COLUMBUS, OHIO – Police officer Jerry Dunlaw, 39, described the process of divorcing his wife of nine years Tracy Dunlaw (née Winters) on the grounds of adultery as “almost unbearably sad,” noting that it was only her affair with ESPN College GameDay analyst and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit that “made things bearable during a difficult time.”
“No one can understand the sadness of a marriage that seems to be going strong only to be suddenly dissolved. You have to experience it first,” said Dunlaw. “I was ignorant about a lot of things. Maybe I was even too innocent. I believed this [marriage] would last forever.”
“Hey, check this out,” the 14-year veteran of the Columbus Narcotics Bureau added as he leafed through the former couple’s financial paperwork. “It’s a Varsity Club receipt signed by Kirk Herbstreit! How cool is that?”
Dunlaw then sobbed quietly for several minutes, making sure to keep the receipt dry and uncrumpled.
The Varsity Club, a local favorite for almost half a century, was one of several bars infrequently visited by Winters and Herbstreit over a period of “at least four years, but probably five,” according to Jack Stanislaw, a private detective hired by Dunlaw in July to investigate his then wife’s “suspicious behavior.”
Stanislaw said that Winters, 33, and Herbstreit, 38, first met in 2002 following a September 14 GameDay appearance in Columbus for a matchup between eventual national champion Ohio State and eleventh ranked Washington State.
Dunlaw recalled the incident.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. That was a good Wazzu team. We were so drunk after the win, and then we saw Herbie at the Varsity. I asked him to sign her [chest],” said Dunlaw. “It was pretty sweet.”
Winters and Dunlaw have agreed to joint custody of their two children, with each parent alternating weeks. The two also agreed that holidays will be spent together “or with Kirk Herbstreit, if possible.”
“There’s a lot about this situation that’s pretty messed up, obviously,” said Dunlaw. “But we’ve got kids and they’ve got to come first. Even though we don’t agree with each other, we could at least agree on that. Making sure the children can lead normal lives was the first priority. Plus, you know, they really love Herbstreit. So that was pretty simple.”
The only point of contention revolves around their Ohio State season tickets.
“We’ve got four of them,” said Winters. “Obviously the kids get two, but what about the other two? Jerry wants them both. I think that’s unreasonable.”
“I’m sure Kirk can get her in,” Dunlaw responded.
“Speaking of which, I wonder if he can get me extras for the [Ohio State-Michigan] game? I’ll have to get Tracy to call him and ask.”
Though Herbstreit occasionally expressed regret regarding the affair, specifically its secretive nature and the guilt over cheating on his own wife of nine years, he was always “willing to sign memorabilia after our lovemaking,” according to Winters.
“Kirk’s so generous. It’s one of the things that really attracted me to him, I think. He’s got so much to do but he takes his time to interact with a fan like me. I knew Jerry would love stuff like signed footballs and jerseys. He [Jerry] always used to ask me how I got them, and I would just wink and smile and say ‘I think you’ve got a secret Santa somewhere,'” said Winters. “He’s just a great guy. We’re all so proud he’s a Buckeye.”
“Kirk’s a Buckeye through and through. He’s always been there for us, for the school and the team. He just does everything right. He represents himself and the university well. He always knows what to say and how to say it.”
Added Dunlaw: “I wish he was here right now. I think he’d know how to help me pick up the pieces of my life.”
This isn’t the first time Dunlaw has crossed paths with Herbstreit. The two were both undergraduates at Ohio State at the same time. In fact, Dunlaw regulary sat “two or three” rows behind” Herbstreit during a shared business class.
“I saw him at a couple of parties, too. We kinda hung out with the same people, and he dated one of my best friends, Janine,” Dunlaw recalled.
“Well, ‘dated’ isn’t the right word for it. They hooked up a couple of times after I introduced them. Man, she was great. Easy to talk to, funny, smart, beautiful. Just the perfect girl. She even liked football! Loved it, actually, which is probably why she and Kirk ended up in the bathroom at parties. I wonder what she’s up to now?”
Mike Knox, Dunlaw’s best friend and a detective for the Columbus narcotics unit, was Dunlaw’s roommate at Ohio State.
“He was in love with [Janine],” said Knox. “Everyone knew it. He was pretty devastated when she first hooked up with Herbie. The only thing that got Jerry through it was the [13-13] tie with Michigan [in 1992].”
“Great game,” said Dunlaw. “[Michigan was] really good that year. I think Kirk set a passing record against them. Something like 28 or 29 completions against a team with Ty Law and Corwin Brown. Herbie really deserved that MVP award.”
“[Screw] Michigan,” he added.
Dunlaw has sought counseling for his grief but says psychiatrists have not helped so far.
“They’ve kinda helped me understand the situation. Coping with it is something entirely different,” the police officer said. “The pain’s still there. I don’t know if it’ll ever truly be gone. I think it’ll get less and less worse until maybe one day I’ll wake up and it’s not there anymore – but that day is still far away.”
Dunlaw’s watch alarm then went off, reminding the Ohio State alumnus ESPN’s SportsCenter was coming on.
“The GameDay crew’s breaking down the BCS situation today,” he said excitedly.
As the nightly program wound through several non-college football segments, Dunlaw reflected on the surreal nature of his situation: “I still can’t believe Herbie’s sleeping with my Tracy. It’s so unreal. I feel like I should be texting Knox right now. Y’know, something like, ‘Oh my god. You won’t believe this! This is amazing!'”
Dunlaw’s eyes settled on his wedding picture still mounted on the wall above his television.
“I asked Tracy to marry me after the ’98 Michigan game. We had finally beat those [guys], and I dropped to my knee right there and then. I was the happiest man alive when she said ‘yes’. Now I just feel like a shadow.”
“There he is!” Dunlaw exclaimed, pointing at Herbstreit’s televised face. “My wife totally slept with him!”
“Ex-wife,” Dunlaw corrected.