College GameDay

Year One as GameDay host in the books for Rece Davis

Reece Davis (Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
It’s been a whirlwind first year for Rece Davis as host of football’s College GameDay. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

Fifteen weeks flew by for first-year College GameDay host Rece Davis with a whirlwind of visits to the sites of the top storylines of the 2015 college football season. While there were no big surprises for Davis as he navigated each campus visit, he enthusiastically took in all the moments that the GameDay crew and fans threw at him.

As College GameDay concludes its 29th season on the road, airing from the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T featuring Alabama vs. Clemson on Monday, Jan. 11 (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN), Davis reflects on his first year at the desk beside analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and David Pollack.

Sum up your first year as host of College GameDay.
It has been fun and rewarding. First, I’ve felt very welcomed from both our College GameDay team and the people who come out to see the show. College football is a little different from a lot of the other sports. Many people who are passionate about it aren’t just fans, it’s part of their DNA. To be part of a show that celebrates the sport, the players, coaches, traditions and pageantry is very rewarding personally because I’m one of those people to whom the sport is really important. It’s great to see so many people want to join in and be part of that every Saturday morning.

Rece Davis College GameDay: Watch his introduction from his first show.

What was your favorite moment from GameDay this season?
Whew, that’s tough because there were so many great moments. Jeff Dunham’s ventriloquist bit as our guest picker at Baylor was phenomenal – we were laughing so hard we could hardly get the game predictions out. When Herbie said the puppet looked like Finebaum, I was down for the count. In a tie with that was Coach Corso appearing as the Father of the Constitution at James Madison. He’s the ultimate showman.

I also like [Alabama coach Nick] Saban’s reaction when I asked him if a fight broke out at the coaches’ convention who he would want as his tag team partner. He said, “Where do you get these questions?” but ultimately he chose Urban Meyer. He should’ve taken Charlie Strong. Who’s going to mess with Charlie?

It’s easy to pick funny moments, but a couple of other ones really got to me as well. The piece on Lloyd Carr’s grandson, Chad, who died of cancer this fall was gut wrenching. It was a tremendous show of strength by the Carr family to share their story while the pain was so raw and fresh. Gene Wojciechowski did a brilliant job with that piece.

Same with Tom Rinaldi’s story on LSU fan Sid Ortis, a teenager from Alabama battling cancer who was befriended by Les Miles.

The ability to weave football strategy, fun with characters of the game and deeply emotional human elements is what we believe makes our show special.

You’ve watched Lee put on the headgear every week on television. What was it like to be sitting next to him for the last moments of each show?
It’s one of the iconic moments in college football and in television in my judgment. People wait for it. They love it. I love it. I never know what he’s going to do and that’s perfect. Coach puts a lot of thought and effort into making it entertaining for the fans. Producer Lee Fitting often jokes right before we come on the air, “just a little less than three hours until the real show starts Coach, and you put on that headgear.” Lee’s ability to take that moment and weave in everybody from Rick Ross to the Philly Phanatic, is pure genius.

Desmond Howard, Rece Davis, Dallas Clark, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit on the set of College GameDay Built by the Home Depot during coverage of the 2015 Big Ten Championship game (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
Desmond Howard, Rece Davis, Dallas Clark, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit on the set of College GameDay Built by the Home Depot during coverage of the 2015 Big Ten Championship game
(Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)

Did your 10-year-old self picture you – today – as the host of College GameDay?
It is a unique opportunity. From the time I was a kid, I always wanted to be a sportscaster and cover college football. Hate to give away my age, but as a 10-year old, ESPN hadn’t quite started yet, much less GameDay. But I remember telling my Mom once, as a kid, that when I got my driver’s license that after my Friday night high school games, I was going to drive to the biggest college game of the day on Saturday. Of course, as a 10-year old, or however old I was when I said that, who calculated the time and gas money to do that? And how cool is it that I get to do it now?

Crossover: Davis on basketball's GameDay
After Monday’s CFP title game, Davis transitions to ESPN’s College GameDay basketball program and also will be working Thursday nights as part of the network’s Big Ten men’s basketball coverage.

How do you make the transition over to College GameDay basketball and calling Thursday Big 10 games?
I have a week to drill it into my head that when I think of Michigan State, Denzel Valentine pops into my head and not Shilique Calhoun. We have a great thing going with GameDay basketball, too. I’m sure [GameDay analyst] [Jay] Bilas will give me grief about something from this football season, but those guys will make the transition very easy. I’m really looking forward to another season with Jay, JWill [analysts] [Jay Williams] and Seth [Greenberg].

I’m also looking forward to working with [college basketball analyst] Jim Calhoun. I’ve been blessed to work with some legendary coaches. Think about my on-air partners over the years – Lou Holtz, Bob Knight and now Jim Calhoun. . . a lot of championships in that mix. There’s nothing better than getting out, being part of the atmosphere for games, and in hoops, to me, it’s tough to beat the Big 10.

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