ESPN estimates a record-setting attendance for Missouri 'GameDay'

Saturday, October 23, 2010 | 1:21 p.m. CDT; updated 10:06 a.m. CDT, Monday, October 25, 2010
A sea of black and gold Mizzou fans fills half of Francis Quadrangle at MU for the broadcast of ESPN's "College GameDay" on Homecoming. The quad opened to eager fans at 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

COLUMBIA — MU made a record-setting first impression when the school hosted ESPN's "College GameDay" showoff for the first time Saturday morning.

ESPN and the university estimated that Saturday's crowd in the Francis Quadrangle was the largest in the show's history, with 18,000 people in attendance. If that number is confirmed, Missouri's crowd would shatter the University of Nebraska's record of 15,808 set on Sept. 8, 2001.

The crowd was packed shoulder-to-shoulder from the "GameDay" stage to the MU Columns. With Jesse Hall, the Columns and thousands of black-and-gold clad fans, Saturday's "GameDay" background created a postcard-worthy backdrop for the show, "GameDay" producer Lee Fitting said.

"The crowd today was one of the best we've seen," Fitting said. "I've been producing the show now for eight years, and it's as good a crowd as I've ever seen.

"Today was the perfect recipe for a good crowd and a good show. We had a first time site; we had a school hosting No.1 on the road, which is unbelievable; and we had a great campus setting. Most weeks we look for one of those three, this week we had all three."

Desmond Howard, an analyst on "GameDay," said Friday that a great big crowd on Saturday mornings can help him and the "GameDay" panel during the show. Usually, there's a celebrity guest appearance on each show. This week there wasn't, but the crowd didn't seem to mind.

"You can see something on TV, but you can't feel it," Howard said. "You just can't feel the energy, the excitement, all of that stuff that comes with the atmosphere of the kids, because we feed off the kids."

Saturday's crowd provided that atmosphere.

Kirk Herbstreit, who also will provide analysis for the Missouri-Oklahoma game broadcast Saturday night, was also wowed by the crowd.

"I've been doing it 15 years. That was one of the better scenes that we've had," Herbstreit said. "They were loud, they paid attention, that was one of the best crowds we've seen."

Erin Andrews, who hosts the show's first hour, said she was surprised by the turnout. Andrews expected early-morning rain to scare fans away from coming.

"We knew that there was really bad weather last night, and we saw such a great turnout on Friday, we kind of hoped everyone would come out strong today," Andrews said. "Just when we pulled up at 6 a.m., 6:30, it was just like 'Oh my gosh' people really did show up … it was such a strong showing, we are so thankful for the fans, they should be really proud of themselves."

Chris Fowler, the show's host, said Saturday provided the best backdrop the show has ever seen.

"We'd like to take that scene behind us and move it around everywhere we go, every week."

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