For much of this college football season, as the Gophers racked up wins and national exposure, Minnesota fans (and head coach P.J. Fleck) have been clamoring for ESPN’s “College GameDay” to make its first-ever visit to campus.
After coming up short in that bid before the Penn State game, the wish was granted quickly after the Gophers and Badgers both won Saturday, setting up a winner-takes-the-West battle Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
And almost as soon as the announcement was made, fans began wondering and speculating about something else: Who would be the celebrity guest picker chosen for this week’s show?
While students are busy making signs — a staple of the show, so much so that the U is hosting a sign-making event Tuesday on campus — the official Gophers Football Twitter account asked for guesses on who the show will pick as its celebrity, and the tweet has received more than 1,000 replies.
For my money, the leaders in the clubhouse have to be: Bud Grant, Lindsay Whalen, Ric Flair, Eric Decker, Tony Dungy and Brock Lesnar.
What does the history of GameDay guest pickers tell us? Well, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise but the guest picker is typically 1) someone who attended the host school and 2) either a former star athlete or another celebrity. All of the aforementioned names fit into those categories.
The last three guest pickers, for instance, were: Eddie George at Ohio State (former star running back there); Chip and Joanna Gaines at Baylor (alums and stars of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper”); Justin Thomas at Alabama (star golfer and alum).
Earlier this year superfan, actor and Texas alum Matthew McConaughey was the painfully obvious (and excellent) choice when the Longhorns hosted. (For an exhaustive list of all the past pickers and how they fared with their picks, here you go).
Sometimes the show goes off the grid, though — like when it picked country singer Eric Church earlier this year for its first-ever trip to Iowa State. Church has no real ties to the school or the state.
“We always like to stick to coach (Lee) Corso’s mantra which is ‘entertainment, sweetheart,'” GameDay producer Drew Gallagher told the Des Moines Register. “Whether that’s someone connected to the school, the rivalry, a celebrity outside—a little level of unpredictablitiy is good too.”
Hmmm. If we factor in entertainment, too, the chances of pro wrestling luminaries Flair or Lesnar being the pick have to go up quite a bit. Flair was an offensive lineman for the Gophers in 1969 during his brief attendance at the U. Lesnar was a star wrestler here before going onto bigger fame in WWE and mixed martial arts. Flair was just down in Georgia, though, two months ago as part of the GameDay program. Near as I can tell, Lesnar has never done it.
Dungy, Whalen and Grant are all a little more subdued, though to be fair all of us are subdued compared to pro wrestlers. Decker would work, but the more I think about it Lesnar seems like a natural.
Regardless, it seems like there are plenty of strong local connections for GameDay to avoid having to think too far outside the box. Until then, feel free to keep speculating in the comments.