The Horseshoe stands out: to students, to parents, to faculty and especially to ESPN’s College GameDay.
After seeing the buildings and the trees and the history associated with the grounds, the program has bookmarked the University of South Carolina as a frequent destination to broadcast from.
The crew rolled onto the Horseshoe Thursday ready to set up for what Senior Producer of College GameDay Lee Fitting says is “the ideal backdrop for GameDay.”
“The people, the energy is picture-perfect out there,” he said. “We travel around the country and I’ve been doing this for the past 11 years, people ask me what’s the ideal backdrop for GameDay and I always reference the Horseshoe. It’s sort of a movie set, it’s perfect.”
This marks the seventh time the GameDay crew has come to Columbia, but it’s just the third time they will be allowed to set up on the Horseshoe.
According to analyst Kirk Herbstreit, the real estate on the University of South Carolina’s most iconic stretch of land has multiplied the experience for everyone involved.
“We used to come here and be in that parking lot and it didn’t quite have the same kind of vibe or feel,” he said. “But since we’ve moved here, this is a great energy. These are great fans.”
The first time GameDay descended on the Horseshoe was in 2010, when Alabama came to Columbia as the No. 1 team in the country.
Two years later, South Carolina’s top-10 clash with Georgia was the backdrop for ESPN’s Saturday morning production.
The Gamecocks won on both occasions, and they’ll look to make it three in a row when they take on Missouri.
Earlier this week, GameDay selected Kenny Chesney as their celebrity picker to predict the outcomes of this week’s games, including the South Carolina game.
The pick came with some backlash with fans saying that since Chesney is a Tennessee fan he shouldn’t be picking for the South Carolina game. Fitting said that he’s glad to have such a big artist coming for the show and that he didn’t lose any sleep over the fan response.
“It’s a very small majority of people that have an issue with it,” Fitting said. “He’s a top-five musician in the world. Why wouldn’t you have him on the show? There’s no rule that says he has to be tied to the school; that’s a crazy fan mentality thing.”
Chesney has ties to head coach Steve Spurrier. He narrated a documentary about Spurrier and he’s is close friends with the Head Ball Coach.
Fitting said that Chesney is a big college football fan and can talk about the games in an “educated manner” when making his picks. Fitting also said that it’s good to have both GameDay and an award-winning artist on campus.
“It’s a good thing for them too,” Fitting said. “Kenny Chesney on the Horseshoe—I don’t see the bad in that. If I’m running the school and Kenny Chesney and GameDay are here together, I’m like, ‘Sign me up.’”
Both teams have seen their fair share of ups and downs this season, but South Carolina is the one that finds itself inside the top-25. And despite the Gamecocks No. 13 ranking, Herbstreit sees an even higher ceiling for the team.
“When I look at South Carolina, I see a team with a ton of potential,” he said. “I see a team that, offensively, is going to be able to score a lot of points. The defense has really surprised me.”
The reality for current South Carolina students and fans is that the Gamecocks have a standing reservation among the top teams in the nation.
But that hasn’t always been the case.
GameDay contributor and former Georgia defensive lineman David Pollack has had South Carolina on his radar for decades because of his SEC connection. And he remembers those dark days in Columbia.
From Pollack’s perspective, GameDay’s presence in Columbia will just be icing on the cake for the rabid South Carolina fan base.
And Saturday night at Williams-Brice, the atmosphere will be electric.
Just it is every other week, and just it’s always been.
“It’s crazy, because they stunk so bad, but the fans were so awesome,” Pollack
said. “It’s one of the best atmospheres in college football. People don’t talk about it