The first matchup of undefeated Ivy League football teams since 1968 will take place in New Haven this Saturday. But ESPN College Gameday will be broadcasting from Ann Arbor, Mich. instead.
ESPN announced Monday afternoon that its weekly program College Gameday will be on location covering the competition between No. 7 Ohio State and No. 23 University of Michigan. The Harvard-Yale game will be featured in a short segment during the telecast.
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While administrators and students said they are disappointed that The Game will not receive extensive national exposure, they said the network’s absence will not affect the level of play or spectator enthusiasm.
“I’m not surprised the Ohio State-Michigan game was chosen because the charged atmosphere they need for the show is guaranteed,” Assistant Athletics Director of Sports Publicity Steve Conn said. “We’re not yet proven to have that 24-hour excitement.”
Steven Horn ’10, who works in the Sports Publicity Office, said ESPN sent the Athletic Department a letter earlier this week acknowledging lobbying efforts by students and Ivy League sports administrators but informing the University that ESPN producers had already chosen to cover the showdown in Ann Arbor.
The Facebook group “Bring College Gameday to Yale for The Game,” which encouraged students to contact ESPN to request Gameday coverage, had more than 1,000 members at its peak on Monday.
Conn said ESPN staff were on the Yale campus yesterday conducting interviews with players and recording audio from head coach Jack Siedlecki during practice. Although ESPN did not explicitly say so, Conn said the network was probably producing the segment in response to the lobbying on campus and around the Ivy League.
“The segment will be good because it will help our walk-up for the day,” Conn said. “People might see it on TV Saturday morning, decide to change their plans and come to The Game.”
College Gameday features several small segments showcasing games around the country over the course of the program.
Horn said he understands ESPN’s decision but is disappointed producers chose the Michigan-Ohio State game. While both matchups feature historical rivalries, Michigan and Ohio State suffered losses last weekend, which have diminished the importance of their game, he said.
“Most years, the Michigan-Ohio State game would have bowl implications, but this year Harvard-Yale is a chance for something special,” Horn said.
Hugo Bernardino ’11 said ESPN’s absence will not change the experience of The Game, but the network could have provided national exposure for the Harvard-Yale rivalry.
“If there had been national media coverage, Yale and Harvard’s history of competition would have gotten great publicity in parts of the country that aren’t familiar with it,” Bernardino said.
But Conn said it is unlikely that many fans will be disappointed because very few people are aware that ESPN could have been at the Yale Bowl on Saturday. Gameday’s presence at the Amherst-Williams game last Saturday was also detrimental to Ivy League athletics administrators’ lobbying efforts, he said, because it was considered the network’s “wildcard” game coverage for the season.
The Game is still expected to draw more than 60,000 spectators, and fullback Shebby Swett ’09 said members of the football team are not particularly concerned with ESPN’s announcement.
“It doesn’t change that much because for us because our game won’t be validated by whether ESPN is there,” he said.
The ESPN publicity office did not respond to requests for comment late Tuesday night.
Kick off for Saturday’s Harvard-Yale game is 12 p.m.