ESPN College Gameday and Oregon: the Perfect Match

FishDuck Staff History

Lee Corso has the Duck Head on!

On Saturday ESPN College Gameday will be broadcasting live from Palo Alto, CA, to kick off the day’s festivities ending with the Oregon-Stanford game.  It will be the third time this year that Oregon is one of the featured schools associated with the program, more than any other school.  It will be the second time Stanford is featured, and the first time ever that the show broadcasts from the Stanford campus.

It has become a great honor to have ESPN College Gameday broadcast from a campus.  It signifies that the game being held there is the biggest of the day, that the eyes of the nation will be on that school, that game.  Further, it showcases the host school, validates their prominence in the college football world, proves the worth of the fan base and team.  It is a game of one-upsmanship, to prove that one school’s fan base can get a bigger turnout, be louder on TV, have funnier signs, get crazier, all in an effort not only to be seen but to show the rest of the country why this school and their fans should be respected AND feared.

These days it is almost impossible to imagine a college football Saturday without a coinciding ESPN College Gameday broadcast as a precursor, live from a college campus setting with thousands of screaming fans behind the set anxiously anticipating the moment a mascot’s headgear is donned.  The theme music “Comin’ To Your City” by Big&Rich and Cowboy Troy is the Saturday morning alarm clock to wake us all up for the day of football to come, the Lee Corso headgear moment several hours later culminating the program signals the official start of football for the next 12-14 hours.

This is not I.C. Green, but he surely knows him.

The first ever college football game was played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton, ESPN College Gameday’s first television broadcast was in 1987.  If I was a co-host on the show, this would be the point when someone would make a joke about how Lee Corso was there to be a part of both momentous events.

119 years after the first game, the modern concept of gamedays began.  But it wasn’t the festive, prestigious event known today nationwide, it started as a studio show similar to the rest of ESPN’s typical programming.  Hosted by Larry Burnett, Beano Cook, and Tim Brando.  Former Indiana/Louisville Head Coach Lee Corso occasionally participated in the program as well.  The program was a studio setting to preview the games of the day, along with various human-interest stories, a format that has carried on with the program to this day.  But the program’s ending was anticlimactic compared to the anticipated absurdity that highlights every Saturday morning now.

ESPN College Gameday remained a studio program exclusively until 1993, when it was decided that the broadcast should be done live from a campus for what was dubbed “The Game of the Century” (sound familiar?), when #1 Florida State played #2 Notre Dame.  After some shuffling in format Corso was the only original member of the team, the program was now co-hosted by Chris Fowler and Craig James.  There was a small crowd on hand on the Notre Dame campus, but nothing compared to the thousands that swarm the set every fall Saturday morning.  The general excitement created by the live broadcast on campus was overwhelmingly positive though, amping up an already energetic gameday in South Bend.

It was clear to ESPN that there was something special about broadcasting at campuses, and over the next few years tentatively the show would be taken on the road some weeks and sometimes back in the studio.  By 1995 though, the show was the football equivalent of a traveling circus or Grateful Dead tour, every week in some new city to showcase the game of the day with no signs of stopping until a champion was crowned.

1996 was when the show would come into its own, and the now familiar three amigos that comprise the core of the program—Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit—would take the stage for the first time.  October 6th, 1996, the Gameday crew had come to Columbus, OH for a game at Ohio State, a homecoming of sorts for Herbstreit, the newest addition to the team, who had quarterbacked at OSU 1989-93.

Lee Corso had come up with the idea of putting on the Brutus Buckeye mascot head to end the show rather than just making his prediction, and thanks to Herbstreit’s connections the school agreed to loan an extra Brutus head to the set.  Immediately, a gameday tradition was born.

Akili Smith

Every week since that day in Columbus, Corso has worn headgear of a mascot to end the program while fans in the background go crazy with the selection as Corso acts kooky while his co-hosts laugh hysterically.  The vaudeville aspect of this climax has expanded over the years to involve other props sometimes, or extravagant unveilings.  Last week Brian Wilson donned a LSU mascot head complete with matching beard and Mohawk while Corso also put on a LSU Tigers head.  Last year at the Oregon-USC game, Corso wore a giant version of his own head, which was then worn by Will Ferrell while Corso put on the Duck head, leading to Ferrell attacking Corso with his own head.  By College Gameday standards, this did not seem unusual whatsoever.

