JMU excited to host ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’

HARRISONBURG — Will it be a Duke Dog or a Spider?

That’s a question that will be answered in Harrisonburg this weekend as ESPN’s “College GameDay” comes to JMU.

ESPN’s Lee Corso, who was an Apple Blossom celebrity in 2000, makes his pick to win the game of the host school each week by wearing headgear of the team’s mascot to end the show. Corso and the rest of the GameDay crew will be arriving later this week and will perform the popular “College GameDay” show on Saturday from the Quad in front of Wilson Hall from 9 a.m.-noon. The No. 3-ranked Dukes play the No. 12-ranked Richmond Spiders.

“It’s awesome,” JMU linebacker Gage Steele said at a Monday news  conference. “It’s good for this team, good for this community, good for JMU all around.”

Steele said he woke up to the news Sunday morning that GameDay was coming to JMU.

“I actually woke up on Sunday morning with a whole bunch of notifications on my phone,” Steele said. “I was actually trying to sleep in, and my phone is just going off the hook. I seen a bunch of stuff on my phone about ‘College GameDay’ coming and then my roommate (and teammate) Taylor Reynolds comes into my room screaming, waking me up. It was a pretty cool feeling.”

The three-hour show, which airs every Saturday during college football season, will mostly focus on the games between Football Bowl Subdivision schools, but will also talk about the JMU-Richmond game. It is only the sixth time since show began in 1993 that a non-Football Bowl Subdivision school hosted the show.

JMU athletic director Jeff Bourne said that they knew going into Saturday’s games there was a chance for them to host. He said they were fourth on the list of possible host sites when the day began, and everything just fell into place.

The producer for “College GameDay” is Lee Fitting, who is a 1993 JMU graduate. Bourne said he thinks the JMU students and fans also played a part in getting the network to pick JMU.

“I think the students made it happen with our online presence,” Bourne said. “That makes a real difference. Social media today is very powerful tool. Certainly every syndication network monitors and looks at that. So my hats off to every one of those persons that put a plug in for us and made it possible.”

JMU head coach Everett Withers said that it won’t have an effect on the team this week, since it is more for the fans.

“I think it’s good for the fans that have never have experienced a ‘GameDay,'” Withers said. “I’m sure they will be here Wednesday, Thursday and do their deal. I think its good for the community,” Withers said. “(JMU) President (Jonathan Alger) has talked an awful lot about athletics being the front porch of the university. Our front porch better be nice and clean and tidy Saturday, because a lot of people are going to get a chance to see it. I’m looking forward to seeing how this thing goes, and I know our fans will do a good job. I know our student body will do a good job. This is a chance for our JMU community to show off JMU.”

In addition to “College GameDay” ESPN will also air other programming from the Quad on Friday and Saturday, beginning with live spots with Sam Ponder as early as 9 a.m. on Friday. More set features will be filmed later Friday morning. Friday’s 30-minute “College Football Live” program will air at 2 p.m. from the Quad with a gathering of fans welcome in the Pit area. There will be additional “SportsCenter” live shots Friday evening and beginning 7 a.m. Saturday leading up to the 9 a.m. airing of “College GameDay.”

On Saturday, reserved lots will open at 6 a.m., two hours earlier than normal contests. Tailgating in those lots can begin at 8 a.m. General parking lots will open at 6 a.m. and tailgating in those can begin at 11:30 a.m.

Bourne said he is hoping that there around 12,000 people on hand for “College GameDay” on Saturday. He said that ESPN brings their own security and the university is working with the City of Harrisonburg to make sure they have plenty of police on hand for the event.

Bourne said this will be a great event for the entire community, and he said it says a lot about JMU’s football program.

“When you look at what the young men have done on this team, and what the coaching staff have done to be able to put together the type of performance that they have,” Bourne said. “And I would add not just athletic performance, but what they’re doing academically, it makes a tremendous statement. I think it speaks to the planning that we’ve been doing. That’s exactly the type of image and betrayal of this university and this athletic program that we want.”

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