ESPN's venerable College GameDay has made a grand circuit of college football's greatest stadiums over its more than two decades of existence. To paraphrase Johnny Cash, it's been everywhere, man. And one week after planting a new flag in the ground at James Madison, the GameDay road show will finally be traveling to another (sort of) new destination.
The problem? It's Philadelphia, for for Notre Dame-Temple, rather than Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State.
Yes, the idea of heading to Philadelphia, a city it hasn't visited since dropping in for a Harvard-Penn game in 2002, and to a Temple campus it has never seen, is a compelling one. (GameDay's not headed to Temple proper, though, but to Independence Mall.) Yes, Temple, which has never been in GameDay's spotlight before, has a chance to enter November unbeaten for the first time since 1974, and mighty Notre Dame standing in the way is a compelling storyline. Yes, the show has already spent two Saturdays at Pac-12 campuses this year.
But Washington State fans have had a presence at every GameDay since the October 2003 season, when a grassroots campaign to get the show to come to Wazzu started with an 800-mile drive from Albuquerque to Austin. After a week off, the flag showed up again, in Madison. Now, 12 years later, the flag -- in the form of Ol' Crimson, Stripey, or Whitey -- has waved at the site of GameDay for 171 consecutive weeks, thanks to the work of a dedicated band of Cougars fans.
And GameDay broadcasting in Salt Lake City on Oct. 10 before shuttling ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit to Tallahassee for that night's Miami-Florida State game in prime time on ABC, suggests that it might have been possible to get Herbie from Pullman to Philly, where he'll broadcast Notre Dame-Temple.
This Saturday, for the first time, it could have flown in Pullman, as ESPN broadcasted from the site of a Washington State game for just the third time in the show's existence. (GameDay visited the 1998 Rose Bowl and Washington State's 2002 game at Ohio State.)
It would have been an especially sweet culmination of the show coming to the flag, and the fans who have given the show one of its most beloved traditions, after a couple of close calls in recent years nearly snapped the streak. If we're comparing narratives, it's really hard to top that.
And with Washington State now 5-2 after a season-opening loss to Portland State, Wazzu QB Luke Falk on an insane run of form in recent weeks and Pac-12 powerhouse Stanford visiting, the game taking place in Pullman is almost as compelling as the tale of the flag brigade. This was quite clearly one of the best possible times to visit the land of popcorn and Fireball.
Instead, GameDay will head to the City of Brotherly Love. And Ol' Crimson will no doubt wave there, too. But more than a few viewers will watch and be wistful for the missed opportunity of a sea of Wazzu flags.
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