GameDay lured by arch-rivalry storyline

Staff writerOctober 11, 2013 

Lee Fitting called it a no-brainer, this visit to the University of Washington campus by ESPN’s College GameDay crew.

Fitting is a senior coordinating producer at ESPN, and as the producer of GameDay, the popular college football pregame road show, he is in the group of “four or five” people who sit down to decide where the show will be televised each week.

After Mississippi lost last week, removing much of the intrigue from its game this weekend against Texas A&M, Fitting said UW’s matchup with No. 2 Oregon was an easy choice, because it fulfilled the crew’s weekly goal of finding the best story.

“When you look at these few things – you look at national title contender on the road at an arch rival in a hostile environment; matchup of two highly ranked

teams; arguably best game on paper of the day; throw in the fact we’ve never been to Washington before,” Fitting said during a phone interview earlier this week. “All those ingredients make for a really nice recipe for a great College GameDay.”

ESPN chose to broadcast from centrally located Red Square instead of on the waterfront near Husky Stadium, Fitting said, because, after all, the show airs at 6 a.m. (PDT). It’s going to be dark for the first hour-plus.

So they needed a backdrop that not only represented the campus, but would accentuate itself without the benefit of daylight.

Suzzallo Library fit both requirements – its Gothic-style nobility stands out to anyone who visits, and it is always lit at night – so the decision was made to construct the GameDay set in Red Square with the library in the background.

“That whole library is going to be lit up beautifully and be really stunning on TV,” Fitting said. “If you see this building lit up for half the show, it’s remarkable; if we went down by the lake, there’s going to be nothing lit in the background and it’s going to be a dark blob behind us.”


One of GameDay’s longest-standing traditions has become a point of controversy among some Huskies fans with apparently little else to discuss this week.

For nearly 10 years, efforts have been made by a wide base of Washington State University supporters to make sure a Cougars flag – or two – is waving within view of the GameDay cameras during each week’s telecast.

There are no plans to change this week, according to a man named John Bley, who told, a WSU fan site, that he and a friend plan to peaceably assemble with the WSU flag on Saturday, no matter that it will be on UW’s campus.

Despite talk on Twitter and message boards from Husky fans endorsing some kind of flag takeover, Fitting said the tradition will be protected.

“We’ll make sure the flag gets on this week and those folks get a decent spot to wave Ol’ Crimson on Saturday,” Fitting said. “One of our folks will meet with them before the show and make sure they’re in a safe spot and make sure a camera gets to them at some point.”


GameDay co-host and 1991 Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard said he’s looking forward to his Seattle visit, because he has friends in the area whom he hasn’t seen in a while.

He’s also been the recipient of some friendly smack-talk from Huskies fans on Twitter this week, a few of them reminding Howard what happened when his Michigan Wolverines played Washington in the 1992 Rose Bowl to conclude the 1991 season.

UW won that game, 34-14, capping an undefeated season that resulted in a split national championship between the Huskies and Miami. The most memorable moment from that afternoon – and possibly that season – may be star UW receiver Mario Bailey catching a touchdown pass, then flashing the same Heisman pose that Howard famously struck after a long punt return for a score against Ohio State earlier that season.

Howard isn’t all that jazzed about reminiscing.

“I had a pretty good career after that, so I’m good,” Howard said. “It’s always good to be imitated. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

“People come up to me all the time and tell me, ‘Hey, I used to do the Heisman pose.’ ”


Fitting said Tuesday that his crew was in the process of figuring out who would be this week’s “guest picker.” That honor is usually reserved for someone with a connection to the school or city from which the show is broadcast.

UW coach Steve Sarkisian joked Thursday that he hadn’t been consulted, but that “I said they could pick me to come on there. I know who I’d pick (to win).”

christian.caple@ @ChristianCaple

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