Football without GameDay? Not so fast, my friend

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 11, 2007

College GameDay is an ESPN show covering college football. It first aired in 1987 with Bob Carpenter as host and Lee Corso and Beano Cook as analysts.

Beginning as a more-or-less routine pre-game analysis of college football games, the show would undergo a radical transformation beginning in 1993 as the show began incorporating &uot;live&uot; broadcasts.

The official name of the show is College GameDay built by The Home Depot. There is a separate radio broadcast, ESPN Radio College GameDay, on ESPN Radio.

Today, the only original cast member remaining is Lee Corso. Chris Fowler serves as host and Kirk Herbstreit, former Ohio State quarterback, serves as Corso’s counterpart and foil. Craig James, currently with ESPN on ABC, was on the show in the mid 90’s. Desmond Howard and Rocket Ismail serve as frequent contributors. Steve Cyphers is usually featured as a reporter.

Nick Lachey joined the crew as a contributor during the 2005 season.

Doug Flutie joined in 2006.

Discussions are often held between the GameDay cast and studio analysts, including Lou Holtz and Mark May.

GameDay began its 20th season on September 2, 2006.

The show now airs live for 2 hours, from 10am-noon ET.


In 1993, GameDay began broadcasting live from outside a stadium hosting a game most Saturdays.

The selected stadium is usually hosting one of the biggest matchups of the day, regardless of whether the game airs on an ESPN network.

The first show &uot;on the road&uot; took place at South Bend, Indiana for the match up between #2 Notre Dame and #1 FSU.

The show takes on a festive tailgate party atmosphere, as thousands of fans gather behind the broadcast set, in view of the show’s cameras.

Many fans bring flags or hand-painted signs as well, and the school’s cheerleaders and mascots often join in the celebration.

The flags are not limited to the schools playing in that day’s featured game: during the 2005 season one fan sent Washington State Cougars flags to alums local to Gameday for that day, to hoist in the background in an effort to bring the show to Pullman, even though the show never went to a game where the Cougars played. Crowds at GameDay tapings are known to be quite boisterous and very spirited.

The show’s current intro and theme music is performed by country music duo Big & Rich, who perform their 2005 crossover hit Comin’ To Your City with revised lyrics that mention several top college teams and a guest appearance by Cowboy Troy.

Typically, the show will end with Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit issuing their predictions for that day’s key matchups, finishing with the game to be played at the stadium hosting GameDay, for which Corso signifies his prediction by donning the head piece of the mascot of his predicted winner.

On occasion, when no suitably important game is available, it will originate instead from the ESPN studios. (Herbstreit, who in 2006 became a game analyst, usually on ABC Saturday Night College Football, is not allowed to make picks for games at which he is assigned due to parent company Walt Disney Company’s conflict of interest rules.)

College Football GameDay was also a source for many arguments regarding the purported East Coast bias: From 1993 until 2004, GameDay had only been to two regular season games on the entire West Coast (1998 at UCLA and 2000 at Oregon).

Given the popularity of the show and the media coverage it brought to the highlighted game, teams and fans of the West Coast teams felt that the show was only magnifying the perceived problems with excess media focus on East, South and Midwest games; ESPN attributed its lack of West Coast games to the need for a very early start time (7 AM PST) and an alleged lack of high quality matchups.

However, since the 2004 season the show has originated from West Coast/Pac-10 schools four times, nearly as many as the previous ten years.

The show’s current primary sponsor is The Home Depot. The secondary sponsor for many of the featured segments is Pontiac.

On November 4, 2006, Chris Fowler did not host the show for the first time in 16 years, Rece Davis, host of College Football Final filled in for him.

Fowler was on assignment, hosting ESPN’s coverage of the Breeders Cup from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

20th Anniversary Memorable Moments

During the 2006 season, as part of College GameDay’s 20th year anniversary, they brought back some of the most unforgettable moments in the show’s history. Some of the clips include:

n College GameDay Hits the Road: On November 13, 1993, College GameDay hits the road, after six years in the studio, to see the #2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the #1 Florida State Seminoles in &uot;The Game of the Century&uot;.

Lee Corso picks Florida State 31-30, but the end result was Notre Dame 31-24.

n Herbstreit Joins GameDay: On August 31, 1996, former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Kirk Herbstreit joined the College GameDay crew, to complete the cast that hasn’t changed since.

n Corso’s First Mascot Head: On October 5, 1996, a tradition starts when Lee Corso picks Ohio State to beat Penn State by sporting Brutus Buckeye’s mascot head.

Since that day, every College GameDay has ended with Corso sporting the team’s head gear, usually a mascot head or another headpiece when a team does not have a suited mascot, such as a Trojan-style helmet for USC or the signature winged helmet of Michigan.

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