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In Ohio, All That Matters Is To Beat Michigan

Sat., Nov. 22, 1997

Kirk Herbstreit has lived the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.

His father played for the Buckeyes and coached under Bo Schembechler at Miami, he grew up an avid Buckeyes fan in Ohio, was recruited by both schools and played in the rivalry as Ohio State’s quarterback. On Saturday, he will be on the sideline as part of ESPN’s “College Gameday” pregame show with Chris Fowler and Lee Corso.

Michigan Stadium carries a lot of memories for Herbstreit. In 1991, he was knocked unconscious in a 31-3 loss to the Wolverines. On his recruiting trip to Michigan in 1987, he watched Ohio State’s last win in Ann Arbor, a 23-20 victory in Earle Bruce’s final regular-season game as Ohio State coach.

Herbstreit arrived at Ohio State the next year, along with coach John Cooper. The Buckeyes are 1-7-1 against Michigan since then, including 0-4-1 during Herbstreit’s career. The streak weighs heavily on the Buckeyes.

“If you talk to an Ohio State player who played in the ‘70s, they would say there was no question they would win. If you talk to an Ohio State player recently, the feeling is different,” Herbstreit said.

Herbstreit, a radio talk show host in Columbus, Ohio, said the pressure from Ohio State fans is so intense that it hurts the team.

“If you took a poll and said would you rather go 6-5 and beat Michigan or go 11-1, win the Rose Bowl and lose to Michigan, I guarantee you 80-90 percent would say 6-5. To me, that is borderline sick,” Herbstreit said.

“They love it at Michigan because it puts about 100 pounds of dumbbells on the Ohio State players’ backs,” he said.

The rivalry wasn’t always so one-sided. Herbstreit’s childhood corresponded with the Schembechler-Woody Hayes era of the rivalry, when the game was almost always for the Rose Bowl.

“When Woody and Bo were there it was like MacArthur and Patton,” Herbstreit said. “They wouldn’t talk to each other all year and these guys were friends. The only time they talked was at the 50-yard line before kickoff. They took so much pride in their teams that they treated the rivalry like war. That’s why it became so special.”

While Herbstreit said he grew up hating the Wolverines, he will have no problem separating the Buckeye from the analyst. Herbstreit, in his second year at ESPN, has grown much more comfortable in his role.

Earlier this year, he drew the ire of Ohio State fans by picking Penn State to beat the Buckeyes. While he wouldn’t make a prediction this week, he said Michigan is better on paper.

“By how they’ve played so far, Michigan should win. They should be able to control the line of scrimmage,” he said. “But over the years it doesn’t always happen the way it should.”

Sour grapes?

While CBS is concentrating on its third consecutive Winter Olympics in February, there is some lingering anger over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award NBC the Olympic monopoly until 2010.

“It was never written that you are entitled to do the Olympics every time. But it is a pity as the three-time incumbent that we were never given the opportunity to counter NBC’s offer,” said Jim Nantz, CBS’ prime time host.

“I am baffled by what the IOC did. The athletes have to recite the Olympic oath of fair competition before the games. But where was the fair competition for the guys that did two straight Olympics?”

Around the dial

Clark Kellogg is leaving ESPN to join CBS’ college basketball coverage exclusively. Kellogg, an analyst at ESPN, was in the studio for CBS during the NCAA tournament. Quinn Buckner, who had been at CBS, will pick up much of Kellogg’s role at ESPN. Rolando Blackman has also joined ESPN… . For the third time this season, “Fox NFL Sunday” will come from Lambeau Field, for the Packers-Cowboys game. … ESPN won four CableACE awards last weekend, including Dan Patrick as top sports host and “ESPN Sunday Night Baseball” as best coverage of a series.

xxxx HE SAID IT “If you took a poll and said would you rather go 6-5 and beat Michigan or go 11-1, win the Rose Bowl and lose to Michigan, I guarantee you 80-90 percent would say 6-5. To me, that is borderline sick.” - Kirk Herbstreit, ex-Buckeyes QB

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