Backstage at ESPN College GameDay

By: Tom Malone - Fall 2011

Palo Alto, California - My friend and I walked right by the Stanford University sheriff and into the backstage area of ESPN College GameDay on Saturday, Nov. 12 with passes given to us by a generous fraternity alumnus.

After our ten-hour drive from Eugene, Ore. to Palo Alto, Calif., we arrived to the ESPN set at 5:45 AM feeling surprisingly excited to see the sunrise. I poured myself a cup of official ESPN coffee, then another. And then it happened.

The GameDay crew (Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Erin Andrews, and Desmond Howard) walked right in front of us and onto the stage. The team that I had idolized journalistically since I began watching college football stood only a few feet away from me. No ropes, no barriers, just there.

The production started and the sea of red-clad Stanford students in the background screamed, vying for a flash of screen time. My friend and I observed from the backstage area, as we had been in the crowd many times before when the show aired from the University of Oregon campus.

To our right, we noticed former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in attendance. After a substantial college football conversation with her, we took pictures with the Oregon cheerleaders (who wore mustaches in support of men’s cancer awareness) and Puddles the mascot.

Corso picked Stanford to beat the Ducks, a decision I’m sure he later regretted after a 53-30 Oregon victory. The show wrapped and we walked onstage to be in a picture with the crew.

I spoke with Herbstreit, a longtime idol of mine. He gave me some solid journalistic advice after I told him of my aspirations to fill his shoes after I graduate. He followed up with an encouraging, “Good luck, bud! Go Ducks.”

As we left the GameDay area in the Stanford Oval, we relished the moment with star-struck euphoria. Stanford fans proved polite, yet competitive; well-informed and passionate. At 9:15 a.m. and with three hours of sleep, this Saturday was shaping up to be one for the adventure record books.