Skip Bayless

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Skip Bayless
Skip Bayless 2011.jpg
Bayless in 2011
Born John Edward Bayless II
(1951-12-04) December 4, 1951 (age 63)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Residence New York, New York
Bristol, Connecticut, United States
Education Vanderbilt University
Occupation Sportswriter, Television sports commentator
Notable credit(s) ESPN (Cold Pizza, First Take), 2004–present; San Jose Mercury News, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Times Herald, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald
Religion Christian
Family Rick Bayless

Skip Bayless (born December 4, 1951) is an American sports columnist, author, and television personality who is best known as the star (with Stephen A. Smith) of ESPN2’s hit show, First Take.

Early years[edit]

Although he was born John Edward Bayless II in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, his father immediately began calling him Skip — his father also had called his mother “Skip,” as in “skipper of the ship,” when they were dating. The name stuck, and Bayless was never called John by his parents. He eventually had his name legally changed to Skip.[1] His parents owned and operated the Hickory House restaurant in Oklahoma City, which specialized in barbecue. Bayless worked in the restaurant in his youth, but never considered it as a career path. However, his younger brother Rick Bayless carried on the family tradition to become a celebrated chef, restaurateur and TV personality. He also has a younger sister.[2]

Bayless’ interest in sports began at an early age and he excelled as a schoolboy athlete. While in elementary school attending Mayfair Elementary, he played YMCA baseball for the Mayfair Chipmunks and they twice made it to the city finals. He attended Taft Junior High School, where he was one of the top two scorers on the basketball team, and was named Athlete of the Year in 1966. In June of that year, he attended a basketball camp at McGuiness High School in Oklahoma City run by Skip Iba and former Oklahoma State star Gary Hassman, with help from Eddie Sutton, and was named MVP [3] of the camp over several attendees who later played basketball at the college level, including Bruce Scott, his teammate at both Taft and Northwest Classen High School. Early in 1967, he was a starter on an AAU team that lost to the team from Bartlesville in the state finals held at Oklahoma Christian College. Besides Bayless, the other starters on that team went on to earn Division I scholarships (Bruce Scott, basketball scholarship, University of Oklahoma; Ronnie Raunborg, basketball scholarship, University of Houston; Jimmy Edwards, football scholarship, Oklahoma; and Danny Case, football scholarship, Oklahoma State). At Northwest Classen, Bayless earned three letters in baseball; a rare sophomore letterman and then a two-year starter, starting every game as a junior, mostly at shortstop, but a few games at catcher,[4] and then every game at catcher as a senior. Bayless earned two letters in a basketball program that won one state title and almost won another while going 71-8 his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. As a junior, he was one of the leading scorers on the junior varsity basketball team, and also suited up with the varsity, appearing in several games and scoring in three. In the YMCA eight-game summer league following his junior year, Bayless was one of the top scorers for the Northwest team. As a senior, he made two starts and played in a majority of the games for a varsity team that made it to the 1970 Oklahoma state finals.[5]

Bayless excelled in the classroom as well, and was the salutatorian of Northwest Classen’s graduating class of 1970. He was a two-year member of the National Honor Society and president of the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. He was also an officer in the letterman’s club. At the urging of Elizabeth Burdette, one of his English teachers who also taught journalism and oversaw the school newspaper, Bayless became the primary sports columnist for the school newspaper his junior and senior years. Prior to his senior year, Bayless represented Northwest Classen at Oklahoma Boys State. Upon graduation, he was awarded the prestigious Grantland Rice Scholarship (named for the famed sportswriter of the same name) to attend Vanderbilt University (Rice’s alma mater).[6][7] While at Vanderbilt, he majored in English and History, and graduated cum laude in 1974. He was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, serving two years as the chapter’s Rho (sports director), and earning all-intramural honors his senior year in football, basketball and fast-pitch softball.[8] He also was the sports editor of The Hustler, the university’s student newspaper, and spent the summer of 1969 interning under sports editor Frank Boggs at The Daily Oklahoman.[9]


Print journalism[edit]

