Thousands showed up, with many arriving the night before for the three-hour party. The show ended on a high note, with Lee Corso donning the Cougar mascot head.
PULLMAN — Finally, it came here.
And it was a scene few will forget, thousands of flag-waving and sign-bearing fans — mostly WSU faithful — for the first appearance of ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Pullman, which proved much more than an appetizer for Saturday afternoon’s game between Washington State and Oregon.
For 15 years, WSU boosters have waved the flag during the show in hopes that ESPN would one day bring GameDay to Pullman. When it finally came, it was the fans who put on the show.
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When Derek Vollner, communications manager for ESPN, left campus Friday night, he saw hundreds of people camping to stake out spots close to the stage.
“And it wasn’t just students, it was women in their 50s,” he said.
That the temperature was in the 30s when the show started at 6 a.m. didn’t matter: It seemed just about everyone in this city was here. Many sported fake mustaches in honor of WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew.
Rece Davis, host of the show, looked at the crowd before going on and said, “Holy (expletive).”
How many people were there? No one seemed to know, but most guessed between 10,000 and 15,000. An ESPN producer estimated as many as 20,000.
The show opened with the WSU flags down except for one. That one was waved by Tom Pounds, the Cougar alum who started the WSU flag-waving tradition on the show in 2003.
For three straight hours, the crowd cheered, sang, chanted and sometimes booed (at mentions of Oregon and Washington). There were even fireworks.
The crowd loved the salute to the “Popcorn Guy,” who during a 55-17 loss to Stanford at CenturyLink Field in 2013, dumped an entire bag of popcorn toward his mouth, with a good chunk of it missing. With the Cougars getting blown out, the ESPN cameras were focused on this guy and he became something of a cult figure.
Despite great efforts, the “Popcorn Guy” was not located for the show, but the entire crew at Saturday’s show honored him by dumping bags of popcorn in their mouths. Or at least trying to.
The suspense grew in the final minutes, with the picks for the day’s big games ending the show. Desmond Howard and former WSU quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the guest picker, drew huge cheers for picking Colorado over Washington, while Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit were booed for picking UW.
The crowd went nuts when Howard and Bledsoe picked Washington State, and it really let Herbstreit have it for picking Oregon. Then it was up to Corso, who famously dons the mascot head of the team he chooses.
“It would take a special place for me to pick against my beloved Ducks, but this is a special place,” Corso said, then slipped on a Cougar head.
It drew the loudest cheer of the morning. The show was over, but people kept singing.
“I thought you weren’t going to show up,” one student asked another.
“I just couldn’t miss this,” she said.
She left with a lasting memory. Just like everyone else.