My unforgettable weekend as a production runner for College GameDay

CATEGORIES: Student Perspective
Madison Pincombe
Madison Pincombe on the College GameDay set before Saturday's broadcast. Photo by Madison Pincombe.

by Madison Pincombe, senior in journalism and mass communication

As a baby, my dad sang me the Wisconsin Badger and Michigan Wolverines fight songs as lullabies. He and my younger brother taught me how to throw a spiral and how to yell at the TV during a game as if the team or referees could hear me. This was the beginning of my love for the game. When I came to Iowa State, the Cyclones quickly joined the Badgers and Packers on my list of favorite teams. I remember walking out of my dorm, arriving at the tailgating lots for the first time and stopping to just take everything in.

During my summer internship in New York City, whispers of ESPN College GameDay coming to Ames had already begun. #CollegeAmesDay had been born. After Week 1 of college football, Cyclone Nation set their eyes on the CyHawk game. Twitter exploded with appeals for College GameDay to name Ames as their location for Week 3. In my ADVRT 497K course we crafted tweets that would attract the show to our college town. Slowly but surely, College AmesDay became a real possibility. By the end of Week 2, it was either Syracuse v. Clemson or Iowa State v. Iowa. I spent Saturday updating game scores, scrolling through Twitter and watching the game of the week waiting for an announcement. The minute Syracuse lost to Maryland, I knew we really had a chance. At nearly 10 p.m., College GameDay confirmed that Ames was their next location.

As Ames prepared for College GameDay to visit for the first time, I responded to a call for paid runners. By Tuesday I had received an offer to work for the production team on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Madison Pincombe with Gene Wojciechowski & Jen Lada. Photo by Madison Pincombe.

On Thursday I reported to Reiman Gardens where the production team had taken over a building for use as their office. I spent the day helping unpacking office supplies and food and setting them up in the office space. I drove production team members around for the GameDay Bus Arrival, made a final Walmart run for supplies and picked up flyers for the show. By the end of the day we had an official office space and an overflow room set up.

Friday started with picking up production team members and talent from their hotels and bringing them to the office for their big meeting. During the meeting, I helped my supervisor Stephen set up the schedule for the day. After their meeting, I drove David Pollack to the set by golf cart and later transported him to and from the ISU athletics facility for a workout. Next, I drove Gene Wojciechowski, Rece Davis and Drew Gallagher to the Talent Q & A with my ADVRT 497K class. I loved this responsibility because I also got to sit in and listen to the discussion before bringing them back to the office. I finished the day by running a few errands for the team and returning people to their hotels for the night.

David Pollack and Madison Pincombe on the College GameDay set. Photo by Madison Pincombe.

Saturday was show day! I reported to the office by 5 a.m. to get a production vehicle and run to Starbucks to pick up 20 drinks for the team. Then I made a run to pick up the show’s DJ. Once all the talent and producers made it to set, the show began and we worked to tear down the set and pack everything up to be transported to the next College GameDay location. The show aired from 8 to 11 a.m., and by 11:01 a.m. I was stationed by a production SUV ready to drive five production team members to their early flight out of the Des Moines airport. I got a police escort to the highway and dropped them off at the airport in time to make their flight. I was amazed by how quickly the production crew got out of Ames after the show finished. Once I returned to Ames, we finished cleaning up and returned the rental cars.

I even finished my job in time to make it to the game! I absolutely loved my College GameDay experience. I got to meet so many amazing people and learn the ins and outs of producing a major sports broadcast show. Regardless of the outcome of the game, I will never forget my time as an ESPN College GameDay Production Runner!

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.