Bayless went directly from Vanderbilt to The Miami Herald, where he wrote sports features for a little more than two years before being hired away by the Los Angeles Times in August of 1976. There, he was best known for investigative stories on the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse resentment of "golden boy" Steve Garvey and his celebrity wife Cyndy, and on Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom’s behind-the-scenes decisions to start different quarterbacks each week (James Harris, Pat Haden or Ron Jaworski). For his coverage of Seattle Slew’s Triple Crown, Bayless won the Eclipse Award in 1977 for Outstanding Newspaper Writing.[10]

At 26, Bayless was hired by The Dallas Morning News to write its lead sports column, and three years later, the rival Dallas Times Herald hired him away by making him one of the country's highest-paid sports columnists. This caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal, prompting the paper to do a story on the development. Bayless was voted Texas sportswriter of the year three times (1979, 1984 and 1986).[11]

In 1989, Bayless wrote his first book, God's Coach: The Hymns, Hype and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry’s Cowboys, about the rise and fall of Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys. Following the Cowboys' Super Bowl victory in 1993, Bayless wrote The Boys: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys’ Season on the Edge, and following a third Cowboys Super Bowl win in four seasons, Bayless wrote the third and final book of his Cowboys trilogy, Hell-Bent: The Crazy Truth About the "Win or Else" Dallas Cowboys. Hell-Bent caused a stir, in part, because in the course of writing about the conflict between Cowboys coach Barry Switzer and star quarterback Troy Aikman, Bayless reported on speculation Aikman was gay by Switzer and people close to him within the Dallas organization. Bayless also reported Aikman vehemently denied the speculation was true. In addition, Bayless reported that his own investigations never uncovered any evidence to support the rumors.[12] Even so, Aikman apparently carries a grudge over the matter to this day.[13] Hell Bent also caused a stir because of Bayless’ reporting in the book of Switzer’s belief Aikman used a racial slur during a sideline argument with wide receiver Kevin Williams, which Aikman also denied. In addition, Switzer thought Aikman gave less than his best effort in two losses against the Washington Redskins, who were then coached by former Dallas offensive coordinator Norv Turner, in hopes Switzer would be fired and replaced by Turner.[14]

In 1998, Bayless chose to leave Dallas after 17 years and become the lead sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune. In his first year there, Bayless won the Lisagor Award for excellence in sports column writing, presented by the Chicago Headline Club (the Chicago chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists).[15] In 2000, he was voted Illinois sportswriter of the year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.[16]

After a highly publicized dispute with the Tribune's executive editor, Ann Marie Lipinski, over limiting all Tribune columns to just 650 or so words, Bayless decided to leave Chicago. He was immediately hired by Knight Ridder Corporation and began writing for its flagship newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, in September 2001.

Over the years, Bayless’s work has appeared in numerous national sports publications, including Sports Illustrated,[17] Sport, and Inside Sports.


In 1991, Bayless began a two-year stint hosting a sports talk radio show from 6-8 p.m. Monday through Friday for Dallas radio station KLIF. In 1994, he became one of the original investors in the Fort Worth radio station KTCK, the Ticket, and hosted The Skip Bayless Show from 6-9 a.m. weekdays from 1994-96. In 1996, the original owners sold the station to the Cumulus Media, which bought out Bayless’ contract. Also in the mid-‘90s, he was a frequent guest on ESPN Radio’s first national weekday show, The Fabulous Sports Babe. After moving to Chicago, he began making regular appearances on Chet Coppock’s show on the Sporting News Radio network, Coppock On Sports. In 2001, he became the primary guest host of the syndicated radio program, The Jim Rome Show. Soon thereafter, Bayless began cohosting with former SportsCenter anchor Larry Beil a weekend show on ESPN Radio, which aired till 2004, when he moved full-time into television.


