By Chris Derrett
Before ESPN College GameDay’s broadcast this morning at Baylor’s Ferrell Center, concerns about attendance loomed over the university whose spring break begins next week.
The 2,950 people in attendance erased all doubt.
Members of the Baylor family and Waco community packed the Ferrell Center’s lower bowl, providing a golden backdrop for GameDay’s 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. broadcasts. The two hour program, Baylor athletics director Ian McCaw said, was invaluable for Baylor.
“To have College GameDay come to our campus is a great honor,” McCaw said. With as well as the show went today, it’s just great exposure for the university, and that helps with everything we do from admissions to school spirit to development. That’s something we’re grateful for.”
The GameDay crew, featuring Rece Davis, famed college basketball coaches Digger Phelps and Bob Knight and former collegiate players Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas, broke down the day’s storylines and worked with members of the Bears’ team in segments as well.
Meanwhile Baylor coach Scott Drew watched with appreciation for the crowd’s willingness to come early and be loud.
“I think we put a great foot forward for Central Texas, Baylor University and Waco,” Drew said. “There will be no motivational speeches tonight. If an atmosphere like this can’t fire you up, nothing can.”
State Farm also did its part to further Baylor’s cause, donating $2,950 to the Bear Pit, or one dollar for every person in attendance.
Tonight Baylor hosts Texas in a game both teams want for different reasons. The Bears, at 7-8 in the Big 12, seek one more quality win to increase their chances at receiving an NCAA tournament bid. The Longhorns, losers of three of their last four games, look to regain momentum entering postseason play.
Much to the crowd’s delight, Phelps predicted Baylor to top Texas. Davis received boos when he chose the Longhorns.
If there were ever a chance for a team like Baylor to make the NCAA tournament, the GameDay crew said, it would be this year.
“[Baylor] is capable of playing well, but they haven’t been consistent. There’s been a whole bunch of teams out there like that,” Bilas said. “ … This is the weakest group of at-large teams I think that’s ever been in the NCAA tournament.”
Like the college basketball-enthused audience, the Bears had an unforgettable experience on GameDay.
Junior Quincy Acy and senior Fred Ellis began the fun on Davis’ “Newlywed Game” segment. Davis asked Acy and Ellis, roommates off the court, the same questions prior to the segment, and each tried to guess the other’s response. Ellis drew laughter from teammates and fans alike when he revealed his celebrity crush, Baylor women’s basketball head coach Kim Mulkey.
The entire team joined Knight and Phelps to play a mock game situation. With five seconds put on the clock, the Bears’ starting five unsuccessfully tried to score on an inbounds play drawn up by Knight.
Davis said working with the Bears in the days leading to GameDay was a breeze.
“You couldn’t have two more entertaining and engaging guys being ambassadors for your program,” Davis said of Acy and Ellis. “I was really impressed with all the guys.”