College Gameday Sparks Excitement on Campus for the Second Time this Season
By Cecilia Rodriguez
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — College Gameday returned to Austin on Nov. 12 for a second visit this season for the matchup between the Texas Longhorns and the TCU Horned Frogs.
College Gameday is a Saturday morning ESPN show that travels across the country to different college campuses. Hosted by Rece Davis, the show features former football players Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Pat McAfee who break down important college football matchups of the day before the first games start.
College Gameday has visited Austin 10 times in its 23 years. Its first Austin stop was during the 1999 season when the Longhorns, ranked 18 in the Associated Press Poll, took on the third-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.
ESPN tweeted that Saturday’s broadcast averaged more than two million viewers during the three hour show, a 2% increase from College Gameday’s previous trip to Austin during the season’s second week when the then-top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide rolled into town.
Last weekend’s visit made history. College Gameday rarely travels to a campus twice in the same season and had never made a second stop at UT within a season before.
“It’s always exciting when ESPN calls and says Gameday is headed to your town, your campus,” said Drew Martin, UT Athletics’ Executive Senior Associate Director in External Affairs.
The preparation for an event of this size on a college campus was another ballgame and started with a phone call.
“Most times, you’ll get a heads up–that there’s a short list and you’re on it–to be prepared, and then, either late Saturday night or sometime on Sunday morning, typically, you’ll get the call that it is, in fact, confirmed we are headed [to your campus],” Martin said.
“[The second visit] was a little bit quicker and more traditional where you find out for sure. I think I got the call at about 7:30, 8 o’clock in the morning on Sunday.”
Martin described the week leading up to College Gameday as a quick-paced process– from the moment they received the call to the moment lights turned on set Saturday morning. He said the key was staying in constant communication with the ESPN Gameday team.
“With my staff, it’s how do we find a way to say, ‘yes’? [ESPN] is gonna ask a lot of wild things,” said Martin. “We may never actually need to do those things, but can we figure out how 99% of the time [we can say] yes to their requests?”
College Gameday travels with a huge set that is built and torn down every week. The show also has its own security detail provided by Disney that works with local law enforcement to protect the talent on set and if they travel around the city.
Michael Butterworth, the director of UT’s Center for Sports Communication and Media, visited the College Gameday set before the game against Alabama in September.
“I was struck by the scope of everything backstage. Obviously, if you’ve seen the show on a Saturday morning, you have a sense of what it looks like with the cameras, but there is a lot happening backstage, and so much planning and so much personnel that goes into making sure that show runs well,” Butterworth said.
The event also allowed UT to market its brand and school pride.
“Anytime that you have a three-hour [television] block [on] Saturday morning, that is the most watched gameday show that’s out there. The nation gets up and watches the show before the day of football,” said Martin.
“It’s invaluable–the opportunities that you have to showcase your institution, showcase your traditions, to showcase your student body–the things that make your school special.”