It had been 23 years since UCLA hosted ESPN’s College GameDay, so Bill Walton wanted to make sure no one felt forgotten.
The Bruins basketball legend and guest picker mentioned Gary Beban, Troy Aikman, Mark Harmon, Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Billy Kilmer … and that was just one of the school’s famous alumni.
The Rolling Stones, Ahmad Rashad, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition also received shouts during Walton’s shouts. Basketball players and coaches, some deceased and many well past their playing time, were mentioned when he was doing soccer picks.
Fired Washington state coach Nick Rolovich received unsolicited advice – “Get the vaccine,” said Walton – and ESPN analyst Lee Corso was kissed on the head.
It was a wild, crazy, and wet Saturday morning in UCLA’s Wilson Plaza, where GameDay made its first on-campus appearance in the show’s 35-year history. It was also the show’s first appearance before a UCLA home game since it was played at the Rose Bowl, before the Bruins defeated Oregon in 1998.
A few thousand tough souls braving the morning chill and the occasional drizzle before UCLA competed number 10 in Oregon at the Rose Bowl, the celebrations began with a clap of the back as they waved hundreds of signs, few with good taste .
“Walton 2024: Make America Weird Again” was a feeling any Bruins fan could likely get on board with regardless of their political affiliation.
A sign targeted Oregon’s tendency to bring out a new uniform every week, including the pants and top, which that Saturday looked like they were covered in paint, and read, “330 Uniform Combos, Zero National Championships”. Another sign looked at Oregon state law requiring gas station attendants to fill gas tanks that read, “At least we pump our own gas.”
In a moment that was either heartwarming or sickening depending on your perspective, UCLA trainer Chip Kelly hugged the Ducks mascot, the tandem had once had such dizzying successes together while Kelly was training in Oregon. Notoriously media-shy Kelly also held up a selfie stick tied to a camera to pan the crowd for ESPN.
Every mention of USC was booed loudly and persistently, whether during a segment, in a commercial, or as the panelists announced their selections. Walton showed that he really loves the self-proclaimed Conference of Champions and chose the Trojans to defeat Notre Dame.
Previously, Corso had booed by mentioning that Oregon had beaten UCLA in eight of the previous nine meetings.
“Safety School!” The crowd sang.
Kirk Herbstreit won a dollar from Corso knowing Oregon was the last team UCLA top 10 hit at the Rose Bowl in 2007.
Bruins sporting director Martin Jarmond thanked the fans for coming, picked up a microphone and said, “They said it was too early. They said you wouldn’t show up. Bruin Nation got up! “
The event could do more than just create a good atmosphere. Bruins basketball trainer Mick Cronin and his assistants brought top center candidate Adem Bona to “GameDay” as part of a recruiting visit. The UCLA basketball team was featured in a segment with security guard Johnny Juzang inexplicably wearing sunglasses.
The climax of the show came when Walton picked the winner of the UCLA Oregon game, mentioning fur and feathers, bills and claws, all those Bruins alumni and a litany of others who had nothing to do with anything before Corso hit his PM looked and host Rece Davis informed Walton that he needed his choice.
Walton said, “They’re rolling. This crowd is cheered. The Rose Bowl will rock, rock like in the days of the Rolling Stones. “
Davis repeats, “I need your choice.”
“You need my choice?”
“I need your choice.”
Walton, wearing a UCLA soccer t-shirt, announced he was leaving with his alma mater and held up his arms. After Corso acknowledged his love for the Oregon Duck who was standing nearby, he said, “This is purely business, darling, purely business. Give me this head. “
And with that, Corso put on a bruin head and earned a kiss from Walton.
The crowd roared, the pressed producer let out a breath, and everyone went to the Rose Bowl.
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