Pullman, Wash., is finally making its College GameDay debut, as ESPN’s travelling college football pregame show will visit Washington State on Saturday for its game against Oregon (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
Cougars fans’ long-held hopes of the show coming to campus have finally come true, a culmination of a years-long grassroots connection between a college football Saturday staple and a program that rarely spends extended time in the national spotlight. Washington State’s flag, also called Ol' Crimson, has appeared on the broadcast 216 consecutive times.
So how did the Wazzu flag become a College GameDay tradition?
The idea started on a message board site called cougfan.com, where a fan suggested that a flag be flown at the broadcast to convince ESPN to visit Washington State, according to NCAA.com.
Tom Pounds, a Washington State alum, liked the idea and drove from his home in Albuquerque to the ESPN broadcast in Austin for the Kansas State-Texas game on Oct. 4, 2003 with the flag. His wife, Syndie, made the first Ol' Crimson, a flag emblazoned with the Cougars' logo. Someone saw the flag and asked Pounds if they could wave it at the Purdue-Wisconsin GameDay broadcast in Madison on Oct. 18. Pounds mailed them the flag, and the streak began.
How does the flag arrive at every destination?
A booster club called Ol' Crimson manages the flag-flying schedule. Booster CJ McCoy helps coordinate the group and mails a “flag kit” to each week's recipient, which is always a Washington State alum. The kit comes with two flags, poles and instructions on how to properly handle flag-flying duties during broadcasts. UPS even gives Ol' Crimson free shipping.
Since the pregame show lasts three hours, sometimes multiple people help fly the Wazzu flag during the broadcast. McCoy told SB Nation that he estimates 500 to 600 people have waved Ol' Crimson on the set over the past 15 years.
Saturday's broadcast will mark Ol' Crimson's 15th anniversary on the show, and it’s going to be a party.
College GameDaytweeted out a video last Saturday of broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit making the announcement that they were visiting Pullman.
“You start to look at the drawing board of where College GameDay should go for Week 8, and there's really no debate,” Herbstreit said in the video. “It's been a long time. The 15-year anniversary is this Saturday for that beautiful flag, Ol' Crimson, that's been traveling around College GameDay. So there's only one place for College GameDay to go."
ESPN even contacted Pounds shortly after the announcement was made to let him know that College GameDay was coming to the Cougars' home.
Needless to say, the city of Pullman is excited for the ESPN broadcast to finally visit. Fans swarmed the show's bus when it arrived on Wednesday.
The city even declared a public transportation state of emergency this week due to the large crowds expected in the area.
The celebration of College GameDay's broadcast in Pullman will be must-see TV. The show begins at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN. Washington State and Oregon are set to kick off Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.