NCAA

Kirk Herbstreit Moved to Tennessee After Some Issues With ‘Relentless’ Ohio State Fans

While all sports fans are passionate, there’s something special about college football that kicks things into overdrive. No one understands that better than Kirk Herbstreit; he played for the Ohio State Buckeyes trading his helmet for a microphone and joining College GameDay and Saturday Night Football. Not every NCAA experience, however, has been positive.

Due to his ties with the Ohio State football program, Kirk Herbstreit and his family once called the Buckeye State home. After some issues with “relentless” football fans, though, they packed it up and moved south.

Kirk Herbstreit has deep ties to the Ohio State football program

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Around the country, there are plenty of fans who have pledged their allegiance to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Kirk Herbstreit’s connection to the football program, however, goes deeper than most.

Herbstreit’s father, Jim, played for the Buckeyes and later served as a member of Woody Hayes’ coaching staff. When it came time for Kirk to head to college, there was only one choice: Ohio State.

While Kirk spent four seasons in Columbus, he didn’t see much action until his senior year. Although the quarterback finally got his chance to start for the Buckeyes, he didn’t exactly set the campus on fire; in 12 games, he threw for a grand total of 1,904 yards, four touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Despite that lack of statistical success, Kirk Herbstreit had lived every sports fan’s dream. He got to start at quarterback for his favorite team, married a cheerleader, and got to live happily ever after. His football career, however, didn’t end there.

Becoming one of college football’s biggest names

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As his Ohio State career would suggest, Kirk Herbstreit wasn’t destined for the NFL. That reality, however, didn’t mean he was ready to leave football behind.

Herbstreit joined ESPN in 1996 and never looked back. He’s become a key member of the College GameDay crew, the lead analyst on ABC’s Saturday Night Football, and a regular percipient in ESPN’s football coverage. He’s also done print and radio work over the years.

You don’t last long in any job, let alone a high-profile media gig, without doing something right. When it comes to football, Herbstreit is simply in his element.

“According to College Gameday producer Lee Fitting, who has worked alongside Herbstreit for the past eight seasons, “His (Herbstreit’s) approval rating is off the charts when we test our show with viewers. They literally brought the results back to me and said, ‘We’ve never seen approval ratings this high. Anytime he’s on camera, the dials go up,” Clay Travis wrote years ago for Outkick the Coverage. “Herbstreit is a modern day Ferris Bueller, beloved by all, ‘He runs the ratings gauntlet,’ says Fitting. ‘Kids, older people, men, women, they all love him. Most guys that women like, the men don’t, but Kirk’s different, women like him and so do men.”

Kirk Herbstreit and his family left Columbus after some bad experiences with Ohio State fans

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As any college football can confirm, Kirk Herbstreit loves Ohio State. In 2001, though, he and his family had to leave Columbus and move to Tennessee.

At the time, the move was framed as an escape from angry Buckeyes fans. “To continue to have to defend myself and my family in regards to my love and devotion to Ohio State is unfair,” Herbstreit told Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch, according to a story on Awful Announcing. “I don’t like moving. I love living here. I don’t want to leave. But I just can’t do this anymore. I really can’t keep going like this.

“Eighty to ninety percent of the Ohio State fans are great. It’s the vocal minority that make it rough,” he continued. “They probably represent only 5 to 10 percent of the fan base, but they are relentless.”

After that story, though, the former quarterback tried to push back against the narrative; his quotes, however, still alluded to some troubles in Ohio. “We didn’t get chased out of town by Ohio State fans at all,” Herbstreit told Mel Bracht of The Oklahoman in 2011. “There were a few isolated incidents where we just thought about things and family and their safety and decided it was probably in the best interest of our family to move.”

What really happened between Kirk Herbstreit and Ohio State fans?

Kirk Herbstreit had to leave Ohio after some issues with Ohio State fans.
Former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit has become a fixture on ESPN’s College GameDay. | Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

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While each story seems to contain slightly different implications, one narrative seems to clarify everything fairly well. That distinction belongs to Clay Travis’ Outkick the Coverage piece, which also ran in 2011.

“Five times a day, there would be a car parked at a stop sign, people knocked on the door, they’d ask for autographs at the front door, they’d drive by real slow, 12:30 at night, I was getting up in the middle of the night to see cars outside in the street,” Herbstreit explained. “I had no idea what they were doing there. The thought, that in this crazy world we live in, somebody’s driving by your house five times a day or more, that starts to work on you emotionally. But we dealt with that for four or five years.”

After the Columbus Dispatch “published the Herbstreit’s address and a Google map of his neighborhood,” he finally had enough.

No one can dispute the passion of sports fans, especially those who follow Ohio State football. In Kirk Herbstreit’s case, however, things crossed the line.

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference