It got zany among Herbstreits last December in the days leading up to Clemson facing Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl. ESPN’s lead analyst Kirk Herbstreit and his father Jim were Ohio State team captains.
Kirk’s wife Alison was an Ohio State cheerleader.
All four of their sons, Herbstreit said Thursday, had the Ohio State fight song down as four-year-olds.
That includes twins Tye and Jake, who joined the Clemson team as walk-on players for the 2019 season. They engaged in much pregame trash talk with younger brothers Zak and Chase, still all in for the Buckeyes.
“Our family, we’re not going to excuse who we are,” Herbstreit said in a Zoom conference call with reporters to preview Saturday night’s Miami-Clemson game. “We are passionate Ohio State people.”
It might get wild again for Kirk Herbstreit going into and coming out of Death Valley for a rare ACC showcase of top 10 teams.
There’s a slight chance that a few people — Miami fans and South Carolina fans, Alabama fans and Ohio State fans — just might suspect that Herbstreit has a Clemson bias. They might throw things at their TVs as he works the game with ESPN’s Chris Fowler after spending the morning on campus with the College GameDay crew.
“You can’t control lunacy,” Herbstreit said. “I learned that a long time ago covering the sport.”
It was once Clemson fans holding a bias grudge, at least when the Tigers played Ohio State in the 2013 Orange Bowl and 2016 Fiesta Bowl (Clemson’s 29-23 Fiesta Bowl victory in 2019 made it 4-0 against Ohio State in bowl games).
Herbstreit has heard it all, or most of it.
From all sides.
“People are crazy,” he said. “They can think and hear whatever they want to hear. You’ll not be able to sleep at night if you stay up worrying about what other people think and that kind of thing. Especially in this sport where it’s so passionate and opinionated.
“It’s kind of what makes it fun, right?”
The bias perception could get more prickly if Tye Herbstreit, a wide receiver a few minutes older than his brother, and Jake Herbstreit, a defensive back, wind up as significant Clemson contributors. Never mind, lunatics, that their father has a long record of compelling and objective commentary.
Still, Herbstreit hears what people say and acts accordingly.
Moving down South
Herbstreit, 51, grew up in Centerville, Ohio, just South of Dayton. He was a star quarterback for the Centerville High School Elks before going on to Ohio State.
But the family moved to Franklin, Tenn., outside Nashville, in 2011 — at least partly to get away from annoying Ohio State fans complaining about their former quarterback taking analyst positions that didn’t necessarily match the role of a Buckeyes salesman.
Both of Clemson’s Herbstreits are 5-11, 170, and came to the program as “preferred” walk-ons. They made an impression on head coach Dabo Swinney while attending a Clemson summer camp before their senior seasons at Nashville’s Montgomery Bell Academy.
It was a great landing spot for the Herbstreits, residing within a program that has won two of the last four national championships.
Smart, too, for Swinney to enhance a connection with one of the most prominent voices in the sport.
Kirk Herbstreit said Thursday that his twins were interested in playing at Ohio State but then-head coach Urban Meyer didn’t offer the kind of preferred walk-on status that guarantees players will make the team and see some action.
Herbstreit said Meyer has since “apologized quite a bit.”
More Clemson-Ohio State
Both of the Herbstreit twins played in four Clemson games in 2019 while redshirting.
They are pre-business majors and have made the ACC Honor Roll.
Kirk Herbstreit said he doesn’t talk Xs and Os with his sons. Conversations are more about the coronavirus — neither player has tested positive, he said — and other aspects of college life.
“I have so much respect for Dabo and his program and the way he runs it,” Herbstreit said. “The fact that he was a former walk-on (at Alabama), I knew they’d be treated the right way.”
Four Mahaffey brothers passed through the Clemson basketball program from 1959-1970 (Donnie, Randy, Richie and Tom).
Four Herbstreits? Maybe not.
Zak Herbstreit is a high school senior tight end who could “very easily” end up at Ohio State after positive conversations with head coach Ryan Day, Kirk Herbstreit revealed Thursday.
With Ohio State and Clemson apparently headed for another playoff clash or two (or three) before a certain family runs out of college eligibility, life on Herbstreit Street is destined to remain a swirl of scarlet, gray, orange and white whether lunatics like it or not.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff