Monday, September 20, 2010

Thoughts on ESPN College GameDay

My wife and I had the fortunate experience to attend a VIP event for ESPN's College GameDay this weekend in Auburn. I know a lot of you watch this pre-game show every Saturday morning as I do, but seeing it from behind the barriers and up close brings a whole different experience. I have a new respect for the show, as well as the on-air personalities.

Having never seen a TV broadcast up close, I was amazed at the number of crew members and staff involved in the production of this show. Everything begins each week on Thursday afternoon when the GameDay bus rolls into town with the production team. As soon as everyone arrives, the support equipment, fences, and sets are set up along with the monitors, cameras, speakers and miles of cable necessary to transmit the show. 5am on Saturday, everyone is on the scene reviewing stats, scores, news and prepping for the show. Over 100 staff and volunteers are on hand to aid in the logistics of producing the show.

We were shown around the tour bus driven by a great gentleman named Bobby, who is a veteran and Georgia Bull Dawg. He drives the GameDay bus for 14 weeks during the fall in addition to the college basketball season, and he seems to know everyone on the staff. He is a great guy with a lot of little stories from his travels, and was so well respected by the staff. Amazingly, he gets to take his wife and dog on the road on the bus in between games.

A Dawg helps bring GameDay to your city.
We were also shown the production trailer. Pulled behind a semi, this trailer expands to hold the entire production team of roughly 15 people, 137 monitors, and the security and satellite equipment. From here, all the TV feeds from the site, from the remote reporters to the live feeds coming from Bristol, are combined to form the seamless show you see every Saturday.  The staff in this trailer spend about 18 hours every Saturday coordinating the broadcast from GameDay to kick-off. The amount of direction and coordination we saw while the show was filming was intense. 
This was one section of 5 in the production trailer. 137 monitors in total!
Bringing everything together are the on-air personalities: Erin Andrews, Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso. The biggest thing I noticed was the amount of security on hand. Each broadcaster had two officers escorting them between the set and the bus, with Ms. Andrews having three or four. They are constantly on the move between the main set, the "practice field" and their tour bus. Make no mistake, they were in the heat of the Auburn Plains the majority of the time but still managed to keep their professional cool.
Kirk and his police escort

Desmond Howard making his way to the set.

Erin Andrews
After the taping, we had a chance to take a photo with the crew on the set, in addition to a meet-n-greet. Chris Fowler is very professional and almost stiff, much like you'd expect from a broadcast news anchor. Kirk Herbstreit is very fan-friendly, taking time to sign autographs and going out of his way to see fans outside of the fence line. Out of the 5 broadcasters, he stuck around the longest. Desmond cuts the most jokes around the set. Erin Andrews was very elusive and did not stick around. But the most interesting of the crew is Lee Corso.

Kirk Herbstreit

Don't worry Josh, I passed your message along to Chris. A restraining order is pending.
 Watching Lee on TV, you can see that he has come along way in dealing with the effects of his minor stroke. In person, it is a bit more noticeable, but I admire how well he has persevered and also how approachable he is to those around him. I had great conversation with the coach discussing Auburn and our traditions, the rolling of Toomer's corner, and the game that day. He also let me in on the lapel pin he wears each week. For those of you who are curious, the pin he wears is a B-2 stealth bomber with an American flag on it. It was given to him at the Air Force Academy by the former B-2 wing commander, and its a rare pin to receive. He wears it in honor of our service men and women. It was great to talk Lee and see his passion for college football.

Lee is the man.
Getting up each Saturday going forward will bring a new appreciation for my favorite fall pre-game show. I'm in awe at the logistics, team work and coordination it takes to produce College GameDay each week. It will be hard not to think about the cameramen out in the heat, the statisticians feeding endless numbers, and the guys in the truck for 18 hours on Saturday who help bring it all together. While I won't always agree with the on-air personalities and their picks, I will appreciate their hard work after seeing it in person.


BulldawgJosh said...


Earl said...

Nice write up, AUMaverick.

AUMaverick said...

Pretty much everyone was cool except for Erin Andrews. You could not even say hello to her much less approach her without being confronted by three large APD officers. Stone cold, man, stone cold.

Ellen Helms O'Neal said...

Andrew Howard? My bro in law just asked about corso's lapel pin so I googled it and your blog came up! Small world. Thanks for providing the answer. Hope you are well.

Ellen O'Neal