- College GameDay's Times Square set reunited classmates 35 years later, gave a nod to fans of programs large and small and generally showcased what college football means in New York City.
NEW YORK — The sound of horns echoed through Times Square on Saturday morning. A group of passionate people on the corner of 7th Avenue and 44th Street sporadically counted down from 10 and shouted “Happy New Year!” The rest of the crowd applauded them and chimed in the next time.
Given the location, that’s customary for Dec. 31, not Sept. 23. But thousands of high-energy revelers still gathered among tourists and traffic, waiting for the clock to strike 12:00—only they were standing by to watch Lee Corso dress up as the Statue of Liberty at 12:00 p.m., not for the infamous Times Square Ball to drop at 12:00 a.m.
For the first time since the show started traveling to different cities in 1993, ESPN’s College GameDay took its traveling studio to New York City, and the result turned out better than the buildup.
Plenty of fans voiced their disappointment for GameDay not choosing a location like Iowa City, Iowa, where the Hawkeyes were set to host No. 5 Penn State. Others wanted the show to visit Stillwater, where No. 6 Oklahoma State prepared to battle No. 16 TCU.
But New York City was the pick, and local college football enthusiasts made the most of it. Supporters from schools across the nation banded together to create a scene unlike any other edition of the beloved show.
Florida State fans made their presence known—the broadcast noted that New York’s official FSU bar was offering free drinks to fans who arrived with wristbands that proved they had attended GameDay. Plenty of Clemson faithful were on hand to remind the numerous Crimson Tide fans who won last season’s national championship.
The other blue-bloods of college football were all well represented. Ohio State and Michigan. Texas and Oklahoma. Notre Dame and USC. Florida and Georgia. The list went on and on, until schools without football programs began to appear. Seriously.
Seton Hall University last played a football game in 1981. But with the school’s campus being just across the Hudson River in South Orange, N.J., plenty of Pirates navigated their way to GameDay. John Pirsos, a 21-year-old senior, was one of them.
“We love college football still,” Pirsos said. “We took about a half hour train ride over here. We had to experience it. It was a lot of fun.”
He held a sign that read, “SETON HALL FOOTBALL > RUTGERS FOOTBALL.” A friend standing close by held another, “SETON HALL FOOTBALL UNBEATEN SINCE 1982!”
Others held objects of more significance. The Washington State Cougars’ flag has been on site for GameDay every week since October 2003. Saturday was no different, marking the flag’s 198th-straight appearance.
There were two Wazzu flags behind the set in Times Square. Allen Scott, 28, handled one of them as the president of the Washington State Alumni Association’s New York chapter. Gordon Frank, 61, manned the other. Originally from Washington, he now lives in New Jersey and couldn’t miss the opportunity to fly his flag on GameDay for the first time.
For Frank, Saturday was a day of firsts. While holding the flagpole, Cathy Journey, a friend of his from his college days at Washington State in the late 1970’s, ran up to him unexpectedly. It was the first time he’d seen her in 35 years.
“It was the best moment,” a nearby Cougars fan said. Both Frank and Journey said it was totally random that the two had ran into each other after so long. The city tends to have that sort of unifying power.
“My sister and I came in to see the ballet,” Journey said. “And we showed up for GameDay, and here’s Gordon!”
Asked if it’ll be as long before the two see each other again, Gordon’s answer was simple.
“Jeez, I hope not!” Gordon said. “We don’t think we can make it another 35.”
Maybe all it will take is for GameDay to show up at Times Square again. It was, after all, quite successful the first time.