COLUMBIA — Is ESPN’s College GameDay more than just a three hour television show? Is it a publicity booster? A magnet for recruits? An affirmation for the teams playing?
You be the judge.
No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (6-0, 2-0)
at No. 18 Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Columbia
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM and 100.5 FM, KCQM/96.7 FM - Mike Kelly (play-by-play), John Kadlec (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines)
TV: ABC Sports - Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Erin Andrews (sideline reporter)
SERIES: Oklahoma leads, 66-23-5 and has won seven straight since Missouri’s last win in 1998.
The show, which began in 1993, broadcasts from one high-profile NCAA football game each week. How does ESPN pick which game to go to? No one’s really sure — maybe it’s a confusing computer algorithm like the BCS — but what we do know is that the five-person team of Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmon Howard and Erin Andrews are usually at a matchup between two highly-ranked teams.
And no, they didn’t pick Missouri because of a Facebook or Twitter petition — don’t believe the rumors.
The rumors started, though, just after Saturday’s victory over Texas A&M, with Fowler’s Saturday evening tweet that read, “I see you, Mizzou .. somebody wants Gameday on campus for the first time ever ... OU v. MO next week in competition with LSU-AUB and NEB-OK ST.”
So far this season, the crew has traveled to Atlanta for LSU’s opening game, Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Oregon, South Carolina and Wisconsin. ESPN chose to come to Columbia rather than return to Auburn for the second time in 2010, making Saturday’s appearance its first this season at a Big 12 school. In fact, GameDay has not visited a Big 12 campus since it traveled to Austin, Texas, on Sept. 19, 2009, for the Texas vs. Texas Tech matchup.
Although GameDay has never traveled to Columbia, the Missouri team is not a stranger to its presence. The crew was at three of its games in 2007 — in Lincoln, Neb., Kansas City, and at the Big 12 Championship in San Antonio. Having the crew on campus, though, will give Missouri students and fans a chance to appear in force.
“Hopefully we’ll have thousands and thousands of fans, which I’m sure we will,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “It’s great, certainly for the University of Missouri, for our community.”
So, for Missouri football, the visit is kind of a big deal. Although Pinkel said that his team cannot focus on the media hype leading up to the event, it’s hard to ignore. He said that he wants his players to focus on the difference between the game and the event, and that he doesn’t care so much about media attention surrounding the game.
“For us, there’s going to be a lot of stuff going on, a lot of excitement on campus and different things, but we need the ability to be able to focus on the task and hand and focus on preparation,” Pinkel said.
He did concede that the event and the national attention that it brings to Missouri is unquestionably positive, both for the football team and the university.
“The exposure is phenomenal. We don’t have a bank account big enough to be able to get this kind of exposure, not only for the football program but for the university.”
Pinkel said that the game against Oklahoma will definitely be a challenge for his team, but he was reluctant to say what an underdog victory would bring. Turning point, proving themselves — Pinkel hates these terms. For him, GameDay will bring a test. It will bring exposure and judgment on a national level, and that’s all that matters. Not the cameras, not the reporters, not the thousands of banners — just the turf and the 22 players battling for the win like they do every other Saturday.