The circus has arrived on the University of Arizona mall.
ESPN’s College Gameday is in town leading up to the big Pac-12 South showdown between the Arizona Wildcats and UCLA Bruins.
The announcement to come to Tucson was made last Sunday and it took the coordinators until very late on Saturday night before making the decision to return to Tucson for the first time since 2009.
“When last week’s games played out the way they did, it was sort of the perfect storm,” said Senior Coordinating Producer for ESPN’s College Gameday, Lee Fitting. “We love coming somewhere where we haven’t been in a while.”
“It was neck-and-neck last Saturday to be honest,” he added. “We were sitting there not knowing where we were going to go and when USC lost to Stanford, it sort of made it a done deal. But then UCLA was messing around in their game with BYU and we were like ‘God, where are we going to go now.’ When UCLA held on and it was like 1:40am last Sunday morning, it was a no-brainer to come here.”
If UCLA had not held on, Lubbock for Texas A&M vs TCU or Ann Arbor for BYU and Michigan was next in line. Tempe for ASU vs USC might have been in play if USC had won that game.
ESPN Analyst Kirk Herbstreit and Gamday host Rece Davis both talked about how much they enjoy being back in Tucson and are anticipating an electric environment.
“It’s fun for the nation, who still I don’t think respects the Pac-12 when it comes to their fan bases, to be honest,” said Herbstreit. “And their passion for the sport like you would see in the SEC or the Big Ten or Big 12. I always get a lot of feedback when we go to a Pac-12 game like ‘man, their fans are crazy out there! It’s six in the morning and they are out there going crazy!’ So I look forward to coming here and so far so good.”
“I was already over here talking to some people who say they already have everything lined up for Gameday tomorrow morning to make it as good an environment as we’ve had,” mentioned Davis. “I am excited to see what they can bring. I know they can bring it in basketball and I’ve seen it from calling games in football too.”
Herbstreit, before meeting with the local media, was in his ABC meeting with Rich Rodriguez and a few of the players. One of which was Scooby Wright who has been out since hurting his knee in the first quarter of the season opener against UTSA. There is optimism that Wright, who is listed as questionable for the game, will play on Saturday against the Bruins.
“I think this defense against inferior competition has held up just fine, but now they need him,” explained Herbstreet of Wright. “I was just with him and lets just put it to you this way, if he doesn’t play a lot, I’ll be shocked.”
Davis goes back to when Rich Rodriguez was an assistant at Tulane and is impressed but not surprised with what he has done with the Arizona program.
“I think he does a terrific job finding diamonds in the rough,” stated Davis. “It’s not just guys like Scooby Wright. He’s made a career out of finding guys and putting them in the right spot.”
Gameday begins at 6am local time just outside of Old Main at the center of the Arizona campus. Wildcats and Bruins kick-off at 5pm in front of a national audience.