Through all the broadcasts of ESPN College Gameday over the years, Oregon has been featured repeatedly, first starting in 1998 at the Oregon-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.  By this time the format was set, game previews and human interest followed by the big headgear moment and the crowd going nuts while Corso comically pummels Herbstreit with whatever mascot head he put on.  By this time the question of the day on Saturday mornings wasn’t who would win, but what head would Corso don that day?

In 1998, at the Rose Bowl, #12 Oregon was visiting #2 UCLA.  Both teams were undefeated, both unstoppable freight trains of offensive fortitude.  Both teams featured superstars that would be first round draft picks at quarterback, UCLA with Cade McNown (from Oregon) and Oregon with Akili Smith (from California).  Both teams had devastating run games, UCLA powered by Deshaun Foster and Oregon with JC transfer RB Reuben Droughns.  Whoever won was in the driver’s seat for the Pac-10 title.  It seemed the perfect setting for the game of the day, and as such ESPN was on hand.

But trips to the west coast were rare.  Call it east coast bias if you will, and perhaps there is some slight validity in that suggestion because in that era the Pac-10 conference was barely if ever discussed on the show, but much more likely it was a matter of time zones.  ESPN didn’t think they could get a big crowd out before sunrise at 4am to provide a nice backdrop when the show would begin taping at 6am with a Pacific Time Zone broadcast.  But this game was simply too big to not be present, so the show made a very rare west coast trip, and covered the festivities at the Rose Bowl.

Reuben Droughns

Corso picked UCLA, and the selection proved to be correct in a whirlwind of a game that was not decided until overtime, with an eventual UCLA victory 41-38.  The game had literally everything, even a player vomiting on the field before the snap, major injuries, big plays, big hits, and gritty performances.  Oregon gave everything they had, but in the end a season-ending leg injury to was too much to overcome, and the Ducks’ would never be the same for the rest of the year.  So much promise, even the first realistic potential for Oregon in the national championship, was destroyed.   Despite the loss, Oregon did earn something that day, respect.  Respect from the media, respect from fans, and they earned a new fan, Lee Corso.

Following the 1998 UCLA game, Oregon was discussed much more often on the show, a team that barely would ever get more than a mention or two before in an entire season.  It would take two years, but Gameday would eventually decide it was time to make another trip out west, and this time they were going to get a taste firsthand of the aura of Autzen Stadium they had heard so much about.

September 23rd, 2000, UCLA was coming to Eugene, OR to face the Ducks.  The Bruins were ranked 8th in the country, and while the ESPN team had heard much about the crazy Oregon fans and the noise of Autzen, they honestly didn’t quite know what to expect.  The stage was erected in the shadows of Autzen near the creek, but there was genuine concern among the crew that few if any fans would show up pre-dawn to fill the backdrop.  Oh, were they in for a surprise.

By the time the broadcast began, thousands adorned the grass field behind the stage, one of the largest crowds ESPN had seen at College Gameday to that point, stunning the crew nearly speechless in trying to describe the passion that these fans had for their team.  Of course they did a feature on Oregon’s wild new uniforms, at that point the cliché item usually first talked about when Oregon was mentioned, but more often than not the hosts found themselves almost in awe of the crowd behind them, how early they had arrived, how large the crowd was in little ol’ Eugene, how much passion they showed for their team.

UCLA was a top-ranked team, Oregon was unranked but with a lot of momentum behind them.  Spurred by the passion of the crowd there was no hesitation by the end of the broadcast, as Lee Corso emphatically grabbed the Duck mascot head and put it on, and a love affair between Corso and the Duck began.

The Ducks would again prove Corso correct, as Oregon steamrolled UCLA in convincing fashion 29-10 in a game that was not as close as the score indicates.  Corso, Fowler, and Herbstreit were on the sidelines getting their first taste of Autzen, and a legend was born that day…that Autzen is THE loudest stadium in the country.  This was before the expansion of the south rim, with the total capacity being only around 45,000, but so much noise was generated crowd on hand to witness it, that the stadium ever since is rewarded as having the loudest and most passionate fans of any team in the country.

