Fans show up, off for ESPN GameDay at IU

Fans show up, off for ESPN GameDay at IU

By Mercedes Rodriguez, Herald-Times

February 16, 2008

A few thousand IU students got up early Saturday morning to watch the ESPN GameDay show at Assembly Hall hosted by (from left) Rece Davis, Hubert Davis, Digger Phelps and Jay Bilas, Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Feb. 16, 2008 Bloomington Herald-Times

Hoo-Hoo-Hoosiers!

Cheering, chanting, clapping echoed through Assembly Hall Saturday morning, which was packed with proud Indiana University basketball fans showing off for ESPN’s College GameDay cameras.

Doors opened at 9 a.m. Gate attendant Barb Slessinger said some people had camped out as early as 11 the night before to ensure a good spot before the cameras. “They opened up the doors, and they made a mad dash,” she said.

The show, which films on location at college campuses and is known for drawing energetic crowds, showed a supportive IU fan base that wasn’t afraid to be a little iconoclastic, given the basketball program’s current state. This is the first time GameDay has been in Bloomington.

Scores of fans brought signs to hold, a catchy sign being a sure way to get some personal ESPN screen time. Many fans weren’t afraid chant the name of former coach Bob Knight or bring in signs that expressed affection for The General.

Fans near the front row of Assembly Hall made a huge cut-out — perhaps five-feet tall — of a photo of Knight’s head to hold in front of cameras. Further back, one young man held up a poster simply reading, “Bring Back Bobby.”

The allegations of NCAA rule violations on the part of coach Kelvin Sampson were not far from some GameDay participants’ minds.

IU senior Michael Heitholt says he feels torn because he loves the Hoosier coach, but “I wish he would have learned from his mistakes.” In spite of those problems, the fans are doing a great job of cheering on their team, he said.

Bloomington High School North student Brayton Deckard was out Saturday morning with a sign declaring his vote for IU forward D.J. White over presidential candidates Barak Obama and John McCain. “I’d like our program to be clean, but we’re still out here to support the team,” he said.

ESPN’s Erin Andrews works her shot as the Hoosier fans go wild in the background during the taping of the ESPN College GameDay show at Assembly Hall in Bloomington Saturday. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Feb. 16, 2008 Bloomington Herald-Times

Those concerns didn’t dampen the cheering and clapping. People in the crowd constantly called the name of ESPN sportscaster Digger Phelps. Everyone became extra loud when Phelps held up a pair of IU red-and-white-striped pants during filming.

All over the arena, people were decked out in their best cream and crimson. Some silly wigs and hats were visible. One fan came to GameDay in an adult-sized blue onesie pajama outfit and a hunter’s cap. IU senior Tom Taylor called his getup a motivational tool, “It gets me hyped up, it gets everyone hyped.”

Standing at the front of the crowd wearing fuzzy red hats were friends Kate Nielsen and Kelly Lacks. They held a sign bearing an ESPN acronym, “Eliminate Spartans, Purdue Next.” Their friend Rebecca Treizter held up one saying “Who needs a coach when we’ve got Gordon,” in homage to star guard Eric Gordon. The girls call themselves diehard fans.

Of course, shortly after Valentine’s Day, some fan were there to proclaim their love. IU Junior Merrin Rosenberg held up a piece of poster board reading “We love D.J.” Four young men held up four pieces which together read, “Marry Us Erin Andrews,” directed at the popular ESPN reporter.

Gate attendants were at Assembly Hall’s entrances, checking for signs that contained dirty words or derogatory statements, Slessinger said. Some students said their signs were taken away. Heitholt said a sign of his reading “Welcome to Robert Montgomery Knight Assembly Hall, Go Hoosiers” was taken away.

In spite of some bumps along the way, the morning went smoothly. “The kids were very good,” said Slessinger.