SIU slated to host College GameDay

By Gus Bode

The SIU Arena this season may house a basketball spectacle usually reserved for the most recognizable names in college athletics.

ESPN’s College GameDay – featuring enthusiastic on-air talent Dick Vitale – is slated to set up shop at the SIU Arena in January.

The official GameDay schedule had not yet been released Monday by ESPN, but the plan is for the SIU Arena to host the crew for the 8 p.m. showdown against rival Creighton on Jan. 26, said Barry Sachs, an executive producer for ESPN in Bristol, Conn.

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“The show’s coming, and we just needed to come down and survey the arena to try to get all the logistics in place,” Sachs said.

College GameDay broadcasts nationally on ESPN and visits a different site each Saturday. The GameDay crew – including Vitale, Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, Dan Schulman, Jay Bilas and Erin Andrews – typically broadcasts from the site throughout the day, surrounded by rabid, face-painted fans.

Last season, GameDay visited nine sites throughout the regular season, including basketball powerhouses Ohio State University, University of North Carolina and the University of Kentucky.

Saluki Media Services director Tom Weber said representatives from ESPN visited the Arena Aug. 14 to determine how and where the crew would set up.

Weber said a special stage would be built on the east end of the court by the announcer’s table and fans would be situated in the stands. For the pregame and halftime broadcasts, a section of bleachers would be set up on the northeast concourse of the arena.

The game would be broadcast in high definition with at least 10 cameras to capture on-the-court action, Weber said.

Weber maintained the official decision has not yet been handed down, but the crew discussed special opportunities for the game, such as Vitale hosting a free-throw shooting contest with students.

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Athletic director Mario Moccia said the presence of GameDay would benefit the University and local community exponentially.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to let the students and all the fans into the Arena early during the day, like 10 a.m., and they go live and there’s an arena full of people eight hours before the game going nuts with cheerleaders and the band and stuff like that, so I think it’s a huge opportunity to raise the spirit of the entire University,” Moccia said.

Moccia said the increased national exposure caused by the event would also show the local community benefits of a successful athletic program. The Carbondale City Council voted last week to pass an increased sales tax that would help fund renovations to the Arena and the construction of a new football stadium as part of the University’s Saluki Way project.

“The community just did a huge thing for Saluki Way, and I just think this shows the national exposure that an athletic program — the light it can shed on a university as well as a community,” Moccia said. “Live national TV is pretty powerful.”

Sean McGahan can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 269 or [email protected]

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