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Why College GameDay should Return to Winston-Salem when Fans can Attend

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College GameDay will broadcast live from Truist Field on Saturday

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s College GameDay will broadcast live from the 50-yard line of Wake Forest’s Truist Field on Saturday morning as Wake Forest gets set to host Clemson. It will be the first time in the show’s history that they have visited Winston-Salem.

But it will also be a College GameDay unlike any other, as due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans will not be allowed to attend in-person.

There will be no pit of fans behind the stage like we are used to seeing. None of the familiar cheers. And no Coach Lee Corso in-person on stage to put on the head of the mascot of the team he chooses to win—he should pick the Demon Deacon just to get to wear the head one time even though no one expects the Deacs to pull off the upset against the #1 team in the country.

Wake Forest has done an outstanding job of putting together ways for fans to still be involved with the show, in collaboration with ESPN. But it still won't be the same as having a true College GameDay experience with fans.

Which is why I’m writing this article highlighting the reasons why College GameDay should come back to Winston-Salem when fans are allowed to attend; and Wake Forest and Winston-Salem can get the full GameDay experience. And Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, and the whole team can get the full Wake Forest and Winston-Salem experience.

I asked people on Twitter, Facebook, and several of my friends (names used with permission) to chime in on why GameDay should return to Winston-Salem when fans can return. The following are the responses I received (Putters appeared so many times I lost count, as it should.)

Readers’/Friends’ Responses

Twitter Responses

Facebook

Another user commented “The Wrigley Field of College Football.”

Friends that Commented

“It means more to our fans than the fans of the universities that get it every year.”

Ali Kitterman: “You will not meet a member of the spirit team or a dedicated student fan that doesn’t end every interaction with “GO DEACS!” Most of us end phone calls with our parents with “I love you. Go Deacs!” Our fans may not be as plentiful as schools of 40,000 but we make up for it in spirit and unyielding support for all of our DEACS”

John Crosthwaite: “I hope when things return to relative normalcy, College GameDay can return to Wake Forest one day. Wake Forest has one of the most unique college feels combining the intimacy of a small college with the passion equivalent to a school ten times its size. Despite its size, Wake Forest has, in my opinion, the most consistent football program in the state of North Carolina over the last half decade. Coach Clawson has patiently created a program model that looks like it can be sustainable for many years. On the field, he has created one of the most exciting offenses in the country that has broken school records and has led Wake Forest to 4 straight bowl berths, a first in school history. More importantly, he has molded players of high character who have brought attention to important causes in the community of Winston-Salem as well as the country as a whole. I couldn’t be prouder of our football team, and I hope the attention this weekend leads to many more seasons of success and GameDay visits.”

Drew Nix: “College GameDay should come back to Wake Forest when fans are present so they can broadcast their show from the quad with Wait Chapel or Reynolda Hall as the backdrop. You cannot find a prettier campus than Wake Forest’s in the fall.”

Richard Smith: “I think GameDay should return to Winston-Salem when fans are allowed to attend events again because it’s the right thing to do. There are not many schools left in Power Five conferences that have not yet hosted the show. Until this week Wake Forest was among that group. Part of the draw of GameDay is the experience of being there behind the set, holding up signs, and the pageantry that goes along with the show and college football as a whole. The actual football game that GameDay is there to promote is also a part of the draw of having GameDay visit as the excitement and level of importance of the stage the game is being played on rises with the show’s presence. Wake Forest fans and alumni are missing out on attending both of these critical parts of the ESPN College GameDay experience. So while Wake may get “crossed off the list”, was the full GameDay experience really available to the Wake Forest and Winston-Salem community? I think this means there should be a repeat visit in the future once this pandemic has ended so that the full College GameDay experience can be enjoyed by Deacon fans and alumni the way it’s traditionally been enjoyed.”

James Travis: “This is simple - GameDay may have come to Winston, but it did it for Clemson. It’s more a testament to a weak slate of week 1 games (and ESPN not having to be concerned about a light crowd in Winston) than it is a shoutout to Wake Forest football. And you know what? Wake football deserves a shoutout (4 straight winning seasons- 2nd most ACC wins since 2017 - bowl success - Dave Clawson). You want to get the real Winston-Salem experience? Return to Truist Field for a ranked Wake Forest vs an NC Big 4 team matchup. Stack the Krispy Kremes and the Red Oaks and watch this fan base represent. The players deserve it. The students deserve it. The fans deserve it. The city deserves it. Dave Clawson especially deserves it.”

