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GameDay goes from Happy Valley, PA to Brookings, SD in a Few “Easy” Steps

Each week, ESPN's College GameDay crew has some inkling of where the show will go next, but remain prepared to shift quickly. This week's show from South Dakota State is one such example.

(Illustration: Anna Negron/Photo: Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images)

We have all heard of the hustle and grind associated with working in sports television.

Planning happens during the day, with event, game and show execution occurring well into the night. At ESPN especially, 24/7/365 isn’t a cute saying – it’s a way of life.

Producers wrestle with topics and stories of the day, but like real estate agents, College GameDay encounters one more lingering factor – location, location, location.

Each week, ESPN’s GameDay crew has some inkling of where the show will go next, but remain prepared to shift and adjust as needed – often at a moment’s notice. That was very much in play this past weekend, when several results of Saturday’s action left the team evaluating where to take college football’s most popular traveling roadshow next.

“What makes it great is that there is no hesitation. We make the decision and we go. We understand the sacrifices, but the goal is to make show and location great no matter what.” GameDay director Rodney Perez

Ultimately, the decision was made to go to South Dakota State (for the first time ever), where No. 3 South Dakota State would host No. 1 North Dakota State in Brookings, S.D., in a huge FCS showdown. A new location, a site far from the previous weekend’s show (Penn State) and a first-time visit combined to create a large logistical challenge.

Senior remote operations producer Judi Weiss and director Rodney Perez are used to such challenges and are usually the first people on the ground – surveying potential locations, meeting with school officials and determining the where, when and how.

“What makes it great is that there is no hesitation,” Perez said. “We make the decision and we go. We understand the sacrifices, but the goal is to make show and location great no matter what.”

Weiss left Happy Valley, Pa., after last week’s show and headed to the Poconos to spend some time with her family. She went to bed on Saturday not knowing where the show was headed (like the rest of us), and woke up to find that South Dakota State was in contention.

The same goes for Perez, who traveled back to Connecticut to be with his family after the show at Penn State.

However, the two geared up for travel when they were notified by coordinating producer Drew Gallagher that the show was going to Brookings!

What’s most impressive is the timeline that followed. Weiss flew from Philadelphia to Chicago Sunday afternoon and woke up Monday for the flight to South Dakota. Perez snuck in some Sunday family time but his early Monday flight led to him missing his son’s birthday celebrations.

Upon arrival, they spent upwards of five hours on Monday going through different areas on campus, downtown and at the stadium – all in rainy, cold and windy weather. On Tuesday, the two, along with school officials, agreed the College Green would provide the best backdrop and communicated to everyone involved to make the announcement and get travel set.

Managing producer Lindsey Lloyd hit the ground running on Tuesday, while the remainder of ESPN’s 65-plus-member dedicated crew arrived Wednesday and throughout the day Thursday ready to prepare for another stellar Saturday show from the iconic franchise.

And soon, Weiss, Perez and the entire team will start the hustling and grinding for next week’s edition.

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