Sunday, July 13, 2014

NDSU fans fret over choice of GameDay site

Pregame show will broadcast from downtown instead of campus

September 18. 2013 12:12AM
DAVE KOLPACK Associated Press


College GameDay

8 a.m. Saturday, ESPN

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FARGO, N.D. — ESPN is calling an audible for its popular College GameDay show by departing from its typical large-campus backdrops — think Michigan and Clemson — and featuring North Dakota State, owners of back-to-back Football Championship Subdivision titles and an early-season victory over a Big 12 team.

“North Dakota State, in a way, is sort of the Alabama of the FCS,” GameDay senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said in explaining why the show is coming to Fargo on Saturday. “They’re two-time defending national champions, ranked No. 1 in the current poll, ten national titles for the program.

“The next question was, why not?”

The news made fans of Bison Nation ecstatic over the imminent arrival of Lee Corso and Co., but some of them are grumbling about where the show’s setting up shop. Rather than broadcasting from the Fargodome, where dozens of green and yellow coach buses and other homemade party wagons gather for tailgating, ESPN will be in front of the city’s historic Fargo Theatre.

Fitting said his director returned from a scouting trip to the city of about 100,000 people with a single recommendation that serves up a slice of postcard-worthy Americana.

“It just screamed at him as the best location,” Fitting said.

Parts of Bison Nation think otherwise, so much so that officials with the school’s athletic department have implored them to stop tweeting their displeasure to ESPN and pleaded with fans to come downtown before the 2:30 p.m. game against Delaware State.

“It’ll be more than worth it to sacrifice three hours of tailgating to head downtown, support local businesses and provide the best welcome ESPN College GameDay has ever received,” NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said on the website. Besides, Taylor said, the tailgating lots will open earlier than usual.

It’s only the fourth time GameDay has featured an FCS matchup — the last in 2008 for Hampton at Florida A&M — and it comes during a week where there’s a dearth of top-flight Football Subdivision games.

“The stars aligned right,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said.

Fitting also said GameDay has been moving away from stadiums and tailgating as backdrops, noting the Michigan show two weeks ago was on the quad instead of near the Big House and the Clemson set eschewed the exterior of Death Valley for a huge lawn on Aug. 31.

Fitting said he understands why some fans, particularly NDSU students, are worried about the nearly two-mile trip downtown.

“But we want to show off the school, we want to show off Fargo, we want to show off North Dakota in the absolute best light. The downtown area does that for what we’re looking for,” Fitting said, noting ESPN is working with the school to line up transportation.

Plus, the Bison play in a big brick building with a roof.

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