In 1989, Bayless joined host Dick Schaap as a panelist on ESPN's The Sports Reporters, and over the next decade, he was a regular on the Sunday morning show. In 1992, Bayless became a member of the original debate team on ESPN, NFL Prime Monday's “Knights of the Roundtable” segments with Mitch Albom and Michael Wilbon. In 1999 and 2000, he provided commentary for the Golf Channel from the major golf championships. In 2001 and 2002, Bayless appeared regularly on Jim Rome’s show on Fox Sports Net, The Last Word. He also made frequent appearances during the same period of time on Fox’s The Best Damn Sports Show Period. When Rome moved to ESPN in 2003, Bayless became a fixture on Rome is Burning. He was also featured in a weekly Sunday morning SportsCenter debate segment with Stephen A. Smith, "Old School/Nu Skool." ESPN hired Bayless full-time in 2004 to team with Woody Paige of The Denver Post in daily debate segments called “1st and 10” on ESPN2’s Cold Pizza, and to write columns for In May of 2007, the show, which had been produced in the network’s New York studios, was rebranded as First Take and production was moved to the network’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. At that time, Bayless stopped writing for to concentrate on his television duties, but resumed writing columns for the website in August of 2012. First Take is a hit with many hip-hop heavyweights, and a number of them have traveled to Bristol over the years to sit at the desk and debate Bayless. Lil Wayne has made three appearances on the show, while Nelly, 2 Chainz, T.I., Fabolous and Wale (who wrote and recorded the show’s theme song) have each appeared twice. Prior to making his initial visit to the First Take debate desk, Fabolous gave Bayless a shout out on his recording, “That’s Not Love.”[18] Snoop Lion, Drake, Common, Bow Wow and R&B artist John Legend also have appeared on the show. A number of actors and entertainers who love the show have joined Bayless at the debate desk, including Billy Bob Thornton, Regis Philbin, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jerry Ferrara, Michael Rapaport, Donnie Wahlberg, Jay Pharoah and Patrick Warburton.


Along with ESPN colleagues Woody Paige and Jay Crawford, Bayless had a cameo role in the 2006 film Rocky Balboa.[19] The three are seen on their “First and 10” segment discussing a possible fight between a retired Balboa and current heavyweight champion Mason Dixon. Bayless opines that Balboa "was completely overrated" and mocks his age.

He appeared in the 2010 ESPN 30 for 30 film, Pony Excess,[20] about the Southern Methodist University football scandal. Bayless covered the Mustangs while writing for both the The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times Herald. He also appeared in the 2011 ESPNU documentary, Herschel,[21] about famed University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker.

Other honors and awards[edit]

In 2008, Bayless was selected to the Oklahoma City Wall of Fame recognizing outstanding alumni of Oklahoma City public schools.[22] In 2009, he was inducted as one of the five members of the inaugural class of the Vanderbilt Student Media Hall of Fame.[23] In 2012, he received two honors: he was nominated for a Sports Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio Analyst,[24] and was the corecipient with DJ Steve Porter of a Webby People’s Voice Award in the category of Video Remixes/Mashups for “All He Does Is Win,” Porter’s mashup of clips of Bayless passionately defending oft-maligned quarterback Tim Tebow.[25]

Personal fitness[edit]

Despite the demands of his work, Bayless has continued to focus on personal fitness over the years,[26] pursuing many forms of exercise, including basketball, running and weight training. When he moved to Dallas, he regularly played in pick-up basketball games with current and former Cowboys, including Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, Pat Toomay, Dennis Thurman, and Dextor Clinkscale. In God's Coach: The Hymns, Hype and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry’s Cowboys, he wrote about a pair of especially memorable pick-up games he played against the recently retired Staubach, which involved Toomay and Harris, and spoke to the former quarterback’s fierce competitiveness.[27] While covering Wimbledon in 1982, Bayless was introduced to running when some other journalists invited him to go along with them on a run. He enjoyed it so much, he did it the next day and every day thereafter for many years. By 1983, he was running a 10K race almost every Saturday. His personal best was 35:15 at the Azalea Run in Dallas in 1987. Around the time he took up running, Bayless realized diet is an important element of personal fitness, and has followed a strict diet ever since, eschewing red meat, fried foods, and sweets. In August 1984, he ran his first marathon, the San Francisco Marathon. Over the next seven years, he ran eight more marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 1985, the New York City Marathon in 1986,[28] and his hometown race, the Dallas White Rock Marathon, which he ran five times.[29] His personal best was 2:47:20 at The Woodlands Marathon in Houston in February 1985. He ran his final marathon at the Dallas White Rock Marathon in December 1991. After meeting Dallas trainer Larry North, Bayless began to devote as much time and energy to weight training as running. He has continued with his weight-training regimen over the ensuing years, as well as daily cardio workouts; mostly treadmill work, but also weekly 9-10-mile, noncompetitive runs on outdoor courses.


