By Paul M. Banks
For some bizarre reason, the Eastern Seaboard Programming Network ignored the University of Illinois when it came to finding a locale to host their popular “College Gameday” pre-game show. The show has been running for six seasons, and during that period of time, the Fighting Illini were 6th in the nation in total wins! They’ve been a NCAA Tournament regular and they’re tied with Duke for the most number of 25+ win seasons this decade. A 2006 USA Today poll stated that Illinois was the 5th most recognizable college basketball program among 14 year old males, who comprise a huge demographic within ESPN’s pregame show audience. Yet despite all these facts, the Eastern biased conglomerate and empire brand NEVER made a single trip to showcase the Orange Crush at Illinois’ Assembly Hall. That all changed today.
Please read this press release sent straight from Champaign-Urbana this afternoon:
Champaign, Ill.-ESPN College Basketball GameDay driven by State Farm will make its first appearance at the University of Illinois’ Assembly Hall on Feb. 6, 2010, when the Fighting Illini host Big Ten rival Michigan State.
The popular network show will feature a pair of one-hour telecasts, at 10 a.m. CT and 7 p.m., followed by the 8 p.m. tip-off of the Illini and Spartans in ESPN’s Saturday Primetime Game of the Week.
“We are thrilled to have College GameDay coming to the Assembly Hall,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “We have watched the show at various college sites the past few seasons and have been anticipating the opportunity to host it on our campus. There are so many factors that make this a perfect fit. We enjoy a tremendous relationship with both ESPN and State Farm, we have high expectations for the upcoming season, and we are facing an outstanding opponent in Michigan State. I’m sure the Orange Krush and Illini Nation will be out in full force as we showcase our program to a national audience that day, and for what should be an incredible game-time atmosphere that evening.”
The complete ESPN Gameday schedule is as follows:
Jan. 16 – Notre Dame at Connecticut (women’s); Jan. 23 – Duke at Clemson; Jan. 30 – Kansas at Kansas State; Feb. 6 – Michigan State at Illinois; Feb. 13 – Tennessee at Kentucky; Feb. 20 – UCLA at Washington; Feb. 27 – Villanova at Syracuse; March 6 – North Carolina at Duke.
“We obviously feel the choice of Illinois men’s basketball and Assembly Hall, which is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s great home court atmospheres, create a great match with the College GameDay brand,” said Chris Hanna, Illinois Assistant Athletics Director for Sales and Marketing. “We take great pride in our ongoing relationships with State Farm, the sponsor of College GameDay and a long-time Illinois corporate partner, and ESPN through our Big Ten Conference television agreement. We will approach this event with the intention of establishing a new attendance record for College GameDay in addition to filling Assembly Hall with 16,618 orange-clad fans for the Illinois-Michigan State game.”