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ESPN College GameDay visits Notre Dame ahead of Michigan matchup

| Friday, August 31, 2018

While every Notre Dame home game represents a large event, this weekend’s season opener against the University of Michigan will feature a rare visit from ESPN’s College GameDay, the ESPN program that visits the site of each weekend’s biggest matchup. It will be College GameDay’s first visit to Notre Dame since the fall of 2012. ESPN College GameDay’s first ever broadcast was from Notre Dame’s campus on Nov. 13, 1993, ahead of the Irish’s matchup that day against Florida State.

Ann Curtis | The Observer

ESPN prepares for College GameDay at Notre Dame on Saturday. The show, which will be broadcast from Library Quad, recaps and previews football games each weekend during the football season.

In addition to being able to watch the show’s taping Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon from Library Quad, there are several other associated activities available to community members in conjunction with the visit. ESPN senior publicist Anna Negron said in an email that on Friday, there will be three events with prizes for winners, taking place from noon to 4 p.m. at the set on Library Quad. Events include the Home Depot Corn Hole Challenge, Know Your Stuff Trivia, a photo booth, Coca-Cola product sampling, Bucket Pong, Skee-Ball and Giant Jenga. College Football Live, a national radio broadcast, will broadcast live from the set at 3:30 p.m., Negron said.

Notre Dame associate athletics director Monica Cundiff said while ESPN handles the details of the program, the visit is important for the campus community.

“ESPN chooses the sites,” she said. “We have nothing to do with the fact that they are here. I think they pick the sites based on team’s records, how big the game is. Anyway, in just looking at this game and Michigan and Notre Dame haven’t played for a few years, it’s a huge game. It didn’t surprise us they chose to come here. We are definitely very welcome to have them.”

The first live look at the pit will be at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, Cundiff said. Students will be allowed into the pit starting at 6 a.m.

Cundiff said her role has been primarily to coordinate logistics. She said usual gameday traditions and procedures, including the player walk, will not be affected by the ESPN set’s presence on South Quad. She said it was an “advantage” that the game is at night since most of the set will be cleared away by 4 p.m. on the day of the game and will allow gameday procedures to continue as normal.

“We’re not even going to know their footprint is out there,” Cundiff said.

She underscored the unique nature of the visit from the University’s perspective.

“It’s certainly something we’re not going to say ‘no’ [to],” she said. “This is national exposure for our University. We want that kind of thing to happen.”

The location of the set on Library Quad directly across the street from the stadium is the same as it was in 2012. When ESPN came for a site visit to decide where the set would be located, they came with the intention of considering several campus locations for the set before deciding Library Quad was all “they wanted to see,” Cundiff said.

“Just the proximity to the stadium, and then, on game day, we all know what the campus looks like on Saturdays, so it’s a great path of fans coming towards the inner part of campus or going to see different spots,” she said.

Though ESPN has an increased presence for this game weekend, NBC remains Notre Dame’s broadcast partner. Cundiff said College GameDay’s visit did not present a problem to the NBC staff.

“NBC is our partner,” she said. “We’re going to take care of them. NBC also understands who ESPN [is] and what GameDay is all about. It’s just as much exposure for them as it is for us. We definitely restrict ESPN on things, and that’s because of our partnership with NBC. … I think at the end of the day we’re all in it together, to make a great experience for the nationally televised audiences as well as the fans here on campus.”

Cundiff lauded ESPN for its cooperation this week, noting that Notre Dame has made things a little somewhat trickier for the broadcast company.

“It’s been great for me working with ESPN this week, in the sense of from their perspective we have made it a little more difficult then they typically have seen from city to city that they go to, but it’s because we follow proper protocol,” she said. “I’m not just making a decision on electric, or water, or they wanted to cut some trees … they have a cooking segment on the show. Putting them in touch with the fire chief, putting them in touch with landscape services, with our utility department. They go to a lot of other campuses and they don’t do that, where I think that’s another example of Notre Dame having pride in itself. They’re the experts in their field. We’re not going to do something that affects any department on campus negatively. It actually makes me feel good that ESPN says, ‘You guys do it right. You’re tough.’ But at the end of the day we’re in it to do it the right way.”

On the whole, Cundiff expressed a hope that the publicity that comes with College GameDay’s visit will further brandish Notre Dame’s image.

“It’s great national exposure. Everyone, from students, to alums, to the subway alum [Notre Dame fans who didn’t actually attend the University], we are all proud of this University,” Cundiff said. “So any national exposure in a positive light, we want to see that and embrace that. Because we know that 12-year-old kid watching the football game may have dreams of either being a student athlete or student at Notre Dame. So this is another one of those opportunities to get some good positive exposure. And if the Irish can win at the end of the day, it makes it even better.”

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a junior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland.

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