Evanston, Northwestern prepare for first 'GameDay' visit since 1995
Set your alarm clocks and get your custom signs ready, Northwestern fans. "College GameDay" is coming to your city.
ESPN's popular show previewing the day's college football action will broadcast Saturday morning from the northern area of the Lakefill near Lakeside Field, NU spokesman Al Cubbage wrote Sunday in an email to The Daily. "GameDay" host Chris Fowler announced late Saturday night on Twitter that the show will return to Evanston for the first time in nearly two decades.
Cubbage also said the show will be incorporated into Homecoming festivities. Homecoming was forced to cancel a 5K run, previously scheduled for Saturday morning at the Lakefill. University Police will assist with security for the show, which typically draws large crowds of fans with flags and posters.
"GameDay" will make its first appearance in Evanston since 1995 to preview the No. 16 Wildcats' Saturday night matchup against No. 4 Ohio State. The team for the game's ABC broadcast will join Saturday's battle: Play-by-play man Brent Musburger (Medill '61) and color commentator Kirk Herbstreit (Ohio State '93) will watch their alma maters square off at Ryan Field.
"GameDay" also broadcast from Wrigley Field in 2010, when NU took on Illinois. Among the show's traditions are sweeping shots of fervent crowds and a segment in which the hosts select who they expect to win the day's significant games. At the end of the show, host Lee Corso dons the mascot head of the school he thinks will win in the game from which "GameDay" is held.
The announcement put to rest long-simmering speculation about ESPN's interest in Evanston, especially as both the Wildcats and Buckeyes enter conference play undefeated with their eyes on the Big Ten title.
Evanston first heard the network was considering NU for "GameDay" about two weeks ago, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Friday evening. He recently talked about the prospect with his counterpart in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the show broadcast from Sept. 7 when Michigan played Notre Dame.
"When the announcement's made, everything starts moving very quickly," Bobkiewicz said the Ann Arbor official told him.
Bobkiewicz added that the city wants to be as supportive as it can and ensure "minimum disruption" to residents.
On Friday evening, Evanston Police Cmdr. Jay Parrott said the force was already anticipating large crowds for NU's matchup with Ohio State and would be prepared for "GameDay."
Wildside president Gram Bowsher said as of Sunday night, the student section's executive board did not have plans firmed up for incorporating "GameDay," but he anticipates that Wildside will plan programming. The SESP junior said the selection of NU as a host site is indicative of the positive steps the football program has taken. "GameDay" generally attends the most important game of the week, with a preference given to games on ESPN's family of networks.
"It's a huge opportunity for the athletic department to get the Northwestern brand out there, show people who Northwestern is, the kind of student-athletes we have here, the fact that we do contend in the Big Ten every year, that the Northwestern of the 1980s, the Northwestern that lost 34 straight games, it's a completely different program now and, as the football team entrance video says, 'We're here to stay,'" Bowsher said.