Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, South Bend, Ann Arbor… these are some of the cities that come to mind when you think of the near-iconic Saturday morning college football preview show on ESPN, College GameDay. On September 21, 2013, the “circus” (as host Chris Fowler called it on my radio program) came to Fargo, North Dakota.
Fargo, North Dakota?
When you consider North Dakota State has won the past two NCAA FCS national championships, and has a championship history that, pound for pound, rivals that of Alabama it makes perfect sense.
The moment the announcement was made, speculation around the Red River Valley on the location of the show was discussed more passionately than whether or not NDSU and UND should resume their football series on the field. Should it be next to the Fargodome, adjacent to the tailgating area, maybe Newman Outdoor Field, Dacotah Field… everyone had an idea.
And then, Broadway in downtown Fargo just south of the Fargo Theatre was selected. The conversation… rather, the arguments, grew louder.
Eventually, however, the reality of ESPN being in Fargo eclipsed everything else. The trucks rolled in, sets went up, Kirk Herbstreit sightings – real or imagined – were being reported… all college football roads were being diverted to Fargo.
And on a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon, Bison fans turned out by the thousands to watch the premiere college football preview show. Head coach Craig Bohl was there, the Gold Star Marching Band was there, the ubiquitous red and gray Washington State flag was there (makes it to every GameDay)… toss in Phil Hansen as the celebrity picker, upstaged moments later by Lee Corso in Bison headgear with a real 250-pound baby bison at his side in front of the Fargo Theatre… this was as good as it gets for the national spotlight shining on Fargo, North Dakota for three hours.
College GameDay producer Lee Fitting put an appropriate button on Twitter: “Big thanks to @NDSUAthletics & Fargo. Great hosts & great people. One of most memorable @CollegeGameDay scenes of all-time. We will be back.”
Whether or not they do return doesn’t really matter. For one spectacular fall day, Fargo, North Dakota was showcased to America. Now one day later, my cell phone continues to sound with notices from emails and text messages sent by friends and media colleagues from around the nation asking questions about Fargo that have nothing to do with phrases like “you betcha,” the movie “Fargo” or whether or not we have snow on the ground all year long.
You can watch “backstage” video of the bison calf, named Corso, behind the Fargo Theatre, being led into the theatre and up the aisle, and Lee Corso putting on the Bison headgear as he prepared to make his Delaware State-NDSU selection at cgabriel.com.