ESPN producer calls Oxford best GameDay experience ever
Lee Fitting has produced College GameDay for 11 years. He’s been intimately involved in planning and monitoring shows across nearly every major football campus in the United States.
Saturday was the show’s first visit to Oxford, Miss. Guest picker Katy Perry made quite a splash, and then the Ole Miss Rebels beat the Alabama Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 in the Coaches Poll, in a thriller.
“This was the best on-campus experience I’ve been part of as Game Day producer,” Fitting said in an email to Sports Illustrated on Sunday night. “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.”
That’s a huge compliment coming from Fitting. Yes, it’s in his best interests to pump up the show and say good things about the schools that welcome ESPN. But that’s not your typical pat on the head.
Fitting also said GameDay, which is in Starkville, Miss., this week, could return to The Grove on Nov. 1 for Auburn-Ole Miss.
Saturday’s show — in between Perry’s corn dog tosses — focused on one of the most celebrated places to tailgate in the United States rather than the history of Rebels football.
“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, its just a perfect cap to a perfect weekend for those folks,” Fitting said. “Post game it would’ve been easy to mistake ‘The Square’ for Bourbon Street. It was an absolute circus.”