ESPN’s ‘GameDay’ a success at JMU

Lee Fitting

HARRISONBURG — It took the perfect storm for James Madison University to land ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday, but there’s no question it was a success.

It’s only the eighth time in the show’s history that the show came to a Football Championship Subdivision school. Things broke right for the school to host when several Football Bowl Subdivision teams lost last weekend, making JMU’s game with the University of Richmond a more favorable option. The show’s producer and 1996 JMU graduate Lee Fitting said that he couldn’t have been happier with how the three hours went Saturday.

“Words can’t describe what that scene was,” Fitting said after the show. “Not only going to school here but just as a producer of the show, that was without bias, that was the greatest scene we’ve ever had for the show. It was unbelievable. And it’s not just me saying that. It’s Rece (Davis) and Kirk (Herbstreit) and Lee (Corso), who’s been doing it for an eternity.

“It was awesome, and it was a day that the school should be really, really proud of.”

The show was held at the Quad in front of Wilson Hall and the whole area was packed with loud, enthusiastic fans. The university said there were 12,000 fans in attendance.

JMU’s football team made an appearance in the first hour of the show. JMU head coach Everett Withers was also interviewed. Withers also unveiled JMU’s new helmets for the homecoming game against Richmond.

Country music star Dierks Bentley was the guest celebrity picker, and Corso ended the show in his usual style.

Corso came down the steps at Wilson Hall dressed as James Madison and then donned JMU’s Duke Dog mascot head as the crowd went wild with delight.

“As always that was a complete team effort,” Fitting said. “Coach (Corso) and I talked about it on Tuesday morning, and we walked through some ideas and we were tweaking it all the way up til about 7 o’clock last night. And as always coach pulled it off flawlensly.”

Davis, in his first year hosting GameDay, said he doesn’t like to compare places the show goes, but he was very impressed with JMU.

“I can’t imagine a more intense, more in tune crowd than we had here,” Davis said. “It was a beautiful setting, a spectacular campus. They were into it. The signs were hilarious, the shots of (ESPN analyst and Richmond graduate Todd) McShay particularly with Richmond adding to the rivalry.

“It was a great morning, and JMU did itself proud.”

Fitting said it was special for him to see the success of the show at his alma mater.

“Just to see what it meant to the students and the community and the school here was just awesome,” Fitting said. “It was a dream of mine. I never thought the day would come when we would bring the show here. And then to bring it here and have the show be what it was — was special.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com