How Ben Criddle worked his way from BYU football cornerback to animated radio sportscaster
Criddle is the force behind a passionate daily radio show dedicated to feeding BYU fans
The Criddler. He’s on a run.
Ben Criddle knows how to battle. He’s done it all his life. Now, he’s clawed his way into being a radio sports show host in Utah, his podcasts and interviews find their way to the four corners of the globe, comfort food for many listeners.
You can either see it as a slight or a major achievement, but Criddle’s impact on sports today rings the bell far louder than he ever did as a junior college transfer cornerback for BYU.
He is a voice.
Oh, Criddle had game. Athletic, decent speed, hungry, motivated, a hard worker, shaker, and mover, his play for Bronco Mendenhall was all he could give on the field. Nobody ever beat him deep. Ever. But now, a veteran radio voice, he’s etched his way into the mainstream discussions of topics of the day, a real force in Utah media circles.
“He is the best BYU-centric sports radio show I have heard in my 40-plus years of being a BYU fan, just edging out the postgame LaVell Edwards call-in show. Love what he is doing and listen every day.” — Listener Garret Larson, on Ben Criddle
“He is the best BYU-centric sports radio show I have heard in my 40-plus years of being a BYU fan, just edging out the postgame LaVell Edwards call-in show,” said listener Garret Larson. “Love what he is doing and listen every day.”
Another listener, Adrian Jenkins: ”Ben is one of those guys that makes you feel like he is your best friend. He is great to listen to and just a genuinely nice guy. I have had the pleasure of meeting him and he is a good dude.
“He is one of the players that made me into a bigger BYU fan. I loved the way he played and I like what he does on the radio as well as tweaking U. fans on Twitter at times.”
Eric Roach notes Criddle is never out of style — literally. “Love his consistency and focus. However, he does have a very strange clothing obsession.”
Listener Todd Murdoch put it this way, “Has no governor on his speech. Always in the fast lane.
“Religious metaphors collapse like the walls of Jericho. I’ll keep listening.”
Former teammate Nate Meikle, now a post-doctoral research associate in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business chimed in: “Whenever I see a Criddler poll I think of Chazz Michael Michaels saying, ‘No one knows what it means. But it’s provocative.’ I love that Ben likes to poke people with a stick. But it’s always good-natured ... and truthfully, he enjoys getting provoked as much as provoking.”
A voice with purpose
Criddle is opinionated, informed, does his research and explores angles and topics that are at the heart of what most BYU fans want to hear from a daily program — the only daily radio show in Utah — dedicated to Cougar sports.
Criddle’s been doing this for nine years now. What he does is a full-time job. But he’s already got a full-time job as owner of Orthopros of Utah, selling medical equipment, and he’s a partner in Royal Army Brand, featuring BYU apparel. This radio thing is his sideshow.
Unlike other broadcast programs like BYUtv’s daily one-hour “CougarNation” that features a bevy of full-time university employees, producers, technicians, sales staff, marketing experts, reporters, play-by-play talent and a van full of former athletes as regular guests like Steve Young and Trevor Matich of ESPN, Criddle pretty much stacks all those hats on his head and plods ahead.
From 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
Unless he finds a guest host, goes on a honeymoon to Hawaii like he did this winter, or takes a few days off. Otherwise, the show goes on.
“Ben was one of my favorite interviews when he played at BYU and he has taken that personality into the broadcast world,” said Darnell Dickson, a broadcast major and sportswriter for the Provo Daily Herald who sometimes co-hosts with Criddle.
“I don’t think people understand the level of commitment Ben brings to his show. He bought his own remote equipment, which isn’t cheap, so he can broadcast the show from anywhere. He is running a full-time business while also preparing for a three-hour show every weekday. His status as a former player gives him access to a tremendous number of BYU personalities for interviews and inside information.”
One of Bronco’s boys
Criddle played football, basketball and ran track for Mountain Ridge High School in Arizona, and had five interceptions during a JC career while at Eastern Arizona and Glendale Community College. He played 31⁄2 seasons at BYU, two as a starter, and had four interceptions in his career.
His former teammates include former NFL players John Beck and popular team captain Cameron Jensen, who are regulars on his radio show. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake was Criddle’s position coach at Eastern Arizona. He is one of Bronco’s guys.
Criddle maintains a consistently high and productive profile on social media including Twitter, complete with graphics and almost daily posts or polls. While he dips into national and local topics outside of the BYU theme, his guests include national personalities including recruiting experts.
It’s a quality gig. And it’s all on him to float or sink. So far he’s sailing along just fine.
Said Dickson, “Ben doesn’t mind tackling controversial subjects or poking the bear (Utah fans). He loves the feedback he gets from both fan bases, positive or negative. He’s driven to keep BYU in the sports conversation, not only in Utah but everywhere.”
BYU fans who’ve bonded with Criddle on the radio can thank the voice of the Utah State Aggies, Scott Garrard, who co-hosts his own show with Hans Olsen on 1280 the Zone in Salt Lake City.
