KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Still 24 hours from kickoff, and the tailgate had already begun at Western Michigan University.
ESPN “College GameDay” transformed the heart of campus Friday afternoon. “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” kicked off their coverage with several live segments from Sangren Plaza. The Bronco football team is 10-0 and ranked number 14 in the nation.
“I would describe it as electric atmosphere, everyone’s excited, everyone’s been talking about it all week — tweeting about it, posting pictures,” WMU football player Justin Tranquill told 24 Hour News 8.
There were a variety of games and activities on hand for WMU students at the ESPN set.
“(It’s) just awesome to have it here, it’s a once-in-a-life opportunity,” Tranquill continued.
Former University of Michigan football star Desmond Howard is among the show hosts. He took the stage with hundreds of Bronco students chanting and cheering in the background.
“It’s a smaller MAC school — and it doesn’t happen a lot, so I think it’s really good for our community here at Western,” WMU freshman Rachel Hunsberger said of the “College GameDay” visit.
Over at Waldo Stadium, it was a quiet scene 24 hours until kickoff. But it won’t stay that way for long.
WMU is expecting every seat to be full on Saturday afternoon.
“I think I heard us referred to as the new mid-market darling,” said Mark Ferver, the director of landscape services. His crews were putting the finishing touches on the stadium when 24 Hour News 8 stopped by.
A big part of “College GameDay” each Saturday is the “celebrity guest picker” — typically a graduate of the university — who’s brought on the show to make game picks.
It’s often kept a mystery until the day of the broadcast. Even WMU officials don’t know who it will be yet.
“There’s so many great names to choose from. You have Tim Allen, Greg Jennings, Terry Crews, Derek Jeter, the list goes on and on,” WMU Football Information Director Rob Beuerlein told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.
And while that may remain a mystery, it’s no secret just how much ESPN’s visit means to the football team — to the university — and to Kalamazoo as a whole.
Hundreds of community members gathered Friday evening at Bronson Park for a pre-game rally, as head coach P.J. Fleck and the team took the stage to pump up the crowd and sign autographs.
A thunderstorm shortened the event — but there was certainly no shortage of Bronco pride.
“I’m so proud of this community,” said Tim Terrentine, vice president of Alumni Relations and Development. “The spirit of the Broncos, the spirit of its alumni is overwhelming,”
You can watch “College GameDay” from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday on ESPN. The game is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. That will be broadcast on ESPNU. As of 3:00 p.m. Friday, there were only 2,500 tickets still available.