Like any Hurricanes fan, Chris Fallica has a certain degree of loathing for the Fighting Irish. But he can’t quite bring himself to go full-bore.
“It’s funny. And her dad still calls me, regardless.”
Fallica, the ESPN College GameDay producer known as “The Bear,” has a dinner bet riding on Saturday’s game, to be paid this offseason. But that’s not the meal he’s thinking about this week. He’s pumped about hitting Joe’s Stone Crab for dinner and snagging lunch at The Big Cheese.
This is a work week to remember for the 1994 UM graduate. He gets to hit familiar food spots. He’s eager to see old friends. He’ll spend time touring a campus that’s changed quite a bit since he was a sports information department intern handing out stat sheets at the Orange Bowl.
It has been a long time coming. GameDay, ESPN’s signature college football show, hasn’t been in South Florida for a Hurricanes game since 2006, a Monday night affair. It hasn’t done a Saturday morning with UM since 2001. It has never set up in Coral Gables. Fallica hasn’t been back to campus in “a good 10 to 12 years,” he said.
Fallica, 45, will be hanging out near Lake Osceola on Saturday morning, at the edge of the GameDay set. He controls graphics, notes and stats for the show, passes info to hosts Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso, and offers his picks for games. At night, whether it’s on-campus or across the country, he’ll be at the ABC game of the week.
This week, it’s a quick trip up the Palmetto to Hard Rock Stadium. Know this: he wouldn’t be stunned to see the seventh-ranked Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 ACC) beat the third-ranked Irish (8-1).
“I’m just glad they’re back in a big game,” he said.
Fallica, who joined ESPN in 1995 and got the GameDay gig the year after, admits he always pulls for the Canes. His allegiance wasn’t much of an issue in UM’s lean years, but he said he’s always been “very aware” and careful of perceived bias.
“If I picked Miami to win every game since I graduated, I’d probably have a losing record at this point,” he said. “We all want to see our alma mater win, deep down. But I’ve never had an instance where I’m altering a fact to try to make Miami out to be better, to tell a story that’s really not there.”
Like many, he expected Miami to continue building — “I thought 10-2, 11-1 with a loss in Tallahassee was on the table” — and compete for a playoff spot next year. He was among those who expected true freshman N’Kosi Perry to win the starting quarterback job, but he’s been impressed with gutsy junior Malik Rosier.
He called Notre Dame “really good,” but pointed to one possible disadvantage.
“I think (Brandon) Wimbush is a good quarterback, (running back) Josh Adams is in the Heisman mix, and their offensive line has a couple of surefire NFL first-round picks (left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson). But they haven’t been on the road in over a month … this is a different atmosphere on Saturday night they’re going to have to face.”
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