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Kirk Herbstreit On Bias, Les Miles, Musburger, and Travel

Thursday, October 2, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:35 PM, under , , , ,

Manchester, NH (Oct 3, 2008) - A couple of years ago, I was working with a play-by-play man, and his wife happened to be in the booth. They both went to schools that were in different conferences, and they did not meet in school. So how did they meet? "I walked up to him at a party and laid into him for being biased against my school in broadcasts," she replied in answer to the question. A few months later they started dating, and now they are happily married with children. This announcer shares a common problem with ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit and many other on-air talent: everybody thinks they are biased.

"You know, everybody in every part of the country thinks I am biased against them," said Herbstreit in an interview last Friday on the eve of the Alabama - Georgia matchup. "If I am in the South, they think I am pro-Ohio State and Big Ten. When I am in Big Ten country, they think I am biased against the Big Ten and in favor of the Big 12 or the SEC. You just cannot control people's perceptions."

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On the GameDay Set: Kirk Herbstreit on the ESPN GameDay set with Lee Corso
Photograph Copyright 2008 by Eye on Sports Media/The Cayuga Group, LLC.
All Rights Reserved.


Herbstreit joined ESPN in 1996, and was nominated for an EMMY award as best studio host in 1997. He has learned a lot in the years since then, but one of the most important lessons was put to the test when he reported that Les Miles was headed to Michigan. "Yes, I took a lot of heat for that, "said Herbstreit. "But the information I had was from a coach that would have moved if he took the job, so I knew I was working with good information, and I stand by what I did."

Upon reflection, would he have done it differently? "No, I would not. It did turn out to be wrong, and I did call Les Miles that night to talk about it." What probably helped in this was the lesson to not take criticisms personally. "That is the most important thing I have learned over the years," he said.

As a young boy, Herbstreit (pictured left) grew up watching Brent Musburger calling games. So what is it like working alongside Musburger now? "He is a legend in in college football broadcasting, the same way Lee Corso is," said Herbstreit. "And was a trip the first time I standing next to the man as he says 'You are looking live at...'. But we are colleagues and it is not as if I stand there in awe of him. He is a friend and a colleague."

But there is a part of the job that takes its toll, and that is the travel required. With four children at home (twin 8-year old boys, and two boys age 4 and 2), it is a job that has him on the road when they are not in school. "It is tough being away from them," he said.

As ESPN College GameDay went off the air the next day, Herbstreit finished his "corporate duties". That meant shaking hands, having photographs taken on the set with corporate sponsors, and signing autographs. From there, he had to be whisked off to Athens Ben-Epps Airport to get on a plane for State College, PA for that night's ABC broadcast of the Illinois - Penn State game. With very limited air service available out of Athens, especially with DayJet shutting down operations earlier that week, Herbstreit had to fly a charter jet to get to his destination. While bloggers and others criticize this, it is a necessity when working games and events in smaller cities and towns. This is a reality in the college football universe, and Herbstreit loves being a part of it.

Kirk Herbstreit Photograph Copyright 2008 by Eye on Sports Media/The Cayuga Group, LLC.
All Rights Reserved.

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