PROVO — Hey, BYU football fans, ESPN's "College GameDay" is "coming to your city."
That Big & Rich tune is the trademark intro for the two-hour broadcast that kicks off every fall Saturday morning of college football — a healthy dose of pregame programming set against a backdrop of thousands of screaming, scheming-to-get-on-the-screen fans, all wrapped in a rock-concert aura.
And Provo, it's yours this weekend.
For the first time.
So add Provo to the list of the 60-plus cities that have hosted "College GameDay," along with the Gainesvilles, Ann Arbors, Columbuses, South Bends and Knoxvilles of the nation.
Yes, Salt Lake City, too.
And the favorite site of all?
"It's where we're going next for the first time," said "GameDay" coordinating producer Lee Fitting, who's been with the program for a decade. "The kids are so fired up; it almost guarantees a great setting.
"It's electric. Every place has its own unique, crazy atmosphere — and the better the crowd, the more energy the guys on the show have and the guys on the crew have."
Those "guys on the show" are host Chris Fowler, analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit and contributor Desmond Howard — the faces of "GameDay's" 23rd season.
The nomadic college football caravan is already onsite, setting up the "ESPN Compound" in the parking lot west of BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"GameDay's" live-TV broadcast begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. Fans are encouraged to show up by 7 a.m. for live shots from Provo during "SportsCenter." Fans who can't wait for Saturday are invited to show up by 11:30 a.m. Friday to join the crew as it tapes some segments for Saturday's broadcast.
"GameDay Radio" will broadcast from the same location, from noon Saturday up to kickoff of Saturday's BYU-TCU game. The show will feature Ryen Russillo, Brad Edwards, Trevor Matich, the starting center on BYU's 1984 national championship team, and special guest LaVell Edwards, BYU's legendary Hall of Fame coach from 1972-2000.
Oh, yeah, the game. No. 16 BYU's 5:30 p.m. homecoming contest against the undefeated Horned Frogs — ranked No. 10 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the BCS rankings — is the draw for ESPN, which scours the country for the weekend's best matchups and storylines.
The game — ironically to be broadcast by ESPN's cable-network competitor Versus — is the weekend's only pairing of ranked teams, with both Mountain West Conference foes having Bowl Championship Series aspirations.
"It's an opportunity for the university to be on the national scene, the biggest stage of college football," BYU associate athletics director Duff Tittle said.
Tittle and BYU officials have been working with ESPN counterparts on the "GameDay" logistics, providing the venue, communications capabilities and power lines — the stadium site fits best on all accounts. BYU may provide some assisting manpower, but the ESPN crew of more than 70 helps cover construction, sound, lighting, cameras, production, technology and security.
"It's like clockwork for them," he said. "They're very organized and they know exactly what they need to accomplish."
Added ESPN publicist Michael Humes: "And then we pick it all up and do it all again, every weekend for 15 weeks."
Salt Lake City earned the state's first "GameDay" visit in 2004, before the University of Utah's regular-season finale against BYU and subsequent BCS-busting trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
"GameDay" veterans bring up Salt Lake City unprompted — Corso recalls tossing Tostitos chips with Herbstreit during the broadcast and putting on the U. mascot Swoop's head in correctly predicting a Ute victory.
Fitting's office still sports an overhead photo — taken from atop Rice-Eccles Stadium — of the "GameDay" set and U. crowd. "It was one of the great settings," Fitting said, "and we don't expect anything less Saturday in Provo."
U. associate athletics director Liz Abel recalls the hectic task of trying to accommodate both TV and radio "GameDays" as well as the ESPN2 broadcast/production crew, espn.com and a host of local and national media attending the game, building bleachers in unused sound booths and vacant areas as expanded press-box facilities.
Five years later, nobody remembers the frigid 22-degree temperature that late November day. Saturday's forecast for Provo has temperatures projected in the low-to-mid 60s, though it will be chilly before the sun starts to peek over the Wasatch Front.
"It was extremely exciting to have the buzz around that game and having 'GameDay' here," Abel said. "You can't duplicate that. And I think they're going to have a great time Saturday morning at BYU, knowing that all the TVs in the nation are tuned in to them."
ESPN 'College GameDay'
Where: Parking lot west of LaVell Edwards Stadium
When: Friday: noon, "College GameDay" taping.
Saturday: 7 a.m., "SportsCenter" live; 8-10 a.m., "College GameDay" live; 10 a.m.-5 p.m., "College GameDay" radio.
General info: To attend "GameDay" activities Saturday, line up in the west parking lot, entering off of University Avenue. Backpacks, projectiles, food, drink, offensive signs or signs attached to a pole are prohibited. No parking in the west lot at any time.
TCU-BYU kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., broadcast nationally on VERSUS.
GameDay on the go
Nov. 13, 1993 — A studio show since its 1987 inception, GameDay goes on its first road trip, to South Bend, Ind., as top-ranked Notre Dame hosts No. 2 Florida State.
Jan. 2, 1996 — GameDay goes postseason, broadcasting prior to the Fiesta Bowl pairing of No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Florida.
Oct. 5, 1996 — Predictions go to Lee Corso's head as the GameDay analyst makes his first mascot-head pick with a surprise donning of the head of Ohio State mascot Brutus Buckeye.
Nov. 16, 2000 — GameDay goes Ivy League for the Harvard-Penn game, with Corso dressed as Benjamin Franklin.
Sept. 15, 2001 — GameDay doesn't go to the Georgia Tech-Florida State game as planned, as the weekend games are scrubbed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Nov. 3, 2001 — GameDay goes military, with its Army-Air Force broadcast the show's first visit outside of a BCS conference site.
Oct. 4, 2003 — A large Washington State flag goes where GameDay goes, with its inaugural appearance at the Kansas State-Texas broadcast. WSU alumni have ensured the flag hasn't missed a GameDay since.
Nov. 26, 2005 — GameDay goes for the first time to historically black colleges and universities by featuring the Southern-Grambling game in Houston.
Nov. 10, 2007 — GameDay goes Division III, broadcasting from the site of the Amhert-Williams contest.
April 12, 2008 — GameDay goes springtime by attending Florida's "Orange & Blue Debut" scrimmage.
Cougars on the air
No. 10 TCU (6-0) at No. 16 BYU (6-1)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Live from Provo
Saturday, 8 a.m., ESPN
e-mail: [email protected]