SEATTLE - “ESPN College GameDay” built by The Home Depot made its historic debut at the University of Washington Saturday. The famous “GameDay” desk was set in front of iconic Suzzallo Library.
“Seattle’s been on our bucket list for years,” senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said.
“Red Square is awesome. Like, top five locations we’ve ever been just in terms of visuals. It’s spectacular.”
Fans of all ages set up tailgates and lined up to see the 180-minute show that aired live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. PST. Students that attended Friday’s 8:00 p.m. UW volleyball match at Alaska Airlines Arena the night before were given a special VIP bracelet for the line of more than 600 for the opportunity to stand in “The Pit.”
Officially, the line for “The Pit,” the front rows directly behind the broadcast, didn’t open until 3 a.m. However, die-hard Dawg Pack members began the wait in front of Suzzallo Library immediately following the volleyball match.
Junior Danny Tomlinson received a VIP bracelet after supporting the Husky volleyball team and trekked to Red Square at midnight.
Running on an hour of sleep, Tomlinson and his friends made it into ESPN’s exclusive “The Pit.”
“We got in (to “The Pit”) at probably 4,” Tomlinson said. “It was worth it. It’s just fun seeing all the cameras and all the signs.”
As expected, a dark, slippery Red Square was littered with flags and homemade signs forming a 10-foot-high paper barricade around the “GameDay” set covering all but pieces of the big screens.
Local WSU alumni flew the always-present Washington State flag – plus a few extra. UW fans offset the Pullman flags with Husky flags of their own.
Surprisingly, Dawg fans let up on the Cougar flag volunteers and actually joined forces to mutually cheer against Oregon.
But, never mind seeing the set. Beyond the wall of posters and flags, the volume of the crowd and the bustle of fans drowned out ESPN’s loud speakers. The Husky Band added to the ambiance by playing during commercial breaks.
So why tough out the early morning, constant drizzle, and cold to not see or hear any of the show? For football fans, experiencing “GameDay” transcends sleeping, bad weather, and even injuries.
Husky students, alumni, and supporters traveled as far as Enumclaw, Wash. and Des Moines, Wash. just to be at the venue.
To show off his self-designed sign that “implied [Oregon] has stupid uniforms,” 13-year-old Keegan Sando convinced his dad, Mike, to take him to “GameDay” at 5 a.m.
“It was a blast,” said Keegan.
Mike agreed despite his initial hesitation to attend.
“I knew it would be a madhouse,” Mike said. “He talked me into it.”
Cole Everman, a 2007 UW graduate, poked fun at Washington State and Oregon fans around Red Square pointing an arrow that alluded to Huskies being smarter than both Cougars and Ducks.
“The response has been positive,” Everman said.
“I was hoping to just make something that was different and I figured the amount of Cougar fans that were going to be here and the amount of Oregon fans that were going to be here, it would work out.”
Everman was a crowd favorite, drawing laughs and pictures from those mingling around the area.
Another pair that fans constantly requested photos with was UW alum Chris Miller and six-month-old husky puppy, Don James. Miller named his dog after the legendary “Dawgfather.”
Don James enjoyed the scene. He wagged his tail, posed for pictures, and even licked the Red Square bricks to the amusement of on looking attendees.
Others were less active, setting up chairs on the outskirts of the crowd, but close enough to hear the “GameDay” broadcast.
“We were hoping to get closer,” 59-year-old Owen Blauman said. “It’s the same view as home, but the sound’s better.”
Sitting next to Seattle-native Blauman adjacent to the Red Square towers was Inglemoor High School senior, Colin Portugal, swaddled in various purple blankets, and mom, Alesia.
“We did the wheelchair today,” Alesia said regarding her son’s dislocated ankle. “We figured crutching it wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun (because of the rain).”
Despite age, distance, time, and weather, fans flocked to Red Square to be a part of “ESPN College GameDay.”
Thirteen-year-old Nick Lynch summed up the experience.
“It’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity.”