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‘GameDay’ Producer: UM ‘Best On-Campus Experience’

ESPN's broadcast from the Grove ahead of the Rebs' 23-17 win over Alabama is the highest rated episode this season

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Following a broadcast from the Grove Saturday, ahead of Ole Miss’ 23-17 win over then-top-ranked Alabama, ESPN “College GameDay” producer Lee Fitting said the experience here was the best he’s had in 11 years with the show.

Fitting told Sports Illustrated that the buzz throughout the weekend here was “awesome.”

“This was the best on-campus experience I’ve been part of as ‘Game Day’ producer,” Fitting said. “It wasn’t a show, it was an event, and it was because you have such a great natural character in the Grove. You have an incredible recipe – a picture-perfect setting, with thousands upon thousands of people that all share an unmatched passion for their school, their team and their sport. The buzz throughout the weekend was awesome. There were times when the production truck was actually shaking.

“It’s a place, and an event, that every college football fan has to experience in person.”

The live broadcast, which previews the big college football matchups across the country, had many memorable moments, including Oxford’s own Wright Thompson, a writer for ESPN, telling the moving story of his father’s seats in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and a lively segment with guest picker Katy Perry. The broadcast was the show’s highest overnight rating of the season.

And “GameDay” may be returning soon. Ole Miss and Auburn play here Nov. 1, which is already on the shortlist for possible locations that day.

“In this business, you don’t really root for any team, but when you see a host team pull off a win like Ole Miss did Saturday evening, it’s just a perfect cap to a perfect weekend for those folks,” Fitting added. “Postgame, it would’ve been easy to mistake the Square for Bourbon Street.  It was an absolute circus.”

Here’s 14 Awesome ‘GameDay’ Signs

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – ESPN has been traveling the country with “College GameDay” for nearly 30 years. In that time, they have visited more than 60 college campuses, but Saturday was their first time at Ole Miss. The show’s host, Chris Fowler, called it a “bucket list edition” of the program.

Rebel fans began gathering in the Grove, in what’s called the pit area of “GameDay,” before sunrise with signs in hand. Here are 14 of the best signs I spotted.

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Video: Sights and Sounds of ‘College GameDay’

Here are some sights and sounds from ESPN ‘College GameDay’s’ first ever visit to Ole Miss.

Ole Miss Students Get Excited About ‘College GameDay’

Ole Miss Sports Productions cameraman Will Trap photographs one of the ESPN set crew at work. Photo/Video by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Ole Miss Sports Productions cameraman Will Trap videotapes one of the ESPN set crew at work. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi is no stranger to unique opportunities or the national spotlight. This weekend will bring both.

For the first time ever, ESPN’s “College GameDay” will grace the Grove with its presence, bringing along the lights, camera and action.

The news was announced Saturday night, and the anticipation of the “GameDay” crew’s arrival has caused quite a stir around campus.

“I think it’s a great thing for Ole Miss,” said Michala Burman, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Hopkinsville, Kentucky. “Being a senior, nothing like this has happened before and it’s going to be a great experience in my last year.”

Kevin Zeek, a junior accounting major from Alpharetta, Georgia, said he expects the atmosphere in the Grove to be similar to when Ole Miss hosted Texas two years ago.

“I expect it to be a lot like that, but with a lot more national attention,” Zeek said. “I think it’s a huge opportunity not only to grow the Ole Miss football brand, but the university brand as well.”

Zeek said he plans to attend as many GameDay events as he can over the next few days.

Set up crews began arriving Wednesday night and have started setting up around the Grove stage. At  5:30 p.m. Thursday, the GameDay bus will arrive in the Circle to film an intro video that will be televised as part of the Saturday morning program. Students, employees and fans are encouraged to greet the bus at the Circle. The most-represented student organization will receive a limited number of VIP passes to the show.

