TUSCALOOSA, Ala.– After a three-year hiatus, ESPN’s College “GameDay” made a triumphant return to the heart of college football. Now in its 37th season, the iconic show made it’s first appearance on the University of Alabama’s campus since 2019.

Starting as former college football coach Lee Corso’s brainchild, the show has undergone a remarkable transformation, becoming a significant contributor to sports culture. Led by Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Alabama alumni Rece Davis, and newest addition Pat McAfee, the show travels the college football landscape throughout the season, headlining the most highly anticipated games of the year. The show continues to push boundaries, coming a long way from its early struggles with viewership now to its highest in the show’s history. In 2022, “GameDay” averaged an 2.1 million viewers alongside an 8% increase across all demographics rating first out of all college pregame shows.

“Our priority is to make sure we get the most out of our time wherever we go,” said Emily Archacki, senior content specialist for ESPN.  “With that, we really try to focus on audience expansion, diversity equity inclusion, obviously SEC coverage overall now that ESPN has a new deal for 2024.” The show’s dedication to fan engagement is evident as the program has now had a total of over 400 broadcasts on the road. A significant jump from when it first started. Now established as a tradition on college campuses, students rise eagerly to participate and be involved with “College GameDay”. Such was the case for students of the UA, who got up as early as 4 a.m.

The students, fans, and staff formed a sea of tailgates, vociferous chants, and larger-than-life signs that cheered on No. 3-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide got ready to face No. 11-ranked Texas Longhorns. “I went to a school in the northeast so this is a completely different level. This is my first time visiting Alabama and the fan passion, the excitement, it’s all high energy and it’s great!” Archacki said. The energy for the game was so palpable that even visiting fans found themselves in awe. “Everyone here is so loud and so excited,” said Matthew Myers a Texas fan. ” There’s definitely a lot of  passion…It’s going to be a tough game going against a crowd like this, but if the defense shows up we got a chance.”

Behind the scenes, the ESPN production team acted just as professional off the air. From the content creators, producers, social media team, and interns, the job continued when the cameras were off.  Security had the task of guarding the set, as well as the College Playoff’s National Championship Trophy. A draining task as security personnel moved it around the set for fans to take pictures. The interns and producers made sure fans stayed hydrated by handing out water in between the broadcast’s air time. In some cases, even throwing it up to students in the “College GameDay” bleachers. Food trucks were also placed around the set to make sure all staff, security, and fans had a chance to eat. “The people who organized everything did a great job to make sure everyone is happy and safe, I was really impressed,” Meyers said.

This was the 17th time that Alabama has had the honor of hosting ESPN’s “College GameDay”, cementing its position as the second-most visited campus behind Ohio State. The last instance of Alabama hosting “GameDay” ended in defeat against LSU and Joe Burrow who is widely regarded as one of the greatest college quarterbacks in history. With a record of 35 wins and 18 losses when featured (in addition to hosting) on GameDay, the Tide had hoped to add another win to the column. However, in a similar fashion, the Crimson Tide fell short yet again with a 34-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns. Texas was led by coach Steve Sarkisian, a protege of Nick Saban and former offensive coordinator of the Crimson Tide. Spoiling the day for many excited Alabama fans. “I was very shocked and disappointed that we lost to Texas at home but Sark is a great coach who did great things for us. It hurts, but at the same time its hard to root against him,” said Alabama senior Ryan Archie.


Jaylon Brooks is a senior writer for WVUA-FM. He also co-hosts Student Section: NFL from 7-8 p.m. CT every Tuesday on 90.7 FM in Tuscaloosa.