ESPN’s GameDay comes to Billsville

Williams football may lack a 100-man squad, halftime marching band spectaculars and a stadium that can hold the population of a medium-sized city, but this Saturday the Ephs will have one thing that those larger programs don’t: ESPN College GameDay. For the first time in its 150-episode run, College GameDay will be held in at a Div. III school. It will preview the 122nd football matchup between Williams (5-2) and Amherst (4-3) from Weston Field, running from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Homecoming day.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase one of the best rivalries in all of college football,” Mike Whalen, head football coach, said. “Those who compete on Weston Field this Saturday will do so because they love the game, not because they were given a scholarship or because they hope to make it to the NFL. This is college football in its purest form and I am excited that college football fans from across the country will be able get an inside look at the ‘Biggest Little Game in America.’”

Students are finding creative ways to broadcast school pride on national television. Greg Schultz ’08 and Charles Christianson ’08 plan to get a prop plane to fly a banner over the field during the broadcast. According to Christianson the banner will “reflect current themes around Williams College, while honoring the time-honored tradition of putting Amherst in its place.”

“There might be a disparity talent-wise between some of our teams [and those] of the Div. I schools, but there is no lack of passion on our campus,” Schultz said. “ESPN GameDay is going to be great, the banner is going to be great and I think a lot of people are excited.”

Not everyone, however, has been as excited about GameDay’s Div. III debut, and some have made their protests public on ESPN’s message boards. “Who are these schools and why does anyone care?” one College Gameday fan wrote on the message board. “Why don’t you go to a Division I school like for example UGA [University of Georgia]? . . . ESPN executives are retarted [sic].”

But according to Michael Humes, ESPN spokesperson, the network itself has not received negative feedback, aside from the message board posts, for choosing Williams as the GameDay site. “It’s great that fans want the show to originate from their site, unfortunately we can only originate from one site,” Humes said. “We do our best to show the depth of college football and to cover the good storylines. This week we will get to show the nation one of the greatest rivalries in college football.”

College GameDay is hosted by Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard. Corso, the only original member of the College GameDay crew, is known for wearing the head of the mascot of the team he predicts will win.

There has been no word yet regarding whether or not Corso will bring a purple cow head to the show.

The last time ESPN covered Williams football was in 1995 when ESPN2 featured the game against Amherst. The contest turned into a quagmire on a waterlogged Weston Field and ended in a 0-0 tie.

Although ESPN will not cover the game itself, the rivalry can be seen live on the New England Sports Network (NESN) beginning at noon. Tom Caron will announce the play-by-play, with Andy Gresh providing color commentary and Ashley Adamson conducting the sideline interviews.

“The Biggest Little Game in America” has been played out 122 times, dating back to 1884. The game is the most played rivalry in Div. III and the fourth most played rivalry in college football. The Ephs lead the series with a record of 68-48-5. Williams has won the last two matchups, beating the Jeffs at Amherst, Mass. last season, 37-7, to complete a perfect season.