Entering Autzen Stadium

Consistently Autzen ranks at the top of toughest places to play, and the Gameday team repeatedly emphasize that per capita there is simply no place louder.  They had heard the rumors, but it took experiencing it themselves in person to believe the hype, and believe they did.

In the time since that 2000 visit to Autzen, the Gameday crew have covered more Oregon games, both at Autzen and on the road.  This weekend they will do so again, for the third time this year.  Corso and Herbstreit have both gone on record professing their love for the Oregon Duck mascot and his wacky antics during the taping of the show and during games, saying repeatedly that the Duck is their favorite mascot in the country.

Every time Gameday covers an Oregon game it becomes a test of will to see when, not if, the Duck will make Herbstreit lose focus and start laughing uncontrollably.  In the two games Gameday has covered this season involving Oregon, the Duck dressed up as Lee Corso during the broadcast, drawing laughs while reminding all of the special bond that has grown between Corso and the Duck.

Oregon was also making its presence felt on ESPN in general as well.  The network, long known for making comical promos, made this ad in 2003 for ESPN College Gameday involving the Duck.  It would not be the only ad that the Duck would be featured in for the network.

It did take seven years for College Gameday to return to Eugene after the 2000 UCLA game, but by then Oregon had become a common topic of discussion on the program.  Oregon didn’t have to earn any respect or validity anymore, Gameday LOVED Eugene and Corso loved the Duck, whether they were at Autzen or not.

During the 2007 season another showdown for the ages occurred at Autzen that was too good for Gameday to pass up, #6 ranked Cal came to town to play the 11th ranked Ducks on September 29th.  Oregon was the surprise team that year, coming off a disappointing year in 2006 and an ugly loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, little was expected for the 2007 Ducks.  But after a dismantling of Michigan in the Big House, Oregon was now the talk of the country, along with the amazing new offense implemented by new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.

From the opening introductions of the show, it was obvious the crew hadn’t forgotten their experience from 2000.  Kirk Herbstreit in the first minute stared into the cameras and said, “If my wife and kids are watching, pack your bags we’re moving to Eugene!”
“This is the loudest stadium per person I have ever been in in my entire life!” Corso exclaimed at the start of the show, a program that ended with Corso in a Duck head shouting “GO DUCKS!” at the enthusiastic crowd.  By now Desmond Howard had been added to the broadcast team, the growth of the program necessitating more insight from other perspectives.  Howard’s role has been tweaked over the years, but he remains a secondary component to the core trio of Fowler/Herbstreit/Corso.

The Ducks didn’t win, proving Corso wrong for the first time with an Oregon game.  This one, like the 1998 game, was again in heartbreaking fashion, as a fumble at the goal line as time expired gave Cal a close victory.

Undeterred, Oregon continued on, and with Cal sliding in the polls from several losses Oregon assumed the role of national title contender, despite the Cal loss.  ESPN College Gameday determined that an encore was in order, and that season made a very rare double appearance, following the Cal game in September they returned to the same location for the Arizona State-Oregon battle on November 3rd.  And just like before, the crowd was huge, the noise palpable, the moments between the Duck and Herbstreit comical, and Corso picked Oregon to win.

ASU was ranked #4 in the country at the time, Oregon #5, but ASU proved to not be in the same class as the Ducks, as Corso’s pick again rang true.  The Ducks defeated ASU 35-23.

If it was unclear before that Oregon had arrived on the national stage, to be featured as host of ESPN College Gameday twice in the same year confirmed it.  Corso was now picking Oregon to win with regularity on the program, some called him an Oregon homer, but nobody seemed to mind.  Herbstreit and Fowler interjected into the conversation as often as possible how loud Autzen Stadium was and the passion of Oregon fans.  Even a few Oregon fans started popping up in the crowd at games being covered by Gameday unrelated to Oregon.

