COLUMN: How to prepare for (and survive) ESPN's 'College GameDay'

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 3:42 p.m. CDT; updated 10:04 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 21, 2010

COLUMBIA — On Oct. 9, while I was cheering on the Tigers at Faurot Field, I received some excellent news.

Alex Graf, a manager for the Wisconsin Badgers football team and one of my best friends, called to tell me that ESPN’s "College GameDay" was coming to Madison, Wis., on Oct. 16 for the Wisconsin vs. Ohio State game.

I had been planning on going to that game since spring, so news that "College GameDay" was going to be in town increased the excitement of the road trip.

For those who don’t know, "College GameDay" is a weekly ritual for college football fans. Every week the "GameDay" gang — Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and friends — travel to the site of the biggest game in college football for that week.

As an avid watcher, I was not going to miss my chance to see "College GameDay" at Camp Randall Stadium — the home of the Badgers.

This guide is to help you prepare for (and survive) "GameDay" at MU.

Get to sleep on Friday night.

If you plan to get up early for "GameDay," make sure you go to bed reasonably early. Friday night usually doesn’t require a curfew, but if you plan on making it through the entire show, you will need adequate rest.

There is always something to do in Madison on the weekends, but my friends and I stayed in and rested up because we knew that if we had gone out, there was no way we would have made it to "GameDay" early.

Eat a lot before leaving

When we woke up at 6 a.m. to leave for the set, all I brought to eat along the way was a bag of the snack food "puppy chow." Bad idea. Camp Randall didn’t have any food available, so I was pretty hungry by the end.

The Francis Quadrangle at MU is going to open at 3:30 a.m. If you plan to attend that early, make sure you eat before you get there. Or else stay hungry. 

Bring something to entertain yourself, or bring entertaining friends

If you watch "GameDay," you might have noticed that the crowd is shown before and after commercial breaks. For the most part, the cameras are focused on the anchors or showing a pre-taped segment for the show. Also, it can be hard at times to hear what the anchors are saying, and you might not know what’s going on.

It’s pretty sweet to see the crowd on the video board, but know that there will be times when you’re not sure what your role is in the crowd.

At times I found myself not knowing what to do, so make sure to bring something to kill time. I know that my iPhone was useful, especially during commercial time when nothing was happening.

If you’re going to make a sign, make sure it’s appropriate (enough)

When we got to the gate, there were two security guards checking signs. Because this wasn’t a Mizzou game, most of the security guards didn’t understand what my “M-I-Z F-K-U” sign meant. I was able to get past about four security guards until the one at the front asked me what the “F” stood for. Unfortunately, the sign was taken away.

"GameDay" is concerned about what the signs say. I recall seeing a security guard inside our area checking every single sign, just in case a sign did slip through the cracks.

If you want to make a sign that would insult Oklahoma, make sure it’s clever. One of my favorite signs at "GameDay" in Madison was a picture of LeBron James saying, “Don’t worry, I hate Ohio, too.”

Tailgating might sound fun, but be careful

Tailgating is a symbol that defines college football. There is nothing better than hanging out with your best friends at Lot X on a Saturday.

"GameDay" might seem like an extra opportunity to extend tailgating from early morning to late afternoon, but in my opinion, it is definitely not worth it.

Remember, if you plan on getting there early, you will be standing around for hours. If you have been heavily drinking, the chances of not passing out before the game are very slim.

My advice is to save that atmosphere until after the show. If you plan on pre-gaming, make sure to schedule a nap after "GameDay" and before tailgating.

The "College GameDay" experience is definitely something I recommend. If you love the Tigers, college football, ESPN and the "GameDay" crew, it’s a definite must for Saturday morning. 

Tom Reaves Capp is a junior journalism major from Madison, Wis. He covers city government and other local issues for the Missourian.

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Ellis Smith October 20, 2010 | 5:37 p.m.

Nice piece, Tom. So, let's see where everybody will be this Saturday. You apparently are going to be here in Columbia, the Wisconsin Badgers will be playing a "pivotal" game in Iowa City, and I will be in Madison, Wisconsin, your family home. But there's no game Saturday at Camp Randall! True, but I'll be in Madison on some other matters.

However, I plan to honk as I go past Camp Randall, and I'll be certain to wave at Lake Monona. (Forecast is for rain.)

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