit:

We are today building offenses around the quarterback and they’ve been okay and good enough at running back and okay and good enough at receiver and O-line, but they have not been elite at that position. And so we can talk Josh Gattis, we can talk Don Brown and defense, but to me, until you get that spot right, you’re swimming upstream. And I just feel like that’s the spot that they’ve got to get right. They’ve got some new young players are going to be coming up. We’ll see. They’re basically starting over.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

So it’s going to be two steps forward one step back still. But I hope they can get that spot right. If they do, then I think they have a chance to, everything can kind of quiet down for him.

Tim May:

Speaking of quarterback, and we’re out of here. This is the last thing, Ohio state’s got a derby. He’s going to have a derby going on in the spring. If spring can even be any semblance of springs in the past. CJ Stroud, obviously Jack Miller the third, [inaudible 00:43:55] the kid from Pennsylvania. The first two played little, if any, last year in relief of Justin Fields. But CJ Stroud ended up being it looked like number two at least when Justin had to go out of the game a couple of times. The kid coming in from Pennsylvania is extremely talented.

Tim May:

I know you keep up with this a little bit because it’s your roots. What would be number one, what do you see coming there? But number two, what would be your advice to these guys? We talk about the book a while ago and the lessons you’ve learned, et cetera, but what would be your advice?

Kirk Herbstreit:

I would spend as much time as humanly possible with Ryan Day. I mean, Ryan Day to me, I would put, I travel all over the country. I work with all these guys. Sark right now is a really hot brand. He went to Texas to take over working with quarterbacks at Alabama. Now he’s at Texas. What Lincoln Riley’s doing at Oklahoma speaks for itself, obviously. But I think Ryan Day right now, what he did with Dwayne Haskins, who had a completely different skillset than what he’s done with Justin Fields over these last two years.

Kirk Herbstreit:

So I feel like Ryan days becoming one of these quarterback whisperers. I can’t sit here with a crystal ball and tell you about these three guys, because all I’ve ever really seen them in is what you’ve seen is mop-up duty or high school highlights.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

But I can’t wait to see who gets a chance to kind of emerge after spring. That doesn’t mean he’s the guy, but Ryan Day’s going to put whoever that is with the skill that they have coming back at receiver, and I think they’re really still going to be really good at running back. Early, it’s going to be don’t lose the game from this position, be a distributor. And then I think as the season evolves and you get more experience and more confidence, then you can become part of the reason why you’re winning games. But early, it’s going to be about being smart, not turning the ball over, get the ball to the skill guys in space. And then I think as, like I said, like any quarterback, you get to week four, week five, week six, now you start creating, making plays and letting the game slow down a little bit.

Kirk Herbstreit:

But I have no idea who would be… I’m assuming, I don’t know you tell me, but it seems to me that the Stroud kid, because he was the backup more than likely have the early edge. But I think Ryan Day’ll open it up.

Tim May:

Oh he said so. Yep.

Kirk Herbstreit:

[inaudible 00:46:21] guys, turn it loose, and see what they can do.

Tim May:

Hey indulge me one last thing. I wanted to ask you this earlier when we were talking about you and growing up and getting your, getting your confidence and stuff about being on television stuff. You know, Paul Spohn “Moose” is one of my favorite guys. I still play golf with him almost every week. He’s one of your favorite guys too. He reminded me of those stories, when you first got on, you were doing that late night television stuff for Channel 10. And he would be standing, you wanted him standing right off to your side, right off camera because you were so… I don’t know if nervous is right. I think you’re more of a perfectionist kind of guy. You don’t want to screw up. Right? And is it amazing how far you’ve come from that moment to where now you’re sitting next to Corso and he’s putting on his head gear. I mean, just how much did Moose mean to you in those early years?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Every time I go back to Columbus, I see him and I remind him that he’s why I’m there.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I never forget the people who helped me. Terry Smith helped me in radio.

Tim May:

Yes.

Kirk Herbstreit:

I was a business major. Terry Smith went to bat for me and put me on his show. We started SportsLine in August of 1993. We did 5:30 to 7:00 and I was just a kid. I didn’t know what I was doing. And I ended up doing radio for about 14 or 15 years.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Moved over to do that Wall-to-Wall show. I didn’t have really any TV experience. Now I’m reading teleprompter. Oh my God, I was terrified to read teleprompter with out sounding like this. You know what I mean?

