Feb. 19, 2010
By Matt Winter
SEATTLE - On Saturday, the Huskies will play host to the UCLA Bruins at 6:00 pm. However, the festivities will start almost 12 hours earlier for Husky fans as ESPN College GameDay makes its home in Bank of America Arena.
The doors will open at 6:30 am for the general public with the broadcast starting at 8:00. Saturday marks the first time College GameDay has come to Seattle since its creation in 2005, and just the third time a Pac-10 school has hosted. The college basketball highlights and analysis show sets up shop at different school locations on Saturdays during the season and airs two shows, the morning edition and an evening broadcast at 5:00 leading up to the broadcast of the game.
"It's always fun," says junior Justin Holliday, "especially for us basketball players because we see these guys on TV all the time, and now finally we have a chance to get that here."
The show presents an opportunity for fans to showcase their zeal to a national audience. For a proud student section like the Dawg Pack, it's the grandest stage to exhibit antics that have garnered them national attention as of late.
"It's a big experience," says Matthew Bryan-Amaning. "Obviously they've never come up to Seattle, and it's a chance for the Dawg Pack and all the Husky guys to show how proud they are and how they are some of the best fans around in the country."
Fans will definitely be inspired. Any game against UCLA is a big game, especially when their previous matchup at Pauley Pavillion was won by UCLA 62-61 on a buzzer-beater by Mustafa Abdul-Hamid. Combine that with the excitement of ESPN's presence and Hec Ed is sure to be rocking.
"It's going to be great," says freshman Abdul Gaddy, "especially the atmosphere of the crowd out there, and I can't wait for it."
Much of the excitement surrounding GameDay is due to the basketball royalty that will be in the house on Saturday. ESPN's broadcast of the game will be called by Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, and Bob Knight - all A-list celebrities to college hoops fans.
"He's a legend," says Gaddy of Knight, whose 902 career victories at Army, Indiana, and Texas Tech are most ever by a men's coach. The General joined ESPN after his retirement in 2008 and has been a staple on GameDay ever since.
"Bobby Knight actually recruited me and wanted me to come to [Texas Tech]," says Holliday. "He came to my house, too. It'll be nice to see him and get a chance to talk to him a little bit."
Coach Romar's Huskies lost to Texas Tech, now coached by Knights' son Pat, in a 99-92 overtime thriller earlier this season in Lubbock. For Romar, the elder Knight is someone he looks up to.
"Over the years, I've been to his practices, his Indiana games, played against his teams when I was with Athletes in Action," explains Romar. "He's always been the best -- very friendly, supportive, he's been awesome. The interaction I've had with him has been awesome."
For a variety of reasons, Saturday should be an exciting event. Major national media attention is the type of thing that can only help a program. With an underwhelming Pac-10 performance this season and lack of marquee games on the Huskies schedule, a strong showing Saturday is something Romar's team needs. If they need help, the Dawg Pack will be there bright and early.