With three successful appearances in Eugene, it was evident that more would follow.  For a long time ESPN had endured the common complaint that they did not broadcast from the west coast enough, and with Oregon as the proven commodity out west to garner a big crowd, it became almost obligatory that the ESPN College Gameday tour would make a stop in Eugene on an annual basis.

It took two years for Gameday to return, but when they did it was in epic fashion.  USC was in town for a night game on Halloween.  As if the Autzen faithful weren’t crazy before, having a night game on Halloween would be downright, well…scary.

I showed up at Autzen Stadium at 4am on Halloween morning of 2009 for the Gameday broadcast, and in the light drizzle I could hear the crowd roar from a mile away two whole hours before the broadcast even began…oh yeah, this day was going to be special.  The crowd was massive, this time set up alongside the Casanova Center.  The noise did not let up, as a raucous crowd partied throughout the morning rain and broadcast.  Before taping began, Chris Fowler addressed the crowd, as he does before every broadcast, but made sure to let everyone know their appreciation of the Oregon crowd showing up so early, so consistently, and with such passion.

Phil Knight was on hand as a guest-picker, now Oregon head coach Chip Kelly made a surprise appearance wearing the Duck head, the Duck rode in on the Harley to start the show, and ending it was Corso riding out on the Harley again wearing the Duck head.  By this point after over a decade of headgear picks, for as much as the moment was celebrated and revered, it now needed an added flair.  It wasn’t enough to just put on the mascot headgear, it had to be done with panache.  Corso had used guns, live animals, or intricate ceremonies to unveil the mascot head.  With Oregon’s Harley Motorcycle tradition storming the field before games began, it seemed only natural for Corso to depart the set on the Harley.

The party continued all day and into the night, as Oregon dismantled the Trojan monster that had tormented the west coast and the country for the past decade.  The 47-20 Oregon victory was the worst loss ever suffered in Pete Carroll’s tenure, and the following week when Stanford steamrolled them the writing was on the wall that the days of USC’s dominance was over.  Facing NCAA sanctions from recruiting scandals, Carroll quickly left in the offseason for a job in the NFL.  The game served as not just a slaying of the beast, but a wake up call to the country that Oregon was worthy of the hype.  It started with Gameday, it ended with a 27 point victory over mighty USC, proven to be not so mighty on that day.

Two more opportunities would come that year for Gameday to cover Oregon games, two more chances for Corso and the Gameday team to continue their great support for the University of Oregon Ducks.

First, the November 21st, 2009 showdown between Oregon and Arizona in Tucson was selected for Gameday.  It was the first time the show had broadcast from Tucson, but the crowd couldn’t sway the heart of Corso the way Oregon had done so back in 2000, and Coach Corso again chose Oregon.

The game would end in epic fashion, with an ugly post-script.  Oregon defeated Arizona in double overtime, again proving Corso correct in his selection, as predictable as it may have been by now that no matter the opponent he would always pick the Ducks.

Unfortunately immediately after the game as the Oregon fans celebrated with players, angry Arizona fans began hurling garbage and debris onto the field and in the stands at players, personnel, and fans of Oregon.  A near-riot broke out, as what began as a trickle of flying objects soon turned into a shower of bottles and trash.  One bottle struck cheerleader Katelynn Johnson in the side of the head knocking her unconscious, but Katelynn was far from the only one in green who got pummeled that night by Arizona thugs.  So severe was the aftermath that Tucson police had to show up in riot gear and began pulling fans out of the stands arresting them on the field.

With Oregon escaping Tucson, both the Arizona opponent and the unruly fans, the path was set for Oregon to win the Pac-10 title.  A victory over the Beavers at Autzen earned the Ducks a chance to play in the Rose Bowl to play Ohio State, where once more ESPN College Gameday would be on hand to preview the game.

For the Rose Bowl, the set was erected inside the stadium next to an Ohio State section with the field as the backdrop, no chance for fans to surround the set beyond the OSU fans who sat in the nearby corner endzone.  Yet the lack of Oregon faithful supporting Corso did not prevent him from once more selecting Oregon, much to the chagrin of Buckeye fans.  Corso’s heart was in the right place, but a subpar performance by Oregon in the game would result in an Ohio State victory.

