NORMAN — Dallas, Austin, Lubbock and Norman. Stillwater next week?
ESPN’s "College GameDay” has camped out in the Big 12 South much of the latter part of the season, and the crew of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit wouldn’t have it any other way.
"The epicenter of the sport has been the Big 12 South,” Fowler, a 1985 Colorado graduate, said while relaxing in the show’s bus after Saturday morning’s show from the John Jacobs Track. "You’ve never had a better quarterback year in any conference, ever. It’s been a lot of fun.”
"Offensively, this is the best conference in football,” Corso said before having his picture taken with groups of fans.
As a college football coach, Corso was known as a showman, using stunts to help promote his teams at Louisville, Indiana and Northern Illinois. "College GameDay” provides him another opportunity to hone those skills, particularly while making his headgear prediction.
Minutes after teasing the large throng of OU fans about the Sooners’ "average” defense, Corso donned a miniature Sooner Schooner and shot off a Rufnek rifle to signify he was picking the Sooners to defeat Texas Tech.
Herbstreit and Fowler cupped their ears and grimaced as Corso fired. A second rifle wouldn’t go off.
"Even if you prepare yourself,” Herbstreit said, "it’s really loud. You can feel it in your chest.”
In his 20th season with the show, Corso, 72, shows no signs of slowing down. He encouraged Bob Knight, a former Indiana and Texas Tech basketball coach, to move out of the studio and join the basketball version of "GameDay.”
"I would love to do this as long as I can,” Corso said.
Hours before the show, fans line up behind the stage, carrying homemade signs. Many of the signs promoted the merits of OU’s defense against Texas Tech’s high-powered offense.
"I foresee TECHnical difficulties.”
"OU defense will smash the Graham cracker; Sam (Bradford) is the real Heisman.”
At other campus stops for the GameDay crew, fans have thrown objects, including beer cans, golf balls, radishes and snowballs. Fortunately, a net covers the stage.
As fans watch the show on a jumbotron screen, they occasionally boo the commentary, such as when Fowler donned a Texas cap and extolled the merits of the Longhorns reaching the BCS final game.
"We actually love it when they boo,” Fowler said. "It shows they’re listening, they’re engaged.”
The bus driver
Bobby Stephens, 62, averages about 30,000 miles a fall, driving the bright orange Home Depot "College GameDay” bus to various campuses. Next week, if the show previews the Bedlam game, he’ll just have an 80-mile trip to Stillwater for its first appearance there since the 2004 Bedlam game.
A retired commercial airline pilot, Stephens says he enjoys meeting fans. He unexpectedly met a New Mexico policeman, who pulled him over to see if Herbstreit was on board so he could get his autograph.
The crew rarely travels on the bus, except for short trips to airports. The bus serves as a lounge after the show and allows the broadcasters to watch afternoon football games on its multiple screens.