There's some things in the South that are staples: college football, hot summers and Tony Barnhart. Barnhart has been covering collegiate sports for a very long time in the South and has reached iconic status in the SEC. Here's what we talked about when I caught up with him.
patton26: How did you first get involved in covering collegiate sports?
Tony Barnhart: I actually thought I was going to be a football coach. I decided against that after a while. What first got me hooked was in February of 1973 when I was at Georgia Southern. I got to go to a college basketball game and sit on the sideline and write about the game. It excited me the next day to see my name in the paper next to my story. I stayed at Georgia Southern one more year and then I decided to transfer to Georgia and go to journalism school because I knew then what I wanted to do, cover collegiate sports.
patton26: Were you at any point an athlete?
Barnhart: I actually played football in high school. I wasn't a great player, but I enjoyed the game and I had great respect for my coaches.
patton26: For those that don't know, what sports do you cover?
Barnhart: For most of my career I covered college football and basketball. I covered college football and basketball for 24 years for the Atlanta Journal Constitution before starting my own freelance business. Now, 90% of what I cover is college football.
patton26: Who was your role mode or role models growing up?
Barnhart: My high school head coach , Coach Veazey, was one of my role models. Most of my high school coaches were my role models. I still stay in touch with some of them to this day. They were very good men.
patton26: Any advice to any younger broadcaster/writers trying to get into the business?
Barnhart: Learn how to do everything. Learn how to write, do video, talk on the radio, etc. In today's world, you have to know how to do it all.
patton26: How has family played a part in your career?
Barnhart: My family has been very supportive. My mother was hard on me growing up. She stayed on me about my academics but she also taught me an appreciation for writing. My dad taught me the love of sports.
patton26: What is your most memorable moment in broadcasting?
Barnhart: I have had a lot of them, but my most memorable moment was in 1984. Jesse Outler and Furman Bisher were two of my writing heroes. They both worked for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. When I got hired in 1984 to write for the Atlanta Jounal Constitution, I had to attend the Georgia vs. Clemson game to write on it for the paper. When I got to the game, I found that my seat placed me right in between my sports writing heroes. Bisher was on my left and Outler was on my right. At that moment, I felt like I had arrived in journalism.
patton26: Who was the most memorable athlete that you covered?
Barnhart: Before I worked for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I was working in North Carolina. I actually covered Michael Jordan and I was at the game in 1982 when Michael Jordan, a freshman at North Carolina at that time, hit the game-winning shot to win the National Championship for North Carolina over Georgetown.
patton26: How do you handle issues with players or coaches when they've had issues about what you've wrote about them?
Barnhart: Its the nature of the job. Not everyone is going to agree with you. But when you write, you have to be accurate and fair. You can't be sloppy. I've had disagreements over the years with some coaches. They didn't like what I said and we butted heads, but at the end of the day, we smoothed it out and were fine.
Tony Barnhart is truly a class act. He continues to provide great writing and great commentary for all of us sports fans. If you haven't heard him or read his work, you definitely are missing out.