  • God's Coach: The Hymns, Hype, and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry's Cowboys, Simon and Schuster, 1990. ISBN 0-671-70581-4.
  • The Boys: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys' Season on the Edge, Simon and Schuster, 1993. ISBN 0-671-79359-4.
  • Hell-Bent: The Crazy Truth About the "Win or Else" Dallas Cowboys, HarperCollins Publishers, 1996. ISBN 0-06-018648-8.

See also[edit]

  • Rick Bayless – celebrity chef and brother of Skip Bayless


  1. ^ Michael Tillery, "The Skip Bayless Interview Part I: Colorful, Conscious and Of Course, Controversial," The Starting Five, February 23, 2009
  2. ^ Rick Maese, "Skip Bayless, ESPN2 “First Take” co-host, may be the most hated man in sports," The Washington Post, September 13, 2013
  3. ^ “Taft Youth Gets Cage Clinic Honor," The Oklahoma Journal, June 16, 1966
  4. ^ “Redskins Trim Southeast, 3-2,” The Daily Oklahoman, March 22, 1969, Sports, Page 11
  5. ^ Bracht, Mel, "ESPN analyst Skip Bayless explains disputed claims about basketball career," The Oklahoman, April 11, 2012
  6. ^ Frank Boggs, “Skip’s B proves Nobody’s Perfect,” The Oklahoma Times, May 21, 1970
  7. ^ Thoroughbred Racing Association: Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship, Past Winners
  8. ^ Christopher M. Hanes, "Alumnus of the Year: Skip Bayless," Maltese Cross, Spring 2012
  9. ^ Michael Tillery, "The Skip Bayless Interview Part I: Colorful, Conscious and Of Course, Controversial," The Starting Five, February 23, 2009
  10. ^ Daily Racing Form: Past Eclipse Award Winners
  11. ^ Sports Media Monitor: Skip Bayless
  12. ^ Skip Bayless, Hell-Bent: The Crazy Truth About the "Win or Else" Dallas Cowboys, Chapter 13, “Family Secrets”
  13. ^ The Dallas Morning News, "Troy Aikman hints he might deck Skip Bayless if two were to meet," Aug. 31, 2011
  14. ^ Skip Bayless, Hell-Bent: The Crazy Truth About the "Win or Else" Dallas Cowboys, Chapter 15, “The N-Word”
  15. ^ Chicago Tribune, “Tribune’s Bayless Wins Major Award,” May 10, 1999
  16. ^ Chicago Tribune, “Tribune’s Bayless Honored,” April 29, 2001
  17. ^ Bayless, Skip, "Mail Bonding," Sports Illustrated, August 4, 1997
  18. ^ "That's Not Love" written by Armando Christian Perez, aka Pitbull, and Jonathan H. Smith, aka Lil John. Copyright: Lil Jizzel Music Publishing, Songs Of Universal Inc.
  19. ^ IMDb: Rocky Balboa (Full Cast & Crew)
  20. ^ IMDb: Pony Excess (Full Cast & Crew)
  21. ^ IMDb: Herschel (Full Cast & Crew)
  22. ^ The Oklahoman, “Education Briefs: City Wall of Fame inductees named,” August 10, 2008
  23. ^ Vanderbilt News, “Vanderbilt Student Media Hall of Fame’s inaugural class named,” August 18, 2009
  24. ^ The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Announces the Nominees for the 33rd Annual Sports Emmy Awards, March 20, 2012
  25. ^ 2012 Webby People's Voice Awards: Video Remixes/Mashups
  26. ^ Rick Maese, "Skip Bayless, ESPN2 “First Take” co-host, may be the most hated man in sports," The Washington Post, September 13, 2013
  27. ^ Skip Bayless, God’s Coach: The Hymns, Hype and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry’s Cowboys, Chapter 7
  28. ^ Athlinks: 1986 New York City Marathon Results
  29. ^ Official Dallas Marathon Results

External links[edit]