College GameDay is synonymous with adjusting and adapting – each week, the school travels to a new (or familiar) destination, capturing the essence of college football, its fans, and the environment that makes the sport so great.
In a week’s time, the show travels, unpacks, sets up, airs, then packs up to head to the next destination. The same holds true for all the folks involved in the show, with the exception of one special person and element this year.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, analyst Lee Corso does not travel for GameDay. However, creative minds, plans, and people came up with a way to keep his identity on the show, transforming his backyard in the Orlando, Fla., area each week.
“The idea came from a group Zoom,” said Jim Gaiero, GameDay producer. “[ESPN SVP, Production] Lee Fitting basically said, ‘We’re not going to Coach sitting in his office every week. We can do better.’ Next thing you know, we have what we have.”
It’s been the theme of the season – every time he’s seen on camera, we want to bring a smile to people’s faces.
– Patrick Abrahams, ESPN bureau producer, on helping coordinate Lee Corso’s GameDay appearances from Orlando
Drew Gallagher, coordinating producer, added: “We all agreed that we needed to ‘go big’ with Corso, and make his home/backyard feel like an extension of the GameDay set. No idea was considered too crazy. That spirit inspired the creative approach that [GameDay director] Rodney [Perez], Patrick [Abrahams, bureau producer] and Jim have taken each week.”
Abrahams was asked to join the show this season while working on NBA coverage in Orlando, and works, alongside Crown Town Films, with Corso each week to plan and execute all the elements we see, from his stories to FaceTime with GameDay colleague Kirk Herbstreit, and the segments with him and the college mascots.
“It’s been the theme of the season – every time he’s seen on camera, we want to bring a smile to people’s faces,” Abrahams said of Corso.
Of course, this could not be done without the incredible support from schools across the country, who have been willing to lend Corso mascots, props, and more for the show.
So far this season, fans have seen Corso do a cannonball in his pool, stand on a 17-foot elephant in his driveway, transform his backyard with Augusta National-like scenery, and so much more.
“Patrick Abrahams and the team deserve all the credit in the world,” Gaiero shared. “He basically has carte blanchefrom me to do whatever he thinks works. Sure, we talk every week, and he pitches different aspects of the setup, or what Coach might do from an edit standpoint, but I don’t think I’ve said no to anything!”
“Everything we do is all out of love for Coach,” said Abrahams. “It’s a privilege to be a part of with him… what an opportunity to capture these moments.”
ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot is set for its 11th road show of the 2020 season, originating from Norman, Okla., ahead of ABC’s Saturday Night Football matchup between No. 14 Oklahoma State and No. 18 Oklahoma. The three-hour traveling pregame show (9 a.m.-noon ET) will air on ESPN and ESPNU. Tune in to see what Corso and team have planned for this week’s pick.
Shelby L. Lacy produced the video.