Oregon fans associate some of their best memories with ESPN's "College GameDay," the traveling pregame TV show that kicks off each college football Saturday with colorful signs, picturesque settings and lively banter with a familiar crew of analysts.
The show first visited Eugene in 2000 and will make its 10th appearance Saturday before the Ducks face No. 7 Stanford at 5 p.m. GameDay has a special place in the hearts of Duck fans, and the feeling is mutual — especially for ESPN analyst Lee Corso, who traditionally ends each broadcast by donning the Oregon Duck mascot head.
"We love Eugene," said Drew Gallagher, coordinating producer for GameDay. "It is one of our favorite spots on the whole tour because it's such a different vibe from the moment you land there."
The show — which also features host Rece Davis and analysts Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard — will originate from the Memorial Quad in front of the Lillis Complex on the University of Oregon campus. The broadcast begins at 6 a.m. and is open to fans and the general public.
Here’s a look back at the nine previous times the show taped in Eugene.
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Sept. 23, 2000 — Oregon 29, No. 6 UCLA 10
GameDay’s first visit to Eugene saw the Ducks upset UCLA in a revenge game for Nick Aliotti, who’d been the Bruins’ defensive coordinator two years earlier when UCLA fell one stop short of playing for the national title. The show taped from the soccer field in front of the Moshofsky Center and marked the first time Corso, the former coach of Louisville and Indiana and GameDay's popular co-host, donned the Duck mascot head on national television.
According to The Register-Guard, more than 3,100 Duck fans lined up in the predawn hours to attend the taping. “This is by far the largest crowd we’ve ever had this early in the morning,” Corso said.
Sept. 29, 2007 — No. 6 Cal 31, No. 10 Oregon 24
After a seven-year hiatus, GameDay returned to Eugene for the clash of two unbeaten teams in the Pac-10. The show taped on the edge of Alton Baker Park; the day before, workers installed the large yellow “O” on the face of Autzen Stadium to enhance the backdrop.
Corso again donned the Duck head, but Cal escaped with the victory after Cameron Colvin fumbled out of the end zone while attempting to score a game-tying touchdown with 16 seconds remaining.
Nov. 3, 2007 — No. 4 Oregon 35, No. 6 Arizona State 23
Duck fans didn’t have to wait nearly as long for another GameDay appearance, as the show returned later that season for a showdown against Dennis Erickson and the 8-0 Sun Devils.
“We love coming to Eugene,” Herbstreit said. “It’s the greatest place in college football.”
The game was billed as a showcase for Dennis Dixon’s Heisman Trophy chances, and Dixon delivered with four touchdown passes. That Heisman campaign, and Oregon’s hopes of playing for a national title, came crashing down 12 days later when Dixon blew out his knee in a game at Arizona.
Oct. 31, 2009 — No. 10 Oregon 47, No. 4 USC 20
GameDay was in Eugene to set the stage for “Fright Night” at Autzen Stadium, a Halloween clash between Chip Kelly’s Ducks and Pete Carroll’s Trojans.
The broadcast included an appearance from Nike founder and university supporter Phil Knight and Kelly disguised as the Duck mascot before a dramatic reveal in front of the euphoric crowd. The party continued that night as the Ducks rolled up 613 yards of offense and outscored USC 23-3 in the second half.
Oct. 2, 2010 — No. 4 Oregon 52, No. 9 Stanford 31
A rowdy scene unfolded when fans, some of whom arrived the night before to stake out spots for GameDay, pushed through barriers and stampeded into the Casanova Center parking lot at 3:15 a.m. A spectator in a wheelchair suffered a minor hand injury and damage to his chair in the melee.
There were more GameDay hijinks later that season when the show came to Corvallis for the Civil War. Two Duck fans were charged with first-degree theft for swiping Corso’s mascot head from a box on the Oregon State campus. The hunt for the missing head gained national attention when ESPN reporter Erin Andrews tweeted about the heist. The head eventually was discovered in the yard of an OSU employee, where the two suspects dumped it.
Oct. 15, 2011 — No. 9 Oregon 41, No. 18 Arizona State 27
This was the first GameDay broadcast to originate from the Oregon campus rather than the stadium complex. It featured Corso leading the Oregon marching band with a pair of cymbals — wearing the Duck head, of course.
Nov. 17, 2012 — No. 14 Stanford 17, No. 1 Oregon 14 (OT)
Picking the Ducks at home usually pays off for Corso, but this was a rare case when it didn’t. In addition to donning the mascot head, Corso also brought a live duck to the set. It didn’t help Oregon later that night, as Zach Ertz caught a controversial touchdown with 1:35 remaining and Oregon missed a field goal in overtime.
Oct. 26, 2013 — No. 2 Oregon 42, No. 12 UCLA 14
Olympic decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton was the guest picker as GameDay returned to the Oregon campus. Corso donned the Duck headgear once again and rode away on a pink motorcycle.
Sept. 6, 2014 — No. 3 Oregon 46, No. 7 Michigan State 27
GameDay’s most recent visit to Eugene saw quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner-to-be Marcus Mariota and the Ducks race past Michigan State on a balmy day at Autzen Stadium. The Duck joined the set with a generous breakfast spread that included Voodoo Doughnuts, Froot Loops with almond milk and two glasses of Oregon wine for host Chris Fowler.
Ducks migrate back to campus in Eugene, with thousands of students moving in Thursday