The Gophers will play host to ESPN’s “College GameDay” for the first time Saturday when Wisconsin visits TCF Bank Stadium with the Big Ten West title on the line.
The show will air from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on ESPN and feature a celebrity guest picker with ties to the area and personality Lee Corso donning either a Goldy or Bucky mascot head depending on which team he picks to win. The No. 10 Gophers will take on the No. 12 Badgers at 2:30 p.m. on ABC, in front of a likely sellout crowd.
The Gophers were one of 10 remaining Power Five teams to have never hosted the popular show, the others being Cal, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia and Wake Forest.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck initially lobbied hard for the Saturday morning TV show to come to the University of Minnesota campus for the Nov. 9 game against Penn State. While the No. 17 Gophers ended up upsetting No. 4 Penn State in front of a sold-out crowd, the show instead featured No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama, which was Alabama’s 14th time hosting, the second-most overall after Ohio State’s 18.
That was the first time two matchups on the same day boasted all 8-0 teams, per ESPN Stats and Info.
Fleck went on a 3½-minute long rant after the Gophers beat Maryland before that decision in an effort to convince GameDay to visit the Gophers. Fleck was a part of the GameDay experience as a Northern Illinois player, a member of Ohio State’s staff and Western Michigan’s head coach.
His argument was that the Gophers presented a more unique story than the perennial SEC powerhouses the show could feasibly do every year. But a matchup with College Football Playoff implications, Heisman Trophy hopefuls and rivalry history just proved too tempting. The Gophers were on the radar, though, and seriously considered.
Fleck joked after beating Northwestern 38-22 on Saturday that he wouldn’t go on a similar tirade.
“When you get picked sixth in the West, and now you’re in a position to go win, one-game championship season against your rival, I’m not sure College GameDay is coming,” Fleck said, “but I’m not going to make another case.”
He didn’t have to, as the program made the choice all on its own.