FARGO, North Dakota — College football broadcaster Chris Fowler said Friday that he and the rest of the ESPN GameDay crew started planning a return trip to North Dakota as soon as last year's show ended in downtown Fargo. But it still took the right series of wins and losses in the division to seal the deal.
The three-hour show will be broadcast in front of the Fargo Theatre on Broadway before Saturday's game between three-time Football Championship Subdivision winners North Dakota State University and Incarnate Word of San Antonio, Texas. Fowler hosts the show that includes analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack.
Fowler said the staff followed NDSU through its title run last year and what he called "a beat down" of Iowa State two weeks ago, but it still took a season-opening loss by South Carolina and NDSU's win last week over Weber State to make it official.
"We're here earlier in the season maybe than what we expected," Fowler said. "The fact that South Carolina lost to Texas A&M, be real. That's what it is. It's always a convergence of circumstances that leads to our location of shows."
Last year's broadcast in front of thousands of green and gold-clad fans, many watching from windows, rooftops or balconies on Broadway businesses and condominiums, was the program's fourth trip to a FCS school. Lee Fitting, the GameDay producer, said the atmosphere of the show "opened up the college football world" to what NDSU has done.
The top-ranked Bison are expected to win their 27th straight game against a fledgling FCS program taking its first plane trip.
"The backdrop is important to us. The town looking cool, the show feeling different ... because we have this great downtown setting, is important," Fowler said. "But the most important reason we're here is the excellence of the team."
Herbstreit said he loves NDSU's physical style of play and the way they finish off teams in the second half.
"They're a great program," he said. "It's amazing how they lose great players and coaches and the foundation of the program kind of carries on."
Fowler highlighted two features that are slated for Saturday's show, one on non-Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks who have had great careers and one on FCS schools that have moved or debated a move to FBS. Beyond that, there should be some "surprises and twists" that people will enjoy, he said.
Fitting said the success of Saturday's show won't depend on what happens on the set.
"What do we do?" he repeated when asked how GameDay could top last year's highly rated show in Fargo. "It's more about, what do the people and the fans, what does the environment do, to top last year? The environment we had here is what helped make it so special."
Last year's show was one of the most entertaining telecasts of the year and there's no reason it couldn't become an annual event, Fowler said.
"Why can't the sequel be as good or better?" Fowler asked. "We hope so."
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