A perfect storm: NDSU win, South Carolina loss puts GameDay back in Fargo

FARGO -- ESPN "College GameDay" is returning to North Dakota State for a second consecutive season, leaving many simply asking: Why? "Why not?" said Lee Fitting, senior coordinating producer for the popular college football pregame show. "I haven...

College GameDay
FNS Photo by David Samson North Dakota State football fans watch the ESPN College GameDay crowd during last year’s broadcast on Sept. 21 in Fargo. GameDay returns to downtown Fargo on Saturday.

FARGO - ESPN “College GameDay” is returning to North Dakota State for a second consecutive season, leaving many simply asking: Why?
“Why not?” said Lee Fitting, senior coordinating producer for the popular college football pregame show. “I haven’t heard a good reason for the ‘Why not?’ yet. Our job is to tell the best stories within the sport of college football.”
The three-time defending Division I FCS national champion Bison (2-0) have won 26 games in a row, an FCS record. They have won five consecutive games against D-I FBS teams, including wins against major conference opponents from the Big 10 and Big 12.
NDSU has also won 20 consecutive road games, including four wins on neutral sites. The Bison will be the first FCS team to host “College GameDay” twice, let alone in back-to-back seasons. The show will again originate from downtown Fargo on Saturday, starting at 8 a.m.
“It was our way of saying this isn’t a cute story. This is not a novelty,” Fitting said. “North Dakota State is a big part of the fabric of college football right now.”
That said, it still took a perfect storm for the Bison to get “GameDay” back.
First, the Bison needed to win their third straight national championship in Frisco, Texas, last January.
Second, South Carolina, which was ranked in the Top 10 in the FBS at the time, was upset in the first week of the season, a 52-28 home loss against Texas A&M.
That Gamecocks’ loss made Saturday’s Georgia (ranked No. 6) at South Carolina (No. 24) game not quite as appealing, Fitting said.
Third, the Bison needed to win at Big 12 Conference opponent Iowa State, keeping their string of wins against FBS teams intact.
Finally, NDSU needed to take care of business in Ogden, Utah, over the weekend. Before last Saturday’s game, Fitting tweeted “GameDay” would be headed to Fargo if the Bison beat Weber State.
“We had been whispering about it for a couple of weeks,” Fitting said of a return trip to Fargo.
On Aug. 30 after NDSU defeated Iowa State 34-14, Fitting tweeted: “Uh oh Fargo. I see you Bizon.” Fitting said the final decision was made last Friday, pending a Bison win against Weber State.
Fitting said it was a “no-brainer” to have the show set up at the same spot it did last September, in downtown Fargo with the Fargo Theatre as the backdrop.
“This is a combination of ‘College GameDay’ meets Wrigley Field meets Champions League soccer intensity,” Fitting said soon after last year’s show concluded. “To see the people on the balconies and hanging out of windows and on the rooftops was something that we never get to experience.”
Saturday will mark the sixth time “GameDay” has originated from the site of an FCS game. There are 17 schools in the power five FBS conference which have never hosted the show, including the University of Minnesota and Iowa State.
Some notable schools from major conferences that have hosted “College GameDay” only once include Stanford, UCLA, Arkansas and Missouri.
After the broadcast, Fitting called last year’s stop in Fargo one of the best “GameDay” shows ESPN had ever done. He’s hoping that same excitement can be replicated Saturday.
“North Dakota State is alive on the college football map,” Fitting said. “They have won three national titles in a row. If Alabama won three titles in a row and we went back, no one would be saying anything.”

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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