ESPN College Gameday had now covered an Oregon game seven times.  Only once had Corso picked against Oregon in those games, and his headgear selections were an impressive 5-2.  With the sheer number of collegiate teams (keeping in mind that the crew have in the past visited FCS schools as well) it is considered a great honor for Gameday to come to a campus once.  For Oregon, Gameday had covered two games in 2007 at Autzen, and three games in a single year in 2009.  This many visits from Gameday, in particular for a west coast school, was unprecedented.

But yet more was on the way.  It was predictable by now, a sure thing…Gameday was going to cover an Oregon game, perhaps multiple Duck games, every season.  It wasn’t if, but when they would return.

That offseason, the Duck once again was given the ESPN treatment, this time for a Sportscenter commercial.

In addition, as the college season approached College Gameday decided to fully acknowledge the close affiliation with Corso and the Duck in one of the more bizarre and simultaneously hilarious commercials ESPN ever made, which featured the Duck wearing Lee Corso headgear.

Further showcasing the prowess and national stature that Oregon and specifically the Duck mascot had earned largely in thanks to Lee Corso, the Duck was selected as a finalist in the inaugural Capital One Mascot Challenge.  It was an online voting popularity contest to determine the best mascot in the country, which featured multiple television ads that included the Duck.

The Oregon mascot would make it to the finals of the competition, finishing second behind Big Blue of Old Dominion, though it was revealed in the final week of the competition that Old Dominion fans had discovered a means to cheat the system, digitally stuffing the ballot box, garnering their mascot in excess of one million votes.  At one point the Duck managed to take the lead in total votes over Old Dominion, but unfortunately the final day of voting for the contest fell on the same day as the Civil War game that year, and while Duck fans celebrated, Old Dominion fans voted their way to the crown.

The Duck (and Big Blue) are in the competition again this year, you can vote for the Duck at the following links: or

A couple weeks into the 2010 season Gameday decided to create a big feature on the Oregon mascot, during a broadcast from the Auburn campus.  When the Gameday crew praised the Duck as the best mascot in the country, Auburn fans emphatically booed the segment.  In an ironic twist, Auburn and Oregon would meet at the end of the year, with Gameday in attendance.

In 2010 it was Stanford’s trip to Eugene that earned the first visit from the Gameday team, which now featured Erin Andrews added to the broadcast crew making it a full quintet.  This was necessary to relieve pressure on Lee Corso, now in his mid-70s and suffering complications from a stroke.  His speech was slurred, his health in question, and it was unsure of if Corso could continue with the program.  Corso struggled through the season on the program, often slurring his words and needing assistance from Herbstreit, and Howard and Andrews both served a more prominent role reducing the amount of on-air time demanded of Corso.  Yet when the program came near the end, without fail there was Corso donning some mascot’s headgear acting foolish.

Complacency was the only concern after so many trips to Eugene by now, but the Oregon fans never disappointed.  Another huge crowd was on hand, once again the Duck got Herbstreit to break character, and as everyone expected Corso picked the Ducks, this time choosing to hug the Duck and do pushups with Puddles to end the show.  It may have been predictable, but it was impossible to not love every second of it.

Despite a 21-3 Stanford lead at one point, Oregon stormed away with the game in the second half just like with USC the year prior, defeating the Cardinal 52-31.

Four weeks later ESPN College Gameday headed to Los Angeles to showcase the rematch of the Halloween slaughter the year prior, Oregon’s return to the Coliseum to face the USC Trojans.  Compared to a typical broadcast from Autzen Stadium the crowd size in Los Angeles was pathetic that day, the crowd with a general malaise, save for the large contingent of Oregon fans on site.

In fact, not only did Oregon fans outnumber the tally of USC fans in their own house October 30th for the broadcast, but in addition an impromptu dance contest during a commercial break between the Duck and a USC cheerleader slanted decidedly in favor of Oregon.  This footage would be picked up by ESPN and rebroadcast repeatedly over the course of the week following the game.