“Scott Garrard started the show,” Criddle said. “Back in August of 2012, he was the program director for 1280 the Zone. He saw the potential in a ‘Cougar Sports’ based show. I owe him for giving me a chance to be a part of the show with my now good friend and mentor Alema Harrington. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have received the opportunity without a recommendation from Hans Olsen and Jake Scott. I’m indebted to each of those men for getting me started in the sports radio world. Some of the best radio talents in the business.”
When Harrington and Criddle split, as is common in radio, Criddle found himself on his own with a different radio station, using the call letters/number 960 AM with Broadway Media. He was put on an island with a weak signal and little or no help. He didn’t have a golden parachute, just an open door. It has surprised many in the industry that Criddle kept it going, almost all due to his own expense and hard work. It should have died long ago.
Criddle resolved the weak signal issue by putting his programs on downloadable podcast services like Apple Play Store. He created an app, ESPN 960, so folks could stream the program live. It is also available on the iHeartRadio app, and his website www.ESPN960Sports.com. His interviews are cataloged in the cloud, available to everyone anywhere.
“I guess I am responsible for creating the media monster that is Ben Criddle,” Garrard said. “When we started the show in 2012, we knew we needed someone who was still connected to the program, could play off Alema Harrington and also be engaging and entertaining.
“Like most people, there are things Ben says or tweets that make me cringe at times, but hey, that’s Ben. Love him or hate him, he’s going to get a reaction from you. The work and the effort that he has put into building that thing has been incredibly impressive.” — Scott Garrard, on Ben Criddle
“Ben had done some fill-in work here with the old 1280 regime and so he seemed like he could be a natural fit. When we finally met for the first time, his enthusiasm and willingness to embrace the industry made me offer him the job on the spot. Some former athletes jump into this business thinking their name is enough to make people want to listen, but Ben realized that wasn’t enough, he needed to work his tail off to earn credibility with his listeners.”
Garrard continued: “Like most people, there are things Ben says or tweets that make me cringe at times, but hey, that’s Ben. Love him or hate him, he’s going to get a reaction from you. The work and the effort that he has put into building that thing has been incredibly impressive.”
Harrington has Criddle’s back.
“Love this guy. When the Jazz asked me to co-host a BYU radio show with Criddle we barely knew each other. After a few shows, I immediately recognized his work ethic and his desire to learn and perfect his craft,” Harrington said. “From show prep to on-air delivery he was on it. I really do love this man! We had a blast doing the show and in the end, when the hosts are genuinely having fun and enjoy each other the show will succeed.
“When the Jazz sold the station and Criddle became the main host of the show he just took the whole thing to another level. Cougar Nation is lucky to have him. The best stories are the one (about) an artesian breakfast sandwich. I was like ‘artesian? You sure? Maybe it’s an artisan sandwich.’ We still get a good laugh on that one, but seriously, I’m proud of what this man has done. Period!”
A passion to report
Criddle’s investment in radio equipment includes a Comrex device to control audio and an assortment of digital/audio equipment. “I can do the show from anywhere on earth,” he said.
And the hats he has to wear? A MacGyver of sorts?
“I architect most of the show and each segment with the help of the executive producer daily. I’m the host of the show and I book most of the guests. I schedule the co-hosts and try my best to create a diversity of voices regarding the news and notes of the day,” Criddle said. “I aid in the sales of the show. I find potential advertisers seeking to promote their products and services. I consult with them on segments that they would like to align with on my show, thus creating better brand awareness and also giving them a sound return on their investment.”
“I endeavor to match the passion and love that Cougar Nation has for their school,” he said when asked to describe why he works so tirelessly to get his show done daily.
As a player, Criddle jokes that he’s best known for being teammates with Beck and Max Hall. He hopes fans remember him as someone who was “relentless, competitive and physical. Someone that never got beat and never missed a tackle.”
Criddle is easily one of the hardest working members of an army of media types that cover BYU practices and games. He says there is a reason for the madness and the wall-to-wall reporters who fall in line to write, talk or do Internet blogs about the Cougars.
“You can never give enough information to BYU fans. Their thirst is insatiable. Regarding the BYU media army, it’s glorious that so many can make a living or supplement their income by giving this fanbase what they want … more content, more insight, more coverage, more commentary,” he said.
The longevity of his show is his pride.
“I’m proud that it continues to this day after nine years,” he said. “I hope we continue to provide a realistic, informative, balanced and entertaining show that the fans appreciate.”
Criddle has had his share of scoops, but his edge is his ability to arrange interviews with newsmakers, including recruits who commit or sign with BYU.
“I have no favorites, variety is the spice of life in my opinion,” Criddle explained. “I truly love discussing and debating Cougar sports with anyone that shares the same passion for BYU as I do. I think the uniqueness of the show is that there are so many voices contributing every week and the fans get to hear from them all on our show.”
He doesn’t let up in summertime, the dog days of summer.
“There is always something to discuss, always news to debate, always topics to dissect. If you think there’s nothing to talk about regarding BYU sports in the dead of summer, you’re probably not listening to my show,” he said.
Criddle married in May 2020, and he and his wife, Brooke Christine Baxter, are expecting their first child in October.
“Beauty and the beast,” Criddle said of his connubial tie and his wife, who is from Las Vegas. “Just glad I found a sweetheart that puts up with me. Someone that wants to build a family with me.”