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WVU ready for prime time

CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- For some fans of ESPN's long running College GameDay show, the big question for Saturday is which mascot head will Lee Corso be wearing when it's time to make his pick for the outcome of Saturday's match up between West Virginia University and Louisiana State University.

Corso, who served as head coach of several college football teams and has been with GameDay since its inception in 1987, pops on the head of the college mascot he picks to win the marquee match up of the day at the end of the show.

If he should pick LSU to win he'll likely be seen on the stage in a suit and tie wearing the head of "Mike the Tiger," but if he picks WVU to win will he don a coonskin cap similar to the one the Mountaineer wears or will he go with a WVU helmet?

"That's one of the best kept secrets in all of college football," said Tom Engle, producer of College GameDay. "We don't know what he's going to wear until he makes his pick. He makes the arrangements on that."

The traveling live sports show has been on the air since the late 1980s. The sports personalities travel from campus to campus for the biggest games of the week, bringing fans across the nation an inside look at the football programs of the schools matched up for the marquee game.

The show, which airs Saturday morning before the noon kickoffs, is hosted by Chris Fowler, Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and Erin Andrews.

It marks the first time the show has visited Morgantown for football. College GameDay's basketball show aired from the WVU Coliseum in March 2009, when the Mountaineers took on then-6th ranked Louisville. WVU lost the game 62-59.

"One of the questions we're always asked is, 'Where is the best GameDay site you've been?' and the answer is always someplace we've never been before," Engle said. "We're expecting a big turnout at West Virginia hopefully this one will be one of our best. We're really looking forward to it."

Producers picked Morgantown for this week's GameDay because of the match up between No. 16 WVU and No. 2 LSU, both of which enter this weekend's game undefeated.

"The biggest thing in picking the location for the show is determining where the biggest game of the week will be, and this week it's LSU at West Virginia," Engle said. "We think this is a game where the fans, students and alumni will have a really great turn out and enjoy themselves."  

Producers pick the show location Sunday then spend the week planning for the Saturday event. WVU officials were notified Sunday morning.

"We're very excited that College GameDay is coming to Morgantown for the first time in the 25 years of the show," said Mike Montoro, director of football communications at WVU. "We're excited about the exposure for the team, for the school and for the fans."

He said he thought the rankings of both teams had a lot to do with the shows producer's decision to travel to Morgantown. WVU's fan following also played a role, he said.

"They know about the fans from West Virginia and how passionate they are about football," Montoro said. "They know West Virginia fans love football and love West Virginia."

Matt Wells, WVU's sports marketing director, said university officials knew the school was in the mix for this week's pick and were excited when it was announced that the show would be coming to Morgantown.

"This is a lot of national exposure," he said. "You can't pay for this kind of exposure. It's a wonderful opportunity to showcase the school and the athletic program and our fans."

WVU staff coordinated with ESPN to get everything set up. The school came up with a few suggested sites where the show could tape.

The College GameDay stage will be set up on the Mountainlair Plaza, surrounded by dormitories, a classroom building and fraternity houses. The show has a tailgate feel as thousands of fans gather around the stage usually set at a campus landmark.

That location was picked for multiple reasons, Engle said.

"If we've never been there before, like with WVU, we try to search out the best venue to show the fans and students and the campus and for this game we've picked the Mountainlair Plaza," Engle said. "It also has to be a large enough space for the fans to gather because we have quite a few who show up for tapings."

Fans are encouraged to arrive early for filming Friday and Saturday mornings. Engle said fans have camped out on campuses in the past to get good spots for the show.

ESPN has final approval over T-shirts and signs brought into the pit area where fans will be seen on camera. Signs and shirts with vulgar words or slogans will not be permitted.

One thing likely to make an appearance in the crowd is a Washington State University flag. Engle said the flag has appeared in most broadcasts since the show's 200th episode several years ago.  

Washington State alums send the flag to a WSU alumna in the city where the show will be held with instructions to attend the taping and display the flag.  

Filming begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. Fans will be allowed into the filming area beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturday.

From 9-10 a.m. the show will air live on ESPNU with Andrews and Pollack as hosts. Then, fowler, Corso, Herbstreit and Howard take over from 10 a.m.-noon at ESPN.

The show will begin taping today, beginning at 8 a.m. The video filmed today will be used during ESPN programs to preview Saturday's games.

Kickoff is set for 8:12 p.m. Saturday. ABC's national telecast opens at 8 p.m., with Brent Musburger and Herbstreit making the call.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.


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