Cougar fans have held their breath in anticipation ever since the news broke that the university was one of two finalists for the Halloween hosting of College GameDay. In the 28 years that the show has aired, the Cougars have yet to host the popular Saturday morning program, leaving fans to cross their fingers in the hope that this weekend would finally be WSU’s chance to shine.
When producer Lee Fitting announced that WSU was competing with Temple University for the Saturday show this Halloween, Cougar supporters took to Twitter to voice support in favor of their campus. They peppered broadcasters Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso with pleas and bribes ranging from trick-or-treat outings to the signature Cougar Gold cheese of the university creamery.
Despite their passionate campaign, Cougar fans had to wait almost 44 hours for the announcement, with ESPN officials waiting until early Monday afternoon to make a decision.
When the elite sports network finally tweeted the location of the College GameDay set this Saturday, WSU fans were left disappointed and infuriated. Through a video on social media, ESPN announced that Temple had been selected as the Halloween host of the show, leaving a number of WSU students and fans in an uproar.
“I think it’s very disappointing that they didn’t pick Wazzu to host,” said former WSU student Keanna Hawk. “The producer picked a college that not very many football fans have heard of. If they wanted more viewers for Saturday’s show, why not pick a matchup with more prominent programs like Washington State and Stanford?”
The controversy of the decision initially stemmed from a tweet by College GameDay producer Lee Fitting late in September, following nationwide efforts by WSU fans to bring the Washington State flag “Ol’ Crimson” to the program for its 166th consecutive appearance on the show.
His tweet referenced the dedication of WSU alum that had traveled thousands of miles throughout the past twelve years in order for the crimson and gray flag to fly in the background of every broadcast. He vowed that College GameDay would make an effort to host the show on the Pullman campus sometime in the near future, due to the dedication of Cougar football fans.
“Our flag is in the background of ‘College GameDay’ all the time,” said WSU head coach Mike Leach. “No one has been a more loyal supporter of College GameDay than the Cougs.”
Rumors began circulating that Washington State was in the mix to host the prestigious show, following a sizzling 4-2 start for the Cougars after a notable upset over the Oregon Ducks. When ESPN officially announced that Pullman was a potential destination for the Halloween show, it was widely assumed that a victory over the Arizona Wildcats would boost the probability of the Cougars hosting the program.
When WSU emerged from Tucson a week later with a thrilling 45-42 victory over Arizona, they looked to be the frontrunners for hosting the College GameDay program. WSU’s Halloween matchup consists of a critical game against Pac-12 rival Stanford, with the winner claiming the top spot in the Pac-12 North standings.
But as Saturday afternoon slowly turned into Sunday evening, ESPN remained surprisingly silent on the matter. The sports network generally makes the location announcement on Sunday morning. But as the decision extended into the early hours of Monday afternoon, college football fans were left scratching their heads in confusion, wondering why ESPN was delaying the decision.
When the network finally revealed the decision to host the show at Temple, the move garnered national criticism. The upcoming matchup between Temple and Notre Dame has no implications for either program as far as conference standings, as Temple is part of the American Athletic Conference and Notre Dame competes as an independent. In addition, Temple will not be playing the game on its own home field. Instead, the university will be borrowing Lincoln Financial Field from the Philadelphia Eagles in order to host the game.
Critics have pointed out that the upcoming venue does not reflect the collegiate atmosphere that College GameDay has championed throughout the years. Opponents to the Temple decision have also pointed out that the Owls undefeated record may just be a fluke, as the program has not faced any ranked opponents so far this season. Temple also enters the matchup as a double-digit underdog to the No. 9 ranked Fighting Irish.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for WSU fans was in how ESPN teased the possibility of hosting the show in Pullman. Sports broadcaster Samantha Ponder, who recently replaced Erin Andrews on College GameDay, tweeted that on Halloween she might don a cougar costume, referencing WSU’s mascot and leading fans to believe that her cryptic tweet meant that the show was en route to Pullman.
Ponder’s comment (which has since been deleted), along with Fitting's earlier tweet, left Cougar fans feeling as though they had been swindled by the popular sports network.
“I think it’s unfair for ESPN to tease Cougar fans with messages like that,” said WSU football fan Ali Riggan. “ESPN knows how important it is to a campus when College GameDay chooses their school to host, and I think that the tweets were unfair to the university by giving fans false hope.”This past weekend represents the closest that Washington State has gotten to host the show since its creation in 1987.
The Cougars will face No. 8 ranked Stanford at Martin Stadium in Pullman at 7:30 p.m. for the opportunity to claim sole possession of the Pac-12 North.
College GameDay is currently set to broadcast from Independence Mall in Philadelphia at 6 a.m.