Field work

ESPN stoked USF football fans this week in anticipation of the upcoming college football season, filming the introduction to the Saturday morning College GameDay show on campus.

ESPN, with Habana Avenue Productions, turned USF’s Meadows Field – located on Holly Drive, close to 50th Street – into a Hollywood-style set Tuesday. Students filtered onto the field throughout the day in hopes of being on national television.

While GameDay anchors Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit were no-shows at the festivities, some students hoped to rub elbows with country music artists Big & Rich. The duo performed on a 50-foot stage that had been erected on the field.

A sea of trailers, models, concession stands, film crews and students in college garb from universities all over the country packed the field. Big & Rich performed a version of their hit single “Comin to Your City,” the College GameDay theme song. Cameras panned the field during the song to capture the cheering crowd. ESPN spokesman and Vice President of Marketing Mike Humes hopes the show pumped up fans for the upcoming season.

“We want the show to assist in the ultimate game day experience. The intro shot at USF will hopefully bring the show’s audience directly into the action. We want the audience to feel firsthand the passion and excitement of the fans,” Humes said.

USF students cheered loudly for their Bulls as the cameras came their way. Director Steven Levy of Habana Avenue Productions said he chose the USF campus for a variety of reasons.

“The weather was a huge factor in determining where we were going to film. It is relatively nice this time of year in the South. We narrowed it down to Tampa, L.A. or Texas and chose Tampa ultimately for the location,” Levy said.

Levy explained how the USF campus landscape worked to the production crew’s advantage:

“Meadows Field was the perfect candidate for a number of reasons. We knew we wouldn’t be able to fill a stadium with students this time of year, so the field was our next best option. It is a very controllable atmosphere and the trees serve as a perfect backdrop for the shoot. It gives the whole thing a sort of down-home feel to it, which we liked. USF was also incredibly helpful in assisting us with the production – we are very thankful for that,” Levy said.

The production caught the eye of students driving both on campus and on 50th street. USF student Brandon McWalters came out to support the Bulls with his fellow students.

“I watch the show every week during the season. When I heard that ESPN would be filming the intro at USF, I knew I had to come out. It would be really cool to be on national television, but most of all I was hoping to see one of the anchors from the show like Chris Fowler or Lee Corso,” McWalters said.

The Bulls’ success in the Big East Conference last season earned the team national, albeit short-lived, respect that spiked game attendance and student interest. The College GameDay introduction may serve as reminder of the University’s victories and keep student interest in the football team piqued.

ESPN’s College GameDay airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. Although the show’s anchors did not attend, students still seemed to enjoy the ruckus on campus.

“I can’t wait for football season after today,” McWalters said.