College GameDay: South Bend Edition

Author: Claire Early

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Mary Kate McGuirk

There’s always a little bit of magic in the air on game days, but “College GameDay” had the student body completely under its spell on Saturday, Sept. 23. Some students woke before dawn to get a spot close to the set. Some camped out on Library Lawn all night. Some put off studying and writing essays to craft the perfect poster. By 9 a.m., the enchantment reached a fever pitch, as students cheered, jumped and waved their signs for millions of people across the country to see. It was “College GameDay” at Notre Dame.

On Sept.16, news broke that the premier college football broadcast, ESPN’s “College GameDay,” was coming to our city for the Saturday game against Ohio State. The rarity of the matchup, the historic background of both teams and top ten status of the pairing all drew the ESPN show to South Bend for the 11th time ever and the first time since the Fighting Irish upset Clemson in 2020.

Students leaving Hesburgh Library on Wednesday evening were greeted with the steel skeleton of the iconic set. By Saturday, the patch of grass in front of the Word of Life mural, also known as Touchdown Jesus, was totally transformed. In the middle of Library Lawn, the stage was slightly elevated and covered with spotlights and cameras on every side. The iconic desk was the center of it all, occupied from left to right by Desmond Howard, Rece Davis, Pat McAfee, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit (joined at later points by head coach Marcus Freeman and “Rudy” star Vince Vaughn.) The students were in a frenzy of green behind them, with Touchdown Jesus standing tall over all of it.

Just as the student body and campus itself were enchanted by the production, so too were the hosts enchanted by us. As Rece Davis said, “If you love the nostalgia and the history of the sport the way we do — the way I do, particularly — there’s something special about coming here … The Four Horseman and Rockne, all that stuff is important, it’s what gives the sport a foundation, it’s what gives it a soul.”

Bring your magic back anytime, “College GameDay.”