Editor’s note: Follow College GameDay’s preview of tonight’s LSU-Alabama showdown in pictures updated regularly from the show’s set this morning. Follow the afternoon’s action via College GameDay on ESPN Radio.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you’re watching College GameDay Saturday night at the conclusion of No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, you shouldn’t find a speck of pizza sauce on the mugs of Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard & Co. — not even a trace of cheese on whatever mascot head Lee Corso wore earlier in the day.
That’s because someone in the 70-person GameDay crew has her colleague’s backs — and faces — as they wolf down slices of pizza between commercial breaks near the end of another marathon Saturday.
GameDay makeup artist Donna Martin, a 16-year ESPN employee, has been with the show for seven years.
She has to make sure the GameDay on-air crew appears on its A-game, touching up the cast under the hot lights, in the blustery conditions, and against the clock during commercial breaks.
“Why do I like this? It’s more of a challenge than being in a studio all the time, where the lighting is consistent all the time,” Martin said.
“Not to mention that I love the talent. They’re fabulous. I love working College GameDay.”
The 25-year GameDay phenomenon unveiled its latest edition here Saturday morning before hundreds of fans outside Bryant-Denny Stadium, where midseason supremacy — if there is such a thing — will be decided Saturday night.
As early as at 4 a.m. Central Time, fans began collecting at the foot of the stadium steps.
Hundreds of Alabama fans — and a sprinkling of LSU rooters — waited for San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson — a former LSU pitcher and ardent Tigers fan — to arrive via police escort.
Wilson’s selection will just be the appetizer for Corso’s main course mascot headgear pick.
Even fans without a dog in this fight gathered in the 40-degree cool of this November morning to watch the live traveling circus.
For the 114th consecutive GameDay show, fans of Washington State University arrived to wave the school flags for ESPN cameras.
Two groups of WSU alumni made trips from Montgomery, Ala., New Orleans and even Spokane, Wash. to make sure they represented.
“We parked in some student parking and people go, ‘Are you the guys with the flag? As soon as people see our hats, they want to know,” said Dave Scoville, a Cougars fan who made the trek from Spokane.
He’s picked the Crimson Tide to beat the Tigers because — as WSU’s rival Washington sports somewhat the same colors as LSU’s –”I can’t root for anyone wearing purple-and-gold.”
That feeling is one reason why college football has a unique status in the American sports atmosphere.
“I actually live in Northern New Jersey, in one of the only places that is a vacuum of college football passion. We’re so pro-market saturated,” GameDay reporter Tom Rinaldi said.
But everywhere else, he feels, “college football is an enormous passion. Not just regionally, nationally. People don’t just go crazy for their team, they also load up with deep loathing and enmity for other teams. It’s just an incredible passion in this country.”