With longtime USC fan Will Ferrell on hand as the guest picker for the final segment of the program, Lee Corso chose to wear the giant Lee Corso head from the commercial with the Duck months earlier.  When it came time to make the pick though, Corso again couldn’t resist picking the Ducks, giving Ferrell the Corso headgear and putting on a Duck head.  This prompted Ferrell to then pummel Corso with his own giant head, an odd yet hilarious sight to be sure.

Despite a back and forth battle into the second half, Oregon proved to be the better team once again, Corso’s undying love for the Ducks and cognitive powers showing to be accurate.  Corso had picked Oregon every time since 2000, the total tally now being 7-2 for Corso in Duck headgear games.

To end the regular season Gameday chose one more swan song, choosing to visit Corvallis, OR for the first time for the Civil War that year.  It was understandable doing so, for if Oregon won the game they would be in the national championship game.  While they tried to put on a game face for the broadcast, it was obvious that the broadcast was little more than a victory lap with the predicted Oregon victory to come.

The Civil War is always a testy affair between the fans and teams, and Gameday decided to split the crowd creating a fence between the two fan-bases for the broadcast.

The crowd was of course spirited, as it always is for the Civil War, but when headgear time came around everyone knew Lee Corso would of course go with HIS Oregon Ducks…right?

Wearing Duck feet and the Duck head, Corso met up with the Oregon Duck mascot, now wearing the infamous Corso head as they embraced before the crowd.

Oregon would win the game (Corso now 8-2 in Oregon games) and earn a trip to the national championship game to face Auburn.  However, there was an odd twist to this broadcast, as after taping had completed the giant Lee Corso head was actually stolen from the set by two Oregon fans.  Photos soon surfaced of a Duck fan wearing the Corso head, and since the photo also included the license plate of the thieves’ car, they were quickly caught and charged with felony theft, the Corso head being returned to ESPN.

With the Ducks now in the national championship, it meant one more time for ESPN College Gameday to cover the team, an unprecedented fourth time in a single season that they would be a part of an Oregon broadcast.  No single team in the history of ESPN College Gameday had ever had four broadcasts done in the same season.

The hype for the game in Glendale, AZ at University of Phoenix Stadium was like nothing seen before.  Weeks of media scrutiny expecting a great shootout led to the big day, and ESPN College Gameday on the field for the championship festivities.  While Auburn was the favored team, Corso had stuck with the Ducks through thick and thin to that point, and wasn’t going to turn on them now that they were a step away from the championship.  With a wading pool full of rubber duckies on the sidelines, Lee Corso waded in barefoot and put on the Duck head once more, predicting the Ducks would win it all.

The Ducks would sadly come up a wrist short in a game shrouded in controversy, where Auburn’s runningback Michael Dyer was rolled up but supposedly not touched down, allowed to run down the field an additional 25 yards after everyone had stopped playing, setting up the game-winning field goal.  A week prior in the Sugar Bowl an almost identical play had taken place, where just as with Dyer an Arkansas player’s wrist touched down before running for a touchdown…upon review the Arkansas player was ruled down, and the Razorbacks lost to Ohio State because of the call.  In the championship, Dyer was not ruled down, and Auburn’s last second field goal gave the Tigers a 22-19 victory and the BCS national championship.

Two hours after the game, with the Oregon team about to get back on the bus and head home, Oregon Coach Chip Kelly was told by a staff member that there was a visitor waiting for him outside the locker room.  When Kelly stepped out, there was Lee Corso.  Long after the television broadcast had ended, Corso had stuck around waiting for the opportunity to speak with Chip Kelly.  Corso told Kelly that he had never been prouder of a team’s effort than what he had seen from the Ducks that day, thanking him for all that he and the Ducks had done for college football.

Now with the 2011 season half over, the close ties between Oregon and ESPN College Gameday are as strong as ever.  To open the season Gameday was predictably in Dallas, TX for the “neutral site” matchup between LSU and Oregon.  While the stands were decidedly in LSU’s favor for the game, during the morning TV broadcast it was clear that Oregon fans outnumbered LSU fans as always.  Their presence was acknowledged and appreciated once again by the Gameday crew, but for only the second time (and first since 1998) Corso went against HIS Oregon Ducks, selecting LSU to win.  It may not have been picking with his heart, but it was the right pick once again, making Corso 9-3.