Welcome the College GameDay Bus to Campus

Gather for Gameday

Gather for Gameday

The day we’ve all be waiting for is drawing near – ESPN’s College GameDay will be live from the Grove beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4 prior to the Ole Miss vs. Alabama football game.

Needless to say, Oxford and campus have been a bit busier this week. To add to the excitement, representatives from College GameDay approached University Communications with a unique opportunity. On Thursday, Oct. 2 at 5:30 p.m. the College GameDay bus will arrive in the Circle to shoot an intro video for the live broadcast on Saturday.

GameDay officials have asked that every student, faculty, staff and local community member who would like to be a part of the experience arrive to the Circle at that time.  In addition, the show will provide a limited number of VIP passes for Saturday’s show to the student group or organization with the largest turnout/most spirit in the Circle tomorrow evening.

To accommodate for the bus, the the Circle will close to all visitors tomorrow at noon. Faculty and staff with reserved parking spaces as well as vehicles with ADA hangtags will still be allowed to park in the Circle.

Not only is this an outstanding opportunity for our town and campus to show our Ole Miss pride, but it’s a chance to be on national television. So if you don’t have any plans for Thursday evening, we hope to see you in the Circle to help welcome the College GameDay bus and ‘Gather for GameDay.’

UM Adjusts Grove Rules for ‘GameDay’ Broadcast

Changes are being made this weekend to ensure fans' safety and access

Information about College GameDay in the Grove

Information about College GameDay in the Grove

OXFORD, Miss. – With ESPN’s live “College GameDay” show coming to the Grove for the first time ever this weekend, University of Mississippi officials are adjusting some of the rules and schedules concerning tailgating to ensure that everyone can enjoy the activities safely.

“We are excited that the nation’s premier football pregame show is visiting our campus,” said Ross Bjork, Ole Miss athletics director. “This is one of the biggest events we’ve ever hosted in the Grove, so we ask that everybody be understanding and flexible as we accommodate the production.”

Crews will arrive to begin setting up the “College GameDay” set Wednesday night, and the work will involve moving materials and several pieces of equipment throughout the area on Thursday. Also, the university’s Physical Plant and Landscape Services teams must access the Grove and Circle to distribute trash cans, Hotty Toddy Potties and other game-day essentials Thursday night and early Friday. Pedestrian traffic will be limited in the Grove during this time, and the University Police Department and other personnel will monitor access to assure safety.

University officials aim to have the Grove clear of “GameDay” setup by 9 a.m. Friday so fans and students can enjoy the area without disruption. Tailgate setup will begin, as usual, at 8 p.m. Friday. Campus parking lots will open at 6 a.m. Saturday for fans with parking passes. Saturday’s live broadcast begins at 8 a.m.

The crowd for Saturday’s activities is expected to be much larger than normal, so drop-offs along Grove Loop and University Avenue from Old Taylor Road to the Circle will end no later than 10 a.m. Saturday. If the area becomes too congested and unsafe for cars and pedestrians, the University Police Department may close these streets to vehicles earlier.

“Our fans’ safety is very important to us, so we will watch the situation and adjust the access as needed,” said Tim Walsh, executive director of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “We encourage everybody to arrive early, be patient and considerate, and enjoy the show. This will be an amazing day for the entire Ole Miss family, and we want everybody to have a good time and return safely home after the game.”

Gameday Recipe Roundup

Create the ultimate Ole Miss tailgating spread with these pin-worthy recipes and ideas

Planning your gameday menu? Check out 10 popular tailgating treats that Ole Miss fans are sharing on Pinterest. Follow the official Ole Miss account at for more ideas and inspiration.

1.) Mini slider tree – Cupcake trees aren’t just for sweets anymore.  Mix things up a bit by displaying your mini sliders in a style worthy of the Grove.


2.) Hotty Toddy football cake balls  – These chocolate-covered cake balls are decorated like footballs on the outside and filled with red and blue velvet cake on the inside. For display ideas, check out the Grove Gal: She takes cake pops to the next level by displaying them on Styrofoam painted to look like a football field.

