'GameDay' drops in on UW
Rece Davis still remembers the puzzled looks from onlookers the first year ESPN debuted the basketball version of "College GameDay. " "We'd pull up...
Seattle Times staff reporter
UCLA @ Washington, 6 p.m., ESPN
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Rece Davis still remembers the puzzled looks from onlookers the first year ESPN debuted the basketball version of "College GameDay."
"We'd pull up on campus and people would stop us and say something like, 'What are you guys doing here?' " Davis recalled. "And when we'd tell them who we were, they'd say, 'I thought you guys only did GameDay for football.'
"And now several years later, we've been able to build a little following."
Little? In its sixth season, "GameDay" hasn't equaled the appeal of its football big brother, but the college basketball traveling road show, which makes eight stops this season, has built a large following.
Last week, 22,144 fans packed Rupp Arena in Kentucky for a Saturday morning taping of the show.
Last month, 6,000 were on hand at Clemson and 8,100 Kansas State fans came out to sit in the stands and watch Rece, the show's host, talk college hoops with analysts Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps.
While attendance has grown, ratings have also climbed.
Through five shows last season, "GameDay" averaged a 0.7 Nielsen rating, reaching about 639,000 households. This season, ratings are up slightly to 0.8.
"For this show to grow, we like to go and take it to new places, especially places where they care about the team and they're passionate about their entire athletic program, particularly basketball," Davis said. "With the success that Lorenzo (Romar) and his team have had over the last few years, Seattle is a natural trip for us."
Last summer when "GameDay" producers mapped out the schedule, Saturday night's contest between Washington and UCLA looked appealing.
"At the time there was a lot of consensus that Washington could have one of their better years this year," said Nick Dawson, ESPN senior programming manager. "They were preseason top 20. ... UCLA was coming off their success of the past five years is a strong brand and a strong team in the college basketball world. We felt like it was a good matchup."
Fast forward eight months and the Huskies (17-9, 7-7 Pac-10) are sixth in the conference and UCLA (12-13, 7-6) is tied for third.
"With that Saturday prime-time slot our goal is to have a game in there every week that has national-ranking-type of implications or conference-title-type of implications," Dawson said. "To say that the game is exactly what we thought it would be in August, no, that would be disingenuous."
Students began lining outside Edmundson Pavilion on Thursday night to be the first inside the building for the "GameDay" show that begins taping at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
In their regular-season home finale, the Huskies anticipate a conference-leading seventh sellout and UW has scheduled several events this weekend, including hosting a handful of high-profile recruits and recognizing former star Eldridge Recasner.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas hopes to meet Bob Knight, the former Indiana and Texas Tech coach who will provide commentary during the game for ESPN.
"He's crazy," Thomas said. "That's all I can say. I like the guy. I've never met him, but from what I've seen he's a crazy guy."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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