Tim May:

Yeah, oh yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Jay Crawford, who’s such a pro, and he’s just bada bing, bada boom, bada bing. And so I was, yeah, I had a lot of apprehension. But man Moose, he was like a mother hen for me. I would be like, oh my God. I was like a boxer that was all freaked out. I’d come into the corner and he’d like rub my shoulders, tell me it’s going to be okay. Oh no, no, you did…Oh no, you did great with this. You did great with it. This is going to be great. He just kept encouraging me and getting me to believe. He was just a great coach.

Kirk Herbstreit:

You know his energy. You play golf, you’ve known him forever.

Tim May:

Oh yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

He’s just one of those guys that just makes you relax when you’re with him. And man, I’ll never… Him and Jay and Dom, all those guys over at Channel 10 had so much to do with me just starting out. And Mick, their camera guy, he helped me put my tape together. I didn’t have a tape to put together and Mick Lewis helped me put a tape together and where we made it up. I called Eddie George who just won the Heisman and Joey Galloway who was about to be a first rounder and I called it a little show called Buckeye Corner, which was not even a show.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And we did like 10 minutes. I was like, welcome back to Buckeye Corner. They filmed it in the Channel 10 studios. And we talked for about 10 minutes. We put that on my tape. We went to Ohio Stadium in February when it’s freezing and I pretended with Mick who was my camera guy, he would act like I’m a sideline reporter. We’re standing in an empty Ohio stadium in February. And I would act like I was a sideline reporter. All right, thanks Brent. And I would say a report into the camera. Because I didn’t know what else to do.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Moose told me to do those things and put it on a tape. And that’s what we did. And we sent it into ESPN and ABC. So man, day don’t go by that I don’t appreciate and thank those guys for that time and Moose for his guidance. It was very instrumental for me.

Tim May:

Dude, Moose and I were playing golf the other day, we were talking about you.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah.

Tim May:

I mean, because you know. And to think about it… Everybody, almost everybody has to have somebody who believes in them. And Moose believed in you man. And it was really cool. And so did other guys. I came on your radio show a bunch back then and I totally enjoyed it. But anybody could see that once you got your act together, you were going places. I think maybe it was hardest for you to see. Here you are, you’re writing a book.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Well, it was, for what I had been through… Now here’s the one thing that helped me is I grew up not listening really to music, but I grew up listening to Andy Fermin and Chris Collinsworth [inaudible 00:50:37] here. So I was always either growing up in the Dayton area in high school, if I was driving, my car had either the Reds on or WLW, Gary Burbank. Like I listened to AM radio.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Everyone else is listening to Van Halen and whatever else. And they get in my car they’re like, oh my God. I’m sitting there. But that’s what I did. And I think it just made me realize even as a business major, I mean, I would love to talk about sports for a living. How cool would that be? And that’s kind of what eventually got me started. But you’re right, without Terry Smith, without Moose and Jay and Dom and all the people, yourself and others that were so helpful. And me just kind of… And I didn’t have a plan. It wasn’t like I’m going to go to game day. I just wanted to do local radio and local TV and probably would have done that rest of my life. And enjoyed it.

Kirk Herbstreit:

But [inaudible 00:51:38] one opportunity led to another led to another led to another and it happened like that. And it was so different back then than it is now. There wasn’t big 10 network, ACC network, those are like the minor leagues where you can get some reps. It was just network television and ESPN.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And that was it.

Tim May:

Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

And there was no like weekly show. It was just game day on the weekend and games.

Tim May:

No YouTube.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah. Yeah. That was all there was. There weren’t a lot of opportunities out there that’s for sure.

Tim May:

Ladies and gentlemen, Kirk Herbstreit. Kirk, I’ll have you on quite a few more times leading up to the season and stuff. But as we get ready for yet another football season, last year I don’t think it was a referendum on anything. I think you guys did a hell of a job. You even went through COVID-19 and came out the other end, right?

Kirk Herbstreit:

Yeah, I did. I still can’t taste or smell. It’s about, been about 10 weeks.

Tim May:

Wow. Yeah.

Kirk Herbstreit:

What a year for all of us.

Tim May:

Yes.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Hopefully we’re getting closer to looking forward to stadiums being full. I’m hearing rumors that people are thinking that there’s going to be full stadiums. Can you imagine what that’ll be like the first time you go back through the shoe and there’s a hundred thousand people in there? I mean, it gives me chills. I hope it’s this year, man. I hope it happens.

Tim May:

Well all I know is I’m getting my second vaccine shot in a week. So I’m going to be there no matter what, man. Hey, Kirk. Thanks for being on my podcast, my brother.

Kirk Herbstreit:

Anytime my man.

 

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