Kirk Herbstreit’s household has split loyalties with twin sons playing for Clemson

Joey Kaufman
Kirk Herbstreit plays catch before a game between Penn State and Ohio State in 2018 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. [Justin K. Aller/Getty Images/TNS]

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit recently reminded his seventh-grade son to settle down.

The family’s group text thread had gotten out of hand.

Chase Herbstreit was talking too much smack with his oldest brothers, Jake and Tye, a pair of walk-ons at Clemson.

“I'm like, ‘Chase, they’re not fans,’ ” Herbstreit said. “ ‘They’re on the team. You’ve got to draw the line on how far this trash talk can go. You’re not on a message board somewhere.’ ”

Chase could be forgiven, however, for not knowing better. The boys grew up in an Ohio State household, sons and grandsons of former Buckeyes captains.

But the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday presents a new family dynamic.

As Herbstreit nestles into the broadcast booth with play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler, his twin sons, Jake and Tye, will stand on the sideline with Clemson, which faces the Buckeyes in a College Football Playoff semifinal. Herbstreit’s wife, Allison, will sit in a section filled with family members of the Tigers’ players.

“I think she’s trying to pull for Clemson because of our kids,” Herbstreit said, “but I know she’s also happy for Ohio State.”

Switching allegiances marked a bridge too far for Chase. The youngest of their four boys will wear an Ohio State jersey among other scarlet-and-gray-clad fans.

The twins are redshirting in their first season at Clemson and have largely carved out roles on the scout team. In the leadup to the matchup with OSU, Herbstreit said they have assumed the roles of receiver Garrett Wilson and cornerback Shaun Wade.

“They’re running around making plays and trying to help Clemson get ready,” Herbstreit said.

Tye is listed as a receiver for the Tigers, Jake a cornerback. They joined the program as preferred walk-ons.

“Where they go from here will be very exciting to see in development,” Herbstreit said. “Whether you’re a highly touted kid or a redshirt walk-on freshman, it’s all about development.”

Neither Tye nor Jake was considered a prime prospect when they graduated from Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. The recruiting site listed Tye as the 118th-best prospect in Tennessee, and Jake was the 97th-best recruit in the state. They were not given star ratings.

But Clemson made a considerable effort to recruit the pair, more so than other top college programs, including Ohio State.

“Clemson was sending them literature like every week, basically treating them like a recruit,” Herbstreit said. “There was a feeling of (being) wanted by Clemson, and so it was almost a no-brainer for them.”

After the years following their father around on sets of ESPN’s “College GameDay,” the popular pregame show staged at campus sites, they envisioned joining a big-time school rather than smaller colleges, where playing time might have been more attainable.

“They go to these kinds of games,” Herbstreit said.

Saturday’s will be the first time they’re part of one.

“It’s somewhat surreal for them, and for us as a family,” Herbstreit said.

The unique setup, a first in Herbstreit’s decades-long broadcasting career, won’t be too overwhelming, though.

“When you’re doing your job and the ball’s in the air and the guys are running plays, I’m not talented enough to be thinking about Ohio State and my kids,” Herbstreit said. “It takes every ounce of energy I have to analyze a game, to just watch the play and talk about what just happened.

“Now before the game, it’s cool to sit here and talk about it. After the game, definitely talk about it. But during that broadcast, it’s just no different than any other game: Lock in and analyze the game.”