 3.) Red velvet fudge pie – This recipe calls for boxed red velvet mix, making it simple enough for beginning bakers. Did we mention it’s covered in chocolate?

4.) Olivia Manning’s go-to chicken wings – These oven-baked wings with a Creole twist are a must on the First Lady of Football’s menu.

 5.) Ole Miss Italian Cream CupcakesSouthern Living’s inspiration for this decadent cupcake topped with toasted pecans and coconut flakes? “Italian cream cake is as lush and indulgent as a tailgate in the Grove.”

 6.) Mississippi Mud Brownies – These Mississippi Mud brownies combine marshmallows, chocolate and pecans for the ultimate tailgating treat. After all, a little mud never kept us away from the Grove.

 7.) French Toast cupcakes – Early game? French toast and bacon cupcakes totally count as breakfast. We’ve also pinned a recipe for pancake batter cupcakes with bacon and maple cream icing, if that’s more your style.

8.) Simple football cheese plate – Not all tailgating food requires elaborate culinary skill. Arrange cheese squares, crackers, pepperoni and any other cheese plate staples in the shape of a football for an instant appetizer.

9.) Rebel pretzels – Dip pretzels in white chocolate and add red and blue sprinkles for a salty and sweet gameday treat.


10.) Cheesy bacon oven chips with chipotle ranch sauce – The baked potato meets finger food. Last, but definitely not least.


Recycle On Gameday To Keep The Grove Beautiful

Help keep the Grove “Most Beautiful” this football season by recycling your plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Look for recycling bins throughout the Grove and inside the stadium, or pick up a recycling bag for your tent from dispensers located in front of the Union and in the Circle near the statue.

Remember to recycle plastic and aluminum only – one piece of food costs us an entire bag of recyclables. After cleaning your tent area, simply leave the bag at your tent location. Volunteers will take care of the rest!

Please recycle:
Plastic bottles (No. 1 and No. 2)
Aluminum cans

Remember, the following items are not recyclable:
Food containers
Red plastic cups

For more information, visit Red, Blue and Green.

Latest Gameday Survey Results Released

Nearly Every Satisfaction Score Increased Since Last Year

OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss Athletics Department has released the results of its 2011 football gameday survey and its improvement plans for the Rebels’ upcoming 2012 season.

“We are committed to having the best gameday experience in college sports, and its feedback like this that will only make it better,” said Athletics Director Ross Bjork. “I am grateful we have this platform to hear the opinions of our fans and excited to see us follow up on these action items.

“I want to personally thank everyone that participated in the survey and attends our athletics events.”

Surveys were sent out to season ticket holders on November 22 and recipients had until December 15 to respond. Of the 15,637 surveys sent, 3,484 completed it for a 22.3 percent response rate.

From last year’s survey to the latest, nearly every satisfaction score increased with some gaining double-digit percentage growth.

“The gameday experience continues to play an important role in overall fan satisfaction, and surveys have been an excellent tool to effectively listen to our customers about all areas of that experience,” said Michael Thompson, Senior Associate AD for Marketing and Communications. “The 2011 survey allowed us to not only measure the success of last year’s “100-in-100″ initiative but also address areas that need improvement or enhancement before the 2012 season.”

The results provided information on customer satisfaction as well as the importance of specific elements of the fan experience. Each section also included an open-ended comment box that could be used for additional thoughts and feedback.

Ole Miss Working to Accommodate Gameday Parking

OXFORD, Miss. – With construction under way on several campus projects
and the historic presidential debate nearing, the University of
Mississippi and city of Oxford are working to provide numerous gameday
parking opportunities for the upcoming football season.

Due to preparations for the Sept. 26 debate, the Ford Center parking
lot will be closed for the Memphis, Samford and Vanderbilt games. The
parking lot is expected to reopen for the South Carolina game.

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