Inside ESPN’s “College Gameday”

ESPN’s College Gameday, the basketball version of the football hype-machine, visited Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday as it prepared for the primetime match-up between Louisville at Georgetown.

The doors opened promptly at 9:30, a full hour and a half before airtime, with promises of doughnuts and orange juice for whoever showed up. I guess we should have gotten there early because everything was devoured about fifteen minutes later when we finally arrived.

Digger Phelps, one of the hosts of the show, was pumping up the crowd of nearly 5,000 rabid U of L fans (mostly students) who made signs, dressed up in Cardinal gear, and did anything to get on TV. Phelps, who has the odd habit of coordinating his tie with the highlighter (or is it the other way around?) during the telecasts, was the main cheerleader for the crowd. This is understandable since Jay Bilas, Gameday’s resident negative Nancy was the brunt of most of the jokes from U of L fans in attendance.

Bilas was dominated by Louisville center Pervis Ellison during the 1986 NCAA National Championship game while a member of the Duke Blue Devils. Naturally, he picked Georgetown to win the game. Either he is still bitter about 1986 or he was just playing his role as the scripted contrarian like ESPN has him doing throughout most of the broadcasts he is a part of.

Our biggest complaint about Bilas is he constantly wants to be critical over every little thing in college basketball, yet he never pressed Bob Knight about him quitting in the middle of the season so that his son could take over the team during his “interview”. Perhaps ESPN is making him be the new standard bearer of college basketball since Dick Vitale has been away due to his illness, but Bilas takes it to a whole new level of idiocy.

Hubert Davis was the most vanilla of the group and never says anything controversial. We didn’t see him get up once to pump up the crowd or even look in our direction. Neither he nor Reece Daivs, the show’s elf like host, got out of their chairs one time during the nearly 2 hours that we hung around Freedom Hall.

While it was nice that they did show the entire show above on the Pepsi Vision inside the arena, boom mics and obnoxious signs blocked our view during the time when the crew wasn’t discussing Bobby Knight retiring, excuse me, resigning or why Duke and North Carolina should win a dual National Championship.

Before the actual broadcast, there was a game of knock-out where if the shooter behind the one in front of him makes a basket, the shooter in front is eliminated. Also a sign contest and best dressed fan also were time killers. All of the signs had to be approved and stamped with a sticker so that the production crew knew which signs were okay for air and those who were there to cause trouble.

Some of the funny signs:

T-Will > Chuck Norris

Rick Pitino’s Hit List

Dude, What’s A Hoya?

The most disappointing among all this was there was no Erin Andrews appearance made. None. This is what we got out of bed for. This is what we charged up our cameras for. You would think that with all the college-aged guys the big draw would be the former University of Florida cheerleader. Nope. Not even a glimpse of ESPN’s #1 sideline eye candy. This is too bad because an appearance by Andrews would have certainly made it worth it.

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