Why College GameDay Is Coming to Your City, If You Live in Boston

ESPN's College GameDay has been all over the country since they took their show on the road, literally, in 1993. Until this coming weekend, though, the show had only been in Boston once, parachuting into Chestnut Hill in 2005 for Boston College's first ACC game. ↵

↵The reasoning for going to a matchup of two unranked teams in a town where college football may be the fourth or fifth passion? It has something to do with the story of Mark Herzlich, the BC linebacker who was 2008's ACC Defensive Player of the Year and diagnosed with cancer in March. I exchanged emails with Mike Humes, an ESPN publicist responsible for GameDay, about the selection of Chestnut Hill. "Since the beginning, College GameDay has originated from the day's best game or a game with the most compelling storyline," Humes wrote. "In looking at the schedule, this site provides us an opportunity to visit with an inspiring person in Mark Herzlich as part of an overall theme of athletes overcoming challenges." ↵

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↵It's easy to wonder whether this really require moving the entire production to Boston? ESPN's offices, it is impossible to forget, are in Bristol, Connecticut, and their crews are more than capable of driving to Chestnut Hill, whereas other destinations require more expensive airfare. But Humes dispelled that concern, writing, "We use the same set, equipment, etc. week-to-week so location to Bristol was not a factor." In fact, if money were the concern, there was an easier option for one of the variable costs: Kirk Herbstreit will be calling the Oklahoma-Miami game in Miami, and GameDay probably could have gone there. ↵

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↵So why does BC still seem like an odd destination? ↵

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↵Well, I'll guess it's mostly because ABC/ESPN's regional lineup of 3:30 games, the slot that Florida State at Boston College is in, is thoroughly underwhelming: Penn State is the only ranked team involved, and ABC/ESPN will be going up against LSU at Georgia, CBS' national broadcast, in the same time slot. And though Humes denied that ESPN televising the FSU-BC game network had anything to do with its selection for GameDay, writing "We go to games not televised on our networks every year," it sure seems like a tussle for control of the ACC Atlantic Division is less important than other games. ("A matchup of top 10 teams with an undefeated Cal would've been a big game," he admits," referencing the USC-Cal game that would have seemed a likely GameDay candidate until Oregon demolished the Bears 42-3 last Saturday.) ↵

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↵Humes confirms that there be a (no doubt emotional and beautifully presented) segment on and appearance by Herzlich on the show. "The show will have an overall theme of athletes overcoming challenges and a feature on Mark will be a centerpiece of it," he writes. "In addition, Boston College will honor him and he is scheduled to be a guest on the show." And it will probably be in the name of raising awareness about Herzlich's rare cancer and paying tribute to his and others' fights, a noble cause. ↵

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↵But, at some level, it's also about eyeballs. Getting people to watch a game between a team that put up less than 100 yards of total offense two weeks ago and a team that looked awful against South Florida last Saturday isn't easy. If ESPN can give viewers a reason to flip to it on Saturday afternoon by showcasing a compelling non-football storyline on Saturday morning, that's their prerogative as a network. ↵

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↵What their prerogative is in regards to Kenny Chesney is anyone's guess. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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