College GameDay a smashing success for Miami Hurricanes

CORAL GABLES — In the middle of a swirling scene on his school’s campus, Blake James was beaming.

“This is what I envisioned,” UM’s Athletics Director said. “Obviously we have a tremendously passionate fan base and the most beautiful campus in the country. We have the best weather. You put all those things together … how could GameDay be any better than this?”

ESPN was saying the same thing.

Representatives from the network were pleased with the turnout, and on-air personalities were largely complimentary of the buzz and atmosphere in Coral Gables. ESPN had never brought its signature Saturday show, watched by more than 1 million people per week, to UM’s campus.

The show included segments on UM’s rise under Mark Richt, and showcased the personalities of players like Michael Pinckney, Braxton Berrios and Shaquille Quarterman. It also showed ESPN reporters riding jet skis on Biscayne Bay, with a late-afternoon Miami skyline behind them.

James estimated 5,000 fans showed up to be part of what is essentially a three-hour, coast-to-coast commercial for UM. He said it’s not just the football program that benefits, either.

ESPN’s cameras showed shots of the Hurricanes’ on-campus pool, which is right next to the GameDay set. GameDay analyst David Pollack shed his suit for swim trunks, and splashed down from the 10-meter platform.

“Our swim and dive coach said there’s not enough money you could put in our recruiting budget,” James said, that would match that kind of exposure.

“It’s been a great week.”

Live blog

Live coverage of Miami’s first time hosting ESPN’s College GameDay on its campus (and first time hosting the Saturday show since 2001), before the 8 p.m. kickoff between the Canes and the Irish:

The picks

A-Rod and Desmond Howard: Miami.

Lee Corso, after saying how he grew up in Miami (Jackson High) and used to sneak into the Orange Bowl for games as a kid: “This is strictly business.” He picked Notre Dame.

Proud AD

UM Athletics Director Blake James was as happy with the show as you’d expect.

“This is what I envisioned,” he said. “Obviously we have a tremendously passionate fan base and the most beautiful campus in the country. We have the best weather. You put all those things together … how could GameDay be any better than this?”

James estimated 5,000 fans showed up to be part of what is essentially a three-hour, coast-to-coast commercial for UM. He said it’s not just the football program that benefits, either.

ESPN’s cameras showed shots of the Hurricanes’ on-campus pool, which is right next to the GameDay set.

“Our swim and dive coach said there’s not enough money you could put in our recruiting budget,” James said, that would match that kind of exposure.

“It’s been a great week.”

The Bear speaks

The home crowd erupted when GameDay producer Chris “The Bear” Fallica picked Miami, his alma mater. “I think everything is building” toward this big moment, he said. “I think Miami wins.”

Pollack takes the leap

ESPN’s David Pollack, for the record, jumped off the 10-meter platform at UM’s pool. He did not perform a backflip, as his former coach at Georgia has done for years. Mark Richt didn’t appear live on the GameDay set, but was interviewed by Maria Taylor in the UM weight room midway through the show.

A commercial for the ‘U’

There are a lot of smiling people here wearing orange and green … especially those employed by Miami.

Today will boost Miami’s football program and institution as a whole, exposing the campus to a nation of people who may not have seen it.

Doesn’t hurt that ESPN showed footage of its personalities (David Pollack, Maria Taylor among them) riding jet skis with the city skyline behind them.

ESPN doesn’t give official estimates of crowd size, but reps told us they are “definitely happy” with the turnout. There are, to this eye, a couple thousand people here.

Early thoughts

Kirk Herbstreit said Notre Dame has more to gain today than any team, given its one-loss status. Desmond Howard said it’s actually Miami, since beating Notre Dame at a raucous Hard Rock Stadium will serve notice to everyone that the ‘U’ is back.

Notre Dame loses, Howard said, “and they’re out” of the playoff discussion.

Miami could still be in with a loss, but clearly would need to beat Clemson in the ACC championship and likely, need some help.

“The perception is Notre Dame is so strong now,” Howard said. “If they can win out (after a loss to Notre Dame), they could still get in.”

Lee Corso, bluntly: “Miami loses and they’re out.” Herbstreit said the Canes would be “on the outside looking in.”

Later in the show, Rece Davis raised an enticing possibility: Mark Richt’s former and current teams:

“How about Georgia and Miami in the playoff?”

Kelly encouraged

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly spoke with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi early in the show. He said both quarterback Brandon Wimbush (bruised left hand) and running back Josh Adams (headaches), both of whom had injury issues last week against Wake Forest, will be OK.

How will the Irish — who haven’t played a road game in a month — handle the 60-degree temperature difference between South Bend and Miami? “As long as they’ve hydrated, and they have,” Kelly said, “there will be no excuses.”

GameDay scenes

“The U is back!” host Rece Davis shouted after Sebastian the Ibis danced through the smoke, mimicking Miami’s signature entrance. ESPN’s overhead cameras showed fans going crazy and sailboats on UM’s on-campus lake.

And we’re off.

"Thank you Dabo"

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If it's a Miami tailgate, there'd better be a caja china nearby.

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DJ Williams in the place, rocking 3 chains

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Getting closer…

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"Wimbush shops at Hot Topic"

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The Bear and The Coach, two Saturday morning characters you've come to adore.

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Behind the scenes

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GameDay almost live.

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