I finally tracked down one of my favorite writers and sports gurus at Bucknuts, an all inclusive fan site for all things Ohio State Football. Doing an interview with him is something I’ve wanted to do for some time, and as busy as he is, he was gracious enough to take some time from his schedule for this humble wannabee writer. Big thanks to “Bids”.
E.C.: It’ been a long time since our early days at Bucknuts. I remember going to Buckeye practices when Tressel was an unknown and we all talked about what to expect. We were all a bit wide eyed back then. What stood out to you most during that first year.
Bids: The thing I remember most was Buckeye Nation was so happy to move on from the John Cooper era and Jim Tressel was such a breath of fresh air. He seemed to “get” all the traditions at Ohio State and ended up starting a few of his own. It’s fun looking back on the start of the Tressel era now that Ohio State is kicking off the Urban Meyer era.
E.C.: How has Bucknuts evolved over the last 10+ years?
Bids: Wow, do you want a novel or the Cliff’s Notes version? The latter? OK, sounds good. We’ve developed from a free website that was basically a collection of links to newspaper stories about the Buckeyes, to the biggest Ohio State site on the market with roughly 7,000 subscribers. The best thing about Bucknuts is that we evolved with the industry and did a good job of staying ahead of the game. We were never stuck in doing things a certain way because we always did them that way. We’ve always brought fresh ideas to the table and I think that’s what’s helped us succeed.
E.C.: When I met you, besides being a new writer for BN, you were the Sports Editor for the Madison Press in London, Ohio. How did BN come about for you and how has life changed for you since then?
Bids: Well, Bucknuts was posting links to the stories I did for the Madison Press. Eventually I contacted Kirk Larrabee, thanked him for posting the links and told him if they ever wanted to expand into team coverage, I would love to help. Not long after that I received an email from Lee Schear, aka Mr. Bucknuts, who said they were thinking about joining up with a company called “The Insiders” … who later became Scout. That’s how it all started. It’s been a fun ride and I’m thrilled to still be with Bucknuts. I worked part time at Bucknuts for about three years while I worked full-time at the Madison Press. Then I got out of the newspaper industry for good and came to Bucknuts full time in Dec. of 2004. I will say I’m glad (and proud) I cut my teeth in the newspaper business though.
E.C.: You also do the radio show for Bucknuts, Front Row Radio, which has also greatly evolved since its early days. I remember it sounded like you were in Mr. B’s kitchen. Tell us a bit about the format and who has been your favorite interview or guest on the program.
Bids: It’s really evolved over the years. We used to do one show per week called the Bucknuts Radio Hour and it was aired on various radio stations in Ohio. Then we went to an internet-only (podcast) format in 2007. We have a lot of fun with it. It’s by no means the most-popular feature on Bucknuts, but it has a niche following and I think it’s one of the things that helps separate us from the other OSU websites. As for my favorite guest, although I am not a big fan of his, we had Kirk Herbstreit come into our “studio” (if you can even call it that) at our Dayton office to record two-hours-worth of radio. He was upset about all the criticism he was receiving from OSU fans, contacted us about it and we said the best thing you could do would be to come on our radio show. We were shocked he did it. This was in the summer of 2010. Little did we know at the time the Tressel era was about to come to an end in the following months.
E.C.: What about some of your favorite Buckeye players over the years to cover; got any? And, what about those more difficult to cover, including coaches (besides Tressel being the obvious)?
Bids: I’m going to leave people out by accident I’m sure, but a few of my favorites that immediately come to mind are: James Laurinaitis, Beanie Wells, Jim Heacock, Darrell Hazell, Malcolm Jenkins, Maurice Clarett (believe it or not), Nick Mangold and Brian Hartline.
Most difficult? Troy Smith was never easy to deal with. He was extremely moody. Although I liked John Peterson as a person, he was by far the most-boring coach to interview on the team. Rarely said a word worth printing.
E.C.:What were your thoughts on the end of the Tressel era? And what were your initial inklings on the hiring of Urban Meyer? After all, this was the man who put a dagger in the collective hearts of Buckeye fans back in 2007.
Bids: Oh, I loved the Meyer hire. I remember thinking during the height of the Tressel years that the Buckeyes would have a hard time finding a coach even as close to as good as Tress when he decided to retire. Of course, Tress never got to “retire” on his own terms, but the bottom line is that OSU is very fortunate they were able to replace a coach that was headed for legendary status like Tressel with a proven winner like Meyer. Yes, Buckeye fans hated Meyer after that 2006 national championship game (played in early 2007) but he’s a native son who grew up idolizing Woody Hayes. It’s a perfect fit. I was sad to see Tressel go, but it all worked out well for Ohio State in the end.
E.C.: Have you, or will you, see a difference in how the press is treated or given access by Meyer compared to Tressel? We have seen a glimpse of that with All Access on ESPN.
Bids: Meyer is more-forthcoming for sure, but he also closes more practices than Tressel did. Tress would let us see at least one full-scale scrimmage per camp and would open about 6-7 practices total to the media. Meyer didn’t let us see any scrimmages and only three practices were open. So, going to press conferences are more interesting for me as a journalist because I know Meyer is more apt to say things that are going to interest my readers. But I’m not seeing as much live football as I have in the past. I have to wait for the real games like everyone else. (I can feel everyone feeling sorry for me as I type.)
E.C.: There was a time when Mr. Bucknuts (the gentleman who owns BN) was a hidden man, some even considered him a made-up entity. How is he now-a-days?
Bids: He’s still a Jedi knight. No, he runs a handful of companies and our office is now centered out of Oakwood, Ohio, as opposed to downtown Dayton. Mr. B loves the Buckeyes. He donated money to help renovate the WHAC and is now doing the same with the new basketball practice facility at OSU.
E.C.: Bucknuts and its online format has changed over the years. Explain a bit how it has evolved from being independent, to the days of Scout, Inc, ESPN and now 247Sports.
Bids: We joined Scout (then The Insiders) in the summer of 2002, literally right before OSU kicked off what would be a national championship season. We had a magazine (Bucknuts the Magazine) with Mike Doss on the cover. Eventually, Scout breached its contract and we went independent again. This happened on Dec. 1, 2006. Between the No. 1 vs. No. 2 OSU-UM game, and OSU’s loss to Florida in the NC game. We soon joined up with ESPN, but that only lasted two years. ESPN just wasn’t sure what they wanted to do at the time and we didn’t want to wait around for them to find out, so we went indie again. Then in March of 2011, we joined the 247Sports network and I can assure you we won’t be going anywhere for a while. We love being with these guys. They are the same people who started Rivals.com (and then sold it to Yahoo). They were out of the game for a while, then decided to get back in. We’re happy to be with them.
E.C.: Last one: Jim Bollman or Ed Warinner? I kid, but what do you expect from Ohio State’s new staff compared to what they have had over Tressel’s tenure?
Bids: “Aggression” is the biggest word I would use. I’m a big Tress guy, but he never had that killer instinct. A perfect example is his last game as OSU’s coach (a game that technically never happened). The Buckeyes get a huge first-half lead over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and should have buried them. But they went all “ Tresselball” in the second half and OSU ended up being very fortunate to pull it out. I’m not sure if Meyer will have the success against Michigan that Tressel did, but I do think he’ll equal or better Tressel’s overall winning percentage. And that’s saying a lot considering Tressel has the best winning percentage in school history. Fans will also love seeing an exciting offense.
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