The LSU-Oregon matchup had been much hyped by ESPN, with again Oregon being featured in commercials promoting the Ducks program.  This time rather than the Duck, it was Chip Kelly getting a chance to be in the spotlight.

A month later Gameday made their now prerequisite visit to Eugene, Arizona State visiting Oregon on October 15th.  This broadcast for the first time was not held by Autzen Stadium, as massive construction around the Casanova made finding a suitable location on site impossible, but rather on campus with the Knight Library in the background.  For the first time in years this brought a touch of uncertainty for ESPN, what kind of crowd would show up when the set was not near Autzen.  As usual, Oregon fans didn’t disappoint, and neither did Lee Corso.  Being so close to the dorms, the party started early well before the broadcast began.

Corso of course picked the Ducks, and Oregon of course won the game, putting Corso’s record now at 10-3 in Duck games.  This time around Corso led the band in the fight song while wearing the Duck head much to the delight of the crowd, even though the band prematurely started playing before the pick somewhat ruining the moment.

Corso and the Gameday team have been to Eugene so many times now it is simply not enough to just put on the Duck head, a new and inventive method for unveiling it must be undertaken.  Eugene is one of the predictable stops each year, and whenever possible Gameday will add a roadtrip or two to away games for the Ducks just to keep that Oregon fanbase mystique energized.  There is nothing they love more than covering an Oregon game, knowing the kind of fan support they will get before, during, and after the broadcast.

The Duck, Chip Kelly, Autzen Stadium, Lee Corso and ESPN College Gameday

These days they all seem to go hand-in-hand, as predictable as the changing of the seasons.  The schedule may technically be dictated by the best games in the country on a week-to-week basis, but the relationship between Oregon and ESPN is undeniable.

So here it is, another week, another ESPN College Gameday broadcast covering an Oregon game.  It will be the 14th time Gameday has covered an Oregon game, but the first time ever that the show has been broadcast live from the Stanford campus.  What kind of crowd will turn out is in question, as the Stanford fan base are not known for being particularly loud or large in number for games in the past.  But this is a different Stanford team, one featuring the most identifiable player in college football (Andrew Luck), the preordained to-be Heisman Trophy winner with only one major roadblock between him and the trophy…the Oregon Ducks.

Kurt Liedtke

I will be there in person in Palo Alto this Saturday, sign in-hand (look for the FishDuck sign in the background), ready to cheer on the Gameday festivities with fellow Oregon fans.  Just how many Stanford fans will show up come Saturday morning is the subject of debate, but there is no question that after 13 previous appearances the close ties between Oregon and Gameday will continue, with a large contingent of Duck fans there to set the mood.  If Stanford fans don’t show up in force, Oregon fans will be more than happy to fill the void.  The ESPN College Gameday crew know this, they expect it, this after all being the 14th time they have covered a Duck game, and hopefully the 12th time that Lee Corso puts on the Duck head and does something kooky.

College football existed long before ESPN College Gameday.  With Corso’s failing health due to his recent stroke the inevitable must be accepted that Lee Corso putting on the headgear every Saturday may be coming to an end, but hopefully not soon.  Even though it is a tradition that is only going on 15 years old, it is one that is so entrenched in the mindset of college football Saturdays that it is impossible to think of college football without the presence of Lee Corso and his crazy headgear antics.

Kurt Liedtke
Klamath Falls, Oregon


Lee Corso headgear picks on ESPN College Gameday for Oregon games:

1998 – UCLA over Oregon (correct)

2000 – Oregon over UCLA (correct)

2007 – Oregon over Cal (wrong)

2007 – Oregon over ASU (correct)

2009 – Oregon over USC (correct)

2009 – Oregon over Arizona (correct)

2010 (Rose Bowl) – Oregon over Ohio State (wrong)

2010 – Oregon over Stanford (correct)

2010 – Oregon over USC (correct)

2010 – Oregon over Oregon State (correct)

2011 (national championship) – Oregon over Auburn (wrong)

2011 – LSU over Oregon (correct)

2011 – Oregon over ASU (correct)

2011 – Oregon vs. Stanford???

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