The Chaos of the Coaches' Headsets

By DJ Byrnes on October 9, 2013 at 11:24a
Urban Frank Meyer

From Sports Illustrated:

In front of Herman sits a bottle of 5-hour Energy, a perspiring can of Diet Coke and five different-color pens—green, yellow, orange, pink and red. As the clock melts toward kickoff, Herman wrestles the black headset over his right ear and cuts through the nervous tension by saying, "We talking on a walkie-talkie here? O.K., here we go."

With that the 2013 Ohio State football season crackles to life, and what flows through those headphones over the course of the afternoon is the secret sound track of college football, from the details of the team's hyper-tempo, no-huddle spread offense to the overcaffeinated, adrenaline-fueled intensity of game day.

Listening in is like eavesdropping on a program's family dinner—spoken in mostly undecipherable jargon—complete with cursing, elation and the relentless tension of coach Urban Meyer asking for more. "It's not a fun three hours," says director of football operations Brian Voltolini, who shadows Meyer on the field. "You can't take anything personal that happens on game day. If you do, you're done."

It's a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, and frankly is a fascinating look at an under-reported area of the game that is literally right in front of all our faces when we watch. Color me surprised to learn Tom Herman dips, too.


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OSUAndy07's picture

Great read. I didn't know Braxton has a son

"But I'm tryin' Ringo. I'm tryin', real hard, to be the shepherd"

RedStorm45's picture

I'm surprised there are still people who don't know given all that's been said/written this fall about him.

M Man's picture

First I have heard of that as well.  It was a year before I learned that Michigan's Fitzgerald Toussaint is a father.  Those things have to be hard stories to report; the fathers are some of the highest-profile athletes in their respective states.  That usually goes along with 'plenty of resources for child support.'  But not in the case(s) of NCAA student-athletes.  So how those mothers and children are being supported might be an uncomfortable story; reporting on the personal matters of people who are not public figures.

Toilrt Paper's picture

Our other QB also has a son, as does LeQuinton Ross

OurHonorDefend09's picture

The Hermanator definitely chews Big Chief.

In all seriousness, that was awesome. Love the X's and O's of football and the logistics of how it works in a game environment.

Don't give up... Don't ever give up.

buckeyeEddie27's picture


I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

jeremytwoface's picture

Am I just imagining things or has this been out for a couple weeks?
Maybe it was just a preview of the article or something like that.

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

tennbuckeye19's picture

IIRC: Thamel released a preview a couple weeks back with a top 10 list (or something like that) of things he learned while observing the team for the Buffalo game.

jeremytwoface's picture

Oh gotcha..

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

RedStorm45's picture

Yeah, pretty sure it was a Buckshot too.

BTBuckeye's picture

That was a great read.
Didn't know he was originally from Cincinnati

sharks's picture

Great article, but screw SI for being pageview whores (on the mobile site, anyway).

A man got to have a code...

Bolt's picture

Boy, reading about Herman's in-game thought processes sure makes me wonder what goes through the mind of a Walrus on gameday.

carence's picture

eating plankton and crab!

UrbanCulture's picture

Given how much a family man he is, I'm sure his son Dave never leaves his mind

FitzBuck's picture

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

ep's picture

fascinating read, I always wonder what the dynamic is between a head coach and the coordinators during a game.  It would be interesting to see how this contrasts with other programs, say Texas, where the coach is more CEO than game manager.

M Man's picture

I know that you guys have an uncomfortable relationship with SI.  SI has earned your distrust.
But KUDOS to Urban Meyer and his staff for allowing this sort of access, for a fascinating story.  I can never get enough of content like this.  Really well done.
Of course it is true that we fans have no idea what goes into game preparation and game-days.  Which is why writing like this is so valuable, to give us a better idea.

otrain2416's picture

Wow that was a great article if you have time read it very interesting perspective

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

Frostybuck88's picture

Great look into the inner workings of the coaches box.  I love that Urban gives that kind of access to the program. I also had no idea that Braxton had a son.

The Dude abides...

jeremytwoface's picture

A few months later, Miller mentioned to Herman that he'd become a father in the summer of 2012.

Whoa whoa whoa....
Did I miss this somewhere?

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

Toilrt Paper's picture

yes you have. its been out severl months.

Denny's picture

Five hour energy, diet coke, and tip. #turnup


FitzBuck's picture

SI does a wonderful job on this one.  They were do after that awful Oklahoma state story.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

RedStorm45's picture

It's hard to tell exactly when the timing of everything happened - but did Braxton go the ENTIRE 2012 season without telling anyone on the staff he had a son?

MN Buckeye's picture

I cannot imagine the frenzy of the game. How much of the play calling is calculated, how much is gut feel, how much is based on execution and momentum and flow? It is also clear just how much trust must exist between the HC and the OC (and the DC, as well). Did Urban need training just to manage the buttons on his headset?

One Bad Buckeye's picture

Did Urban need training just to manage the buttons on his headset?

I think it's just one of those things. When you're a grad assistant and you get a chance to wear the head set, you're supposed to automagically know how to use the headset.  If you need to be taught how to use the headset, you ain't gifted enough to coach.  
I imagine they practice quite a bit at front of a mirror.  

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

Oyster's picture

That may explain the fact that hoke will rarely wear headsets.  Perhaps they use the single channel model to ease the confusion.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

rdubs's picture

Given all the fat fingers for upvotes/downvotes on this website, how would you expect him to operate buttons on a tiny headset?

Tim's picture

I can't imagine how tense things over the headset were this past weekend in Evanston...

hetuck's picture

Fascinating read. I am astounded Herman didn't know Braxton had a child, especially after it became public that one of the remedial actions OSU gave the NCAA was that coaches would monitor player check books. If you're going to get into a player's business that deeply, I'd think it would come up. And Herman better be careful with the smokeless tobacco. It may be permissible in the press box, but after OSU self-reported Vrabel two seasons ago for on-field use, we don't want to become a repeat offender. I'm sure the NCAA enforcement staff doesn't have bigger issues (TIC, no snuff). 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

harleymanjax's picture

They did a similar story on Brady Hoke's use of the headset, but decided to scrap that story when the only thing they heard him say was "Bring me more doughnuts!"

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

Toilrt Paper's picture

The best nugget of the whole piece. Herman is a member of MENSA. Most probably the only coach in the country that is. For those that don't know, Mensa is an organization for people who are in the top 2% in the country as far their IQ. Proven by taking an IQ test, scoring high enough then applying for admission. The only 2 "sports" that have quite a few MENSA members are Tournament Bridge players and Tournament Chess players "

UrbzRenewal's picture

I think we've known this for a while (like when he was hired). The Buckshot before this post also included it:

ticodillo's picture

Anyone find it interesting the "rocky" seeming relationship btw Miller and Herman ? That kinda stood out to me. Maybe why Miller didn't seem as comfortable with the offense last year and still has "rusty" days. It might be hard to work so closely with someone you don't "like"

ScarletGray43157's picture

..."one of 14 polo-shirted Buckeyes staffers in a booth hermetically sealed from the keg-stand debauchery and tribal passion pulsing through the rest of the ancient Horseshoe."
Uh, sorry SI but there are no alcohol sales in The Shoe.  Sloppy reporting under the guise of artistic license is still sloppy reporting.  
Overall a really fun read, though.  
Many times a coach that is intense and focused on the game can't remember details afterward. I'm not sure why that's true, but I know that it is.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

ChazBuckeye's picture

Here I thought it was about to this below;-)

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.