A clean break? Mike Golic says rumors of behind-the-scenes drama are off the mark

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND —The breakup of the popular and prolific Mike & Mike radio show has not been greatly exaggerated, per one of the Mikes — Golic, to be specific.

The reported off-air/off-camera drama that’s even generating tabloid headlines (‘Mike and Mike’ turn against each other in ‘poisonous’ ESPN breakup)? Embellished and unattributed, Golic asserted Thursday evening while in town for a speaking engagement.

The former Notre Dame football standout, and still currently half of one of the most successful national sports talk shows ever (6-10 a.m. ET, weekdays), was the keynote speaker for the 24th annual Excellence In Construction Awards Banquet, presented by the Michiana Builders Association.

The event was held at the Gillespie Conference Center on the campus of Saint Mary’s College.

Golic’s longtime partner, Mike Greenberg, will branch off and host his own morning TV show on ESPN, beginning in January. Mike & Mike, simulcast on TV since 2004, will morph into a similar format to the one that exists today, except with Trey Wingo replacing Greenberg, and Golic’s son, Mike Jr. joining the cast for at last an hour each weekday morning.

When exactly the current version truncates in its 18th season is still a guess, even for Golic.

“It could be as early as September. It could be as late as December,” Golic told the Tribune. “A lot of it probably has to do with (commercial) sales, what’s already sold for me and Greeny, I would imagine.

“I think for the sake of the show, it should start before football starts, but they didn’t ask me.”

But the 54-year-old Golic was asked about and answered to an report, published Monday, in which current and former staffers, given anonymity, characterized the relationship between the two Mikes as turning icy over the past year.

“They are marvelous actors on set,” an ESPN on-air staffer was quoted as saying in the story. “But they barely even make eye contact with each other these days.”

“They virtually ignore each other off air,” said another ESPN staffer, who had previously worked on the show.

Not true, says Golic.

“Greeny and I have talked. Greeny and I are fine,” he said. “In all honesty, I had more of a problem and was a little disappointed that people that work on my show would anonymously throw stuff out there. I’m not a big fan of the anonymous thing.

“If you can’t put your name to it, I don’t know why you’d say it. But Greeny and I are fine. We absolutely are.

“The reason why it’s tough to talk about the end of the show on air is because we don’t know when the end of the show’s going to be. So why get nostalgic in May when we may be doing the show another six months?

“There’ll be time, once they tell us, ‘This is the plan for the end of the show,’ and then we can start planning some of those things to end the show. We’ll probably do more giveaways for fans, because if we didn’t have the listeners and viewers, there’s no way this show goes 18 years.”

Golic started doing a morning show with Tony Bruno in the late 1990s, when ESPN Radio was still a fledgling enterprise.

“After a while, Tony was looking for some other opportunities and he left,” Golic said. “And we had the search for the next one. We had like 13 different possibilities/candidates. And Greeny wasn’t one of them.

“Greeny was one of the guys who filled in on days when one of the ‘real’ candidates wasn’t there. When he filled there, we had instant chemistry, and it kind of went from there.

“The higher-ups loved it. Even my wife (Christine) did. Her exact quote was, ‘He sounds kind of nerdy, but he’s the one.’ And she was very prophetic in that, because it worked out pretty well.”

Here’s a sampling of some of the other topics Golic touched on during his interview with the Tribune:

On Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly: “I think the biggest thing is it’s his eighth year at ND, but it’s his (sixth) different starting quarterback. He understands more than anybody you’d love some consistency at that position, but that’s just hasn’t worked out — by injury, by play, by guys leaving early for the NFL.

“And that can make it tough, it definitely can. It’s got to be frustrating for him, knowing the success he had in 2012. So you think you’re going to build off of that.

“It’s for us in the media to talk about, ‘Is he going to make it through this year if it’s a bad year?’ That’s not Brian’s goal, though, to make it through the year. Brian’s goal is to win a national championship. That never changes.

“For him, without question, it’s about, ‘How can we get back to where we were when we were in the talk for the national championship?’ Not, ‘I hope I do well enough for me to be back again.’ ”

On whether it’s realistic for ND fans to believe the Irish can be at least an intermittent factor in the national playoff: “Notre Dame should.

“I know they always talk about the academics, how they need to loosen that up. I never think they need to loosen that. I think we do have the players to be able to get there, hopefully, at a consistent level.

“There are plenty of ND haters who say they’re never going to be up there again. I simply refuse to believe that. I believe that with my heart. Even with my head I refuse to believe that, because I think they have the talent to be able to do it.”

On former ND quarterback DeShone Kizer’s dilemma with the Cleveland Browns: Before Kizer was selected in the second round in last month’s NFL Draft, the general thought was it would be best for him to sit and learn a year.

But with Cleveland, that might not be his best option, because if he doesn’t play and the Browns struggle, they could draft over him with a first-rounder next spring.

“You wondered if the Jets were going to do that this year after drafting Christian Hackenberg in the second round last year, but they didn’t. So it will be interesting to watch how the Browns work that this year.

“We talk about guys who need to sit. My thought on that is if you can sit a guy, great. But to me, at times there’s nothing wrong with going out there and getting your eyes watered and your nose bloodied.

“Sometimes I hear former quarterbacks go, ‘Oh man, if he goes out there and gets knocked around too much, you’re going to lose him.’ You’re going to lose him? Well then maybe I didn’t want him to begin with. Maybe you throw a guy out there and he develops mental toughness.

“With Kizer, a lot of it depends on how the Browns’ season is going. If it’s not going well and you think he can function out there, give him some reps and find out what you’ve got. Why not?”

On family, faith and his Notre Dame ties: All three of Golic’s children — Mike Jr., Jake and Sydney have graduated, but Golic is doubling down on being around ND a lot and going to home football games after purchasing a new home near campus.

Son Jake, 26, whose career as an Irish tight end was sideswiped by injuries, is set to marry former Notre Dame track and field hurdler Jenny Fucillo at the Basilica in July. The two own and run two workout studios — Orangetheory Fitness — in the Boston area.

Daughter Sydney, 22, a former standout swimmer at ND, worked in community relations for the Cleveland Browns last season and interned at the NFL’s offices. She hopes to continue to work in community relations in the NFL, perhaps with the Bears or Chargers, in the coming season.

Son Mike Jr., 27, co-hosts his own radio show on ESPN, First and Last (4-6 a.m. ET), as well as a variety of other roles at ESPN, including color commentary of college football games. The two Mikes, Sr. and Jr., actually worked in the same booth for the Pinstripe Bowl last December at Yankee Stadium.

“Mike’s doing what I did when I first got into this, which is do everything,” the elder Golic said. “And he is so much farther ahead of where I was early in my career.

“He’s better spoken than me, smarter than me, better looking than me. He’s got me in every category but one — hair. But I’m really proud of him.

“I’m proud of all the kids. They’re all doing really well. They’ve locked into what they’re doing. There are times Christine and I wonder about the what-ifs with the boys and football, had injuries or circumstances been different.

“But the kids don’t think that way at all. They’re happy and at peace with what they’re doing.”

ESPN Radio co-hosts Mike Greenberg (left) and Mike Golic will go their separate ways in the coming months, but Golic said their relationship is very much in good standing. (AP File Photo)