Students from JL MC 497K toured the College GameDay set. Photo by Melanie Van Horn
Students from JL MC 497K toured the College GameDay set. Photo by Melanie Van Horn

From Cyclone fan to backstage with ESPN College GameDay

by Tanner Hinders, senior in journalism and mass communication

Growing up, I was always a fan of Cyclone football. My parents have had season tickets for over 20 years and my brothers and I accompanied them to almost every football game. Unfortunately, being an Iowa State fan before the last few years was not something to brag about.

When I first came to Ames in 2016, I never would have guessed that College GameDay would come to Jack Trice Stadium. I also never expected to be a journalism major considering I started at Iowa State as an engineering major. However, in the perfect storm of events, ESPN came to Ames for College GameDay in the same year that I was working for the Athletics Marketing department and taking a class titled Sports and the Media in a Digital 24/7 World (JL MC 497K).

The entire week of GameDay was a blur of craziness and preparation, and the fact that GameDay was here didn’t actually settle in till Friday. My sports media professor, Beth Haag, organized for our class to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the ESPN set and participate in a Q&A with GameDay talent. During the tour, we went inside the production trucks, took photos on the GameDay set and watched College Football Live from backstage.

During the Q&A session, our class talked with Rece Davis, Gene Wojciechowski and Drew Gallagher. They discussed their experiences working as sports reporters and what it is like to work for College GameDay. They also provided us with advice for our future careers as journalists and hopeful sports reporters.

Students from JL MC 497K participated in a Q&A session with Gene Wojciechowski, Rece Davis, and Drew Gallagher. Photo by Melanie Van Horn.
Students from JL MC 497K participated in a Q&A session with Gene Wojciechowski, Rece Davis, and Drew Gallagher. Photo by Melanie Van Horn.

Saturday was even more intense as we prepared for the actual GameDay broadcast. I showed up to work a little before 4 a.m. As a marketing intern for Iowa State Athletics, I helped with a lot of the prep work for the day. In the morning, I helped hand out wigs, poms and face paint to fans. I also took pictures for marketing, climbing around the upper sections of the stadium getting wide shots of the crowd and stage. The day became more interesting when I came down to the set and became a part of the GameDay action.

I went backstage for the GameDay broadcast to help the marketing department shoot shirts into the crowd. I even got to fire the t-shirt Gatling gun. I spent the morning taking photos of fans, signs and other events near the stage. One of my personal highlights of the day was meeting former Cyclone quarterback Seneca Wallace backstage at GameDay. As a lifelong fan of Iowa State, I will remember every special opportunity and experience during College GameDay for the rest of my life.

This blog post is part of a series written by students who interacted with ESPN's College GameDay on Sept. 13, 2019, as part of ADVRT 497K, Sports & The Media in a Digital 24/7 World. The class is taught by assistant teaching professor Beth Haag, who works to provide students with access to real-world scenarios, guest speakers with a wide variety of experiences as well as best practices for the rapidly-evolving communications field. For more information, refer to the Iowa State course catalog.