Arizona Football has finally arrived. ESPN College Gameday is making its first trip to Tucson for the biggest game of the 2009 Pac-Ten season.
The arrival of ESPN's College Game Day is a testament to Arizona's success this season. Gameday has not had too many opportunities to travel to Tucson. The national spotlight shining on Tucson has usually been reserved for the Basketball team.
Gameday hasn't had a reason to setup on the mall since 1998. Arizona finished second in the Pac-Ten that season with a 7-1 record. That was the last time Arizona was a serious contender for the Pac-Ten title. UCLA eventually won the conference in '98 with an 8-0 record.
UCLA defeated Arizona in Tucson 52-28 on October 3rd that season. Had the game been later in the year, Gameday might have made its inaugural appearance in the Old Pueblo.
College Gameday brings a lot of excitement to town. They have done a great job this year of traveling to non-traditional locations. Stops have included Provo, Utah (TCU@BYU), Colorado Springs, Colorado (Army@Air Force) and Fort Worth, Texas last week for Utah and TCU.
Fowler, Herbstreit, Corso and Howard always seem to stir things up, have a few surprises up their sleeves, make some interesting predictions, show some local flavor and always have a surprise guest.
In Provo, former Great BYU coach LaVell Edwards joined the crew as the guest prognosticator. When they visited Eugene earlier this year for Oregon-USC, Nike founder Phil Knight visited the set.
The speculation in Tucson is that Lute Olson will be joining them on Saturday morning. With Sean Miller and his team en route to Hawaii for the Maui classic, Olson has to be considered the front runner.
It might depend on how healthy Olson is and if he is able to appear on Television. Former US Olympic Softball Coach and Arizona's long time skipper Mike Candrea might be another possibility. ESPN generally comes up with someone that is going to keep the viewers attention. If Olson or Candrea decline an invitation, then two of Candrea's former players might be a possibility.
Jennie Finch is one of the most famous female athletes in the world. She won a Gold Medal for the United States in 2004 Olympics and set an NCAA record with by going 32-0 during her junior season. She has modeled swimwear for ESPN the magazine, was voted the sexiest female athlete in an online poll on ESPN.Com and hosts a segment on This Week in Baseball.
Taryne Mowatt rivals Finch for popularity in Tucson. She captured two ESPY's and helped Arizona win two Women's college World Series.
The one wildcard could be Arizona Senator John McCain. President Obama threw out the first pitch at the MLB All Star game this year, appeared on ESPN with Andy Katz announcing his NCAA Tournament bracket and has boasted of his love for the Chicago teams and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Why not McCain?
The obligatory shots of campus, the surrounding area and the traditional UA Haunts could also be included.
Where should they go? The set is going to be on the Mall in front of Old Main (the oldest building on UA's campus). Some Tucson landmarks they should show include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Sabino Canyon, Gates Pass, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, A-Mountain and the Airplane Graveyard.
Dirtbag's, Gentle Ben's, and The Bum Steer are some of the local hangouts we might see. If they only want to get a meal than the Sausage Deli, Eegees and any of the great Tucson Mexican restaurants or El Corral would be great choices to show off Tucson's local flavor.
The Steer would be a great place to show off Tucson's recreational activities (an outdoor sand volleyball court) and a great place to get some grub and imbibe.
At the end of the day, the largest question will be which mascot head will Lee Corso be wearing at the end of the telecast. The prediction of the crew are always saved until the end of the show. As an old school former coach, Corso usually seems to go with the proven commodity. Expect him to be donning the Duck head on Saturday morning. Oregon has been here before and has earned the right to be the favorite.
As the analyst on the Arizona-Oregon game, Herbstreit is not allowed to make a pick because of conflict of interest rules, since he is announcing the game Saturday night. He will give us some keys to the game and we can always read between the lines. He generally likes the team on the rise. Chris Fowler and Desmond Howard are harder to peg.
Win or lose, Gameday coming to Tucson benefits the University of Arizona and the city of Tucson. ABC and ESPN will show off the beauty of the city and the campus and the great establishments that Tucson has. The two hour show and the game will serve as a free advertisement for UofA, and the Old Pueblo showing it at its best.