Get a pot of coffee brewing, find your TCU purple and get to work on that wacky sign. The College GameDay set is being erected on the TCU campus and will be the focus of the college football world Saturday morning.
Will a Fort Worth-centric celebrity guest picker make an appearance? What kind of crazy costume will Lee Corso find himself in? What will be the best sign? How loud will Horned Frogs fans be when the show goes live to the nation from the Campus Commons lawn from 8 to 11 Saturday morning?
And will the student body still have energy left to cheer on the No. 8 Frogs against No. 23 West Virginia at 2:30 p.m.?
Of course! This is what college football is all about, and for TCU, it has been a long wait. Eight years, to be exact.
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GameDay has been to Fort Worth — setting up in Sundance Square — more than once, most recently for the Alabama vs. Wisconsin game at AT&T Stadium in September 2015.
But the first and only other time ESPN’s flagship college football show was on TCU’s campus was Nov. 13, 2009, when the Horned Frogs were becoming a force to be reckoned with on the national scene while still in the Mountain West Conference. That morning, Corso agreed with Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit and put on the Horned Frogs mascot head to pick No. 4 TCU over No. 16 Utah. The Frogs romped later that night to a dominating 55-28 win at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Things have changed, of course. The Frogs are now in the Big 12, and TCU’s national profile has risen to unseen heights, thanks largely to Gary Patterson’s football program and Jim Schlossnagle’s baseball program.
Long, strange trips
GameDay wasn’t always broadcast live on location. The original version of the show started in 1987 with hosts Tim Brando, Corso and Beano Cook. The first on location telecast wasn’t until Nov. 13, 1993, when No. 1 Florida State traveled to South Bend, Ind., to play No. 2 Notre Dame. There was so much anticipation for the game that ESPN decided to broadcast GameDay live from the Notre Dame campus.
The following season, six editions of the show were on location. It wasn’t until 1995 that the show made it a weekly on-location event. The first time a Texas school played in a game at the site of a GameDay location was when No. 3 Texas A&M played No. 7 Colorado in Boulder on Sept. 23, 1995.
The first time the show shot in Texas was in 1999 when No. 3 Nebraska played No. 18 Texas in Austin.
Texas-themed College GameDay
School: Total (hosted)
Texas: 15 (6)
Texas A&M: 7 (5)
TCU: 6 (2)
Texas Tech: 4 (1)
Baylor: 3 (2)
Houston: 1 (1)
SMU: 1 (0)
Rolling on Roll Tide
Alabama has played the most games with College GameDay on site with 40, but Ohio State (39), has hosted the most with 16. The 11 schools that have played at least 20 games which received the GameDay treatment:
As the show has gained in notoriety, the buzz around guest pickers invited to help make the show-closing picks of the day has exploded. A who’s who of famous names from the sports and entertainment worlds have been on set. A few of the notables:
Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Charles Barkley, NBA legend
Stone Cold Steve Austin, Wrestler
Katy Perry, Pop star
Ken Griffey Jr., MLB Hall of Famer
Willie Robertson, Duck Dynasty
Marcus Luttrell, decorated Navy SEAL
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys legend
Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR driver
Lil Wayne, rapper
Classic College GameDay moments
The first time Lee Corso reached for a mascot head (Oct. 5, 1996): The first time Corso put on a team’s mascot head for the picks segment was when No. 4 Penn State was at No. 3 Ohio State. Corso pulled out the head of Brutus Buckeye and put it on to signal his pick. It was the middle week in a stretch of three weekends that Ohio State was involved in the GameDay circus.
Corso picks the road team after massive fake (Sept. 24, 2011): In front of a huge throng of jacked-up West Virginia fans in Morgantown, W.Va., Corso appeared to be leaning towards the Mountaineers during the pick segment, even pulling out a large poster of himself wearing a Mountaineers coonskin hat before pulling out an LSU Tiger head and picking the Tigers. Host Chris Fowler remarked at the time that it was the first time Corso had picked the road team. WVU fans booed the pick lustily as the show signed off.
Those freaky coaches masks (multiple Halloweens): The GameDay hosts first donned realistic masks of coaches for an Oct. 27, 2012, edition from Norman, Okla. The coaches represented included Alabama’s Nick Saban, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. The masks have often creeped out viewers. David Pollack wore a Patterson mask during a Halloween-timed edition on Nov. 1, 2014, when the Horned Frogs were in Morgantown to play West Virginia.
Bill Murray body slams Lee Corso (Oct. 19, 2013): The legendary actor was on the set in Clemson, S.C., for the picks segment when No. 5 Florida State was at No. 4 Clemson. Going off-script, according to then GameDay reporter Samantha Ponder, Murray took umbrage with Corso entering the set dressed as Seminoles mascot Chief Osceola, complete with face paint, headdress and spear. Murray, 63 at the time, pulled a faux wrestling move on Corso, then 78. Murray partially picked up Corso and feigned body slamming him to the ground. It was hilarious, and remarkably neither was injured.
Will Ferrell attacks Oregon Ducks with a giant Corso head (Oct. 31, 2010): The “Saturday Night Live” and USC alumnus was on set wearing a Trojans track suit and Nikes making picks with the crew, including Corso, who was wearing a giant replica of his own head. When it came time for Corso to make his pick, he took off the head and gave it to Ferrell and put on the Ducks’ mascot head while celebrating the pick with the actual Ducks mascot. Ferrell retaliated by pretending to beat them both with the fake Corso head. It was weird and hilarious, exactly what you’d expect from Ferrell.