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Building College GameDay Across the Country
It’s a crisp, fall Saturday morning and that means one thing for college football fans: time to throw on the alma mater’s jersey and tune into ESPN’s College GameDay Built By The Home Depot. Set at a different college campus each week, the show features a famous cast of commentators who examine the games of the day and share their outcome predictions.
Though the popular program only lasts three hours, the amount of time, effort and commitment that goes into the live show is extensive. Producers choose the location and a rivalry to spotlight based on the previous week’s results, which gives them less than seven days’ notice to move the set, sometimes across the country.
“Each week, dedicated drivers bring semi-trucks and The Home Depot bus to a new location and an extensive team works behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly,” said GameDay’s Operations Producer Judi Weiss.
Judi works with the technical director, remote operations specialists, drivers and local stronghands to build the set, take it down and handle all of the gritty logistics in between.
The crew arrives on site Wednesday night and tackles an all-day building session on Thursday. With a stage, two Jumbotron screens, aerial cameras and numerous tents, it’s quite the task. “It takes about five hours for them to build the stage and screen before our technicians come in and configure the cameras, audio and set equipment,” said Judi. “All in all, it takes about 65 people a full day to build the set from the ground up.”
Aside from the obvious challenges of moving a set across the country each week, the crew faces logistical challenges related to building on busy college campuses, such as sloped campuses, class changes and foot traffic interested in watching set up. The team takes this into account during each build, working with universities to comply with safety protocol on campus.
Though there is little down time on set, the drivers always find time to partake in a Friday tradition known as “Road Kill Grill.” Using grills provided by The Home Depot, the group cooks and feeds the crew lunch. It is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the hard work involved.
On the morning of the big day, the cast and crew arrive on set as early as 2 or 3 a.m., depending on the time zone. When it’s finally time to let the fans in, not much compares to the energy that floods the background of the set as students eagerly crowd around the stage and flaunt their school spirit.
Currently in its twelfth year as the primary sponsor of GameDay, The Home Depot plays a big role in amplifying the crowd’s excitement before and during filming. “I’d say one of the biggest attractions is The Home Depot bus. When it rolls into town, all eyes are on it, and people hang around the vehicle and take pictures all day,” said Judi.
Along with the bus, The Home Depot team on site riles up the crowd with orange-hued banners, hardhats and rally towels to help build excitement and energy. “We are all about engaging with the fans, and Home Depot is one of our best partners accomplishing that goal.”
Following the broadcast, the GameDay crew knocks everything down and prepares for the next road trip. But for Judi and the rest of the crew, the excitement never fades. “This show takes a lot of time and effort, but I never find my energy level dropping. The atmosphere and the fans have a lot of energy to feed off of—it’s great and I wouldn’t trade it.”
Are you a Tailgate Titan? Share your tailgate pictures on Twitter with the hashtag #LetsDoGameDay.