They waved signs and carried flags promoting school pride. They dressed in costumes and rain gear beneath a cold, constant downpour during the early morning hours Saturday.
In some ways it was a circus, but it was also a celebration of college football and a statement about the popularity of ESPN’s “College GameDay,” which attracted a caffeine-fueled crowd to the University of Washington’s Red Square plaza.
When the show hit the airwaves at 6 a.m., a nationally televised audience was greeted by a chaotic scene of revelry and exuberance.
“You saw the cold and the rain, but the fans didn’t care,” GameDay host Chris Fowler said. “This is one of our favorite settings. Oregon is sort of the benchmark for us and GameDay on the West Coast, and I think Husky fans took that challenge and more than met it. This was a tremendous show.
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“Everything was first class. We had a great time, and we hope this is a regular stop for us.”
Washington fans scored major points with college football observers hours before the 16th-ranked Huskies lost to No. 2 Oregon 45-24 at Husky Stadium.
“We wanted to come here for so long and to finally be able to get the show here, it lived up to everything that we had hoped for,” GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “Phenomenal crowd. We’re on air at 6 a.m. local. It was dark for an hour and half and there were people lined up for as far as you can see.
“You could feel their energy. They were awesome.”
“The Pit,” the fence-enclosed area behind the GameDay set, opened at 4 a.m. and filled in minutes with about 600 fans.
They danced in the rain as the UW marching band provided a constant soundtrack. They booed whenever Oregon appeared on one of the two giant video screens.
And as expected, Ol’ Crimson made its weekly GameDay appearance.
About 50 Washington State supporters wearing crimson and gray crashed Washington’s pregame party and waived two WSU flags, which extended a streak of 139 consecutive appearances on the show.
“It’s gone unimaginably well,” said John Bley, who organized the flag-waving display. “Lots of fun. Very warm welcome. There’s the .01 percent that you worry about, but let’s not talk about them.
“A lot of very fine Husky fans shaking our hands. We know it’s their GameDay, but it’s our tradition. We wanted to maintain our the tradition without necessarily overtaking their day.”
The best parts of the show were the start and the end. ESPN opened the broadcast with a stunning visual shot of UW’s Suzzallo Library lit up in spectacular fashion like a Christmas tree.
“It was the all-time best GameDay scene ever,” senior producer Lee Fitting said. “It was awesome. It was memorable.”
After three hours, the show closed with UW alums Warren Moon and Hope Solo taking the stage and making predictions on games. Both picked UW.
“They have a chance to win this one,” Moon said. “Whether they do or not, I don’t know, but I feel this is the best shot they’ve had in a long time to win.’’
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org