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Behind the Scenes with ESPN’s College GameDay

October 21, 2013
Communication students posing at the ESPN desk

Communication students posing at the ESPN desk. [Photo courtesy of Isaiah Brookshire]

Hoots and hollers from Husky fans, posters proclaiming “duck hunting season” and “quack is whack” and hundreds of people watching the sun rise in Red Square—this was the scene on the eve of the UW vs. U of O football game last Saturday. The crowd had waited up all night in the center of campus, all to get a coveted spot inside the “Pit”—a 600 person, Purple Pride mass that would serve as the televised backdrop for ESPN’s College GameDay.

You read that correctly–ESPN’s famous, weekly on-location show finally came to Seattle! I was fortunate enough to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the whole operation with a group of other Communication/Journalism students. Together we found out what really goes on when shooting an extravagant show such as this one.

One of the first pit stops was the production truck- a large bus filled with hundreds of computer monitors, buttons, and Starbucks coffees. The size of the vehicle was deceptive and I didn’t expect so much technology  to be crammed into such a tiny space. While ESPN workers created (top secret!) segments for the upcoming show, the students stared in awe at the amount of productiveness that was happening in such a small place. A black curtain led to another room filled with producers, glued to the live feed screens in order to spot the perfect moments to include in the broadcast.

Host David Pollack after a live shooting talking with crew member.

Host David Pollack (right) talks with a crew member after filming his segment. [Photo by Elizabeth Pring]

After a great ten minutes of watching ESPN production staff work tirelessly, the tour team was led to the filming set where co-hosts David Pollack and Samantha Ponder shot a live segment to be aired the next day. Watching the filming in action was amazing. It was a fantastic opportunity to see reporters banter with each other and discuss a topic they both cared about, take after take. After the shoot, I was even able to get a shot of David Pollack wearing jeans and sneakers below his tailored suit jacket! Turns out reporters don’t wear full on suits if they’re filmed from the waist up. I knew it!

Though I am not a frequent viewer of the network (I don’t even know what channel ESPN is on) and I’m not interested in a sports broadcasting career, I was truly humbled by the tireless work and effort the ESPN staff put forth to make a fantastic show that millions of people watch. I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of broadcasting, especially news broadcasting on political networks- that’s the political junkie in me speaking- so seeing what really goes on in the production truck and the live taping was an amazing opportunity. This tour definitely piqued my interest in the broadcasting industry again.

ESPN staff working tirelessly to get segments ready for the Saturday broadcast. [Photo by Elizabeth Pring.]

ESPN staff working tirelessly to get segments ready for the Saturday broadcast. [Photo by Elizabeth Pring.]

Seeing a national broadcasting network camp out on campus truly invigorated Husky pride. The Home Depot promotional posters all over not only made Red Square orange, but proved that the UW Husky football team has caught the eye of sporting enthusiasts on the national scale. We are not to be messed with! Having ESPN here was also a fantastic learning experience for Communication students interested in broadcasting and other students who have a love for sports. After countless hours of set up from the crew, gallons of coffee, and the beauty of Seattle rain, it was rewarding to see the fruits of all the work ESPN puts into their College GameDay broadcast.

Communication students Christopher Duclos, Mckenna Mj Hoecherl, and Elizabeth Pring take a photo in front of the set while live segments are being filmed. [Photo courtesy of Mckenna Mj Hoecherl.]

Communication students Christopher Duclos, Mckenna Mj Hoecherl, and Elizabeth Pring pose in front of a live set. [Photo courtesy of Mckenna Mj Hoecherl.]

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