Now breaking it down into individual reasons for ESPN College GameDay built by The Home Depot to return to Winston-Salem.

Local Dining

Yes, ESPN’s crew can go to Krispy Kreme and get a HOT NOW donut on this trip. They’ll feel like they’ve gone to Heaven if trying one (or several) for the first time. But there are many other great places to eat in Winston that you simply can't experience properly during a pandemic. Plus if you only come once there’s no way you can fit them all in!

PUTTER’S. Enough said. If you have been to Winston and have never had Putter’s, shame on you! It’s right across the street from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and is a MUST visit to get the true Wake Forest experience. But you need to go get the full experience, not just an empty or partially empty restaurant due to a pandemic.

Bib’s Downtown Barbecue. Whether you want pulled pork, brisket, turkey, or chicken, this is another must experience in Winston-Salem.

Village Tavern. It’s a must for Wake Forest, as many students take their parents here when they come to visit.

Red Oaks, Foothills Brewing, other local breweries. Great local craft beers that you can't get anywhere else.

Lexington Barbecue. Not in Winston-Salem, but just a few miles down the road, you CAN NOT miss a trip to the Barbecue Capital of the World!

And of course the Arnold Palmer drink originated by Wake Forest alum Arnold Palmer. Only at Wake Forest is there a huge celebration every year on the first day of The Masters to celebrate our most famous alumnus.

There are WAY too many great places to list all of them here (feel free to add a list in the comments), but the point is you can't take in all of Winston-Salem’s dining options if you only ever visit the city once!

The Quad and the Beauty of Campus

No matter how many photos and videos you take in the days leading up to the show, you simply can't showcase the beauty of campus from the 50-yard line of Truist Field.

The ideal place to hold College GameDay in front of thousands of fans would be on The Quad with Wait Chapel in the background. There is no image that is more Wake Forest than The Quad. The show is all about showcasing the features of each campus, and in order to truly showcase Wake Forest it needs to originate from The Quad. And yes, The Quad can be rolled and rolled like it’s never been rolled before if GameDay originates from The Quad.

You can’t feature Reynolda Gardens properly from the stadium either. And how do you compare with the beauty of campus in the fall? There’s just so much to show off that simply can't be captured on this trip.

You may have video of the new athletic facilities, but how do you truly capture campus life in The Pit, Benson, Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Farrell Hall, and Reynolda Hall in a time when everyone must be socially distanced due to a global pandemic? You simply CAN’T!

The Rise of the Program under Dave Clawson

Dave Clawson has led Wake Forest through its most sustained success in football in school history over the last four seasons with a school record four straight winning seasons, four straight bowl appearances, and three straight bowl wins from 2016-2018. Wake Forest has the second most ACC wins since 2017 (behind Clemson), and fan involvement and interest was at an all-time high before the pandemic hit. The Deacs are picked last or near last in the Atlantic Division almost every year, but find ways to outperform expectations every time. They have been in the thick of the race for the title mid-season every year for the past four years until unfortunate injuries to key players.

This trip is clearly about Clemson. If Wake were playing anyone else I guarantee that GameDay wouldn't be in Winston-Salem this weekend. It’s cool that they are here, but they need to come back when they are coming because of the success of Wake Forest, not the opponent. Yes, ESPN is checking off a location they’ve never been to before, but if I had to guess Saturday’s program will feature Clemson much more than Wake Forest. Dave Clawson and company deserve more respect than that. They’ve earned it. Choose Wake Forest as the location for GameDay because of Wake Forest, not their opponent.

The Uniqueness of the Demon Deacon

The Demon Deacon will FINALLY get some love on ESPN. Yes he’s been in a couple of SportsCenter commercials and been shown on the sideline of games, but he doesn’t get as much love as he should.

There are many, many Tigers, Bears, Wolves, Rams, dogs of various kinds, and birds of various kinds as mascots. There is only ONE Demon Deacon. Who else rides a Harley to lead the team out onto the field? Who else is so tough that he has a bowtie permanently sewn to his chin and it doesn’t even phase him? How cool would it be for Lee Corso to put on the mascot head of a mascot he never has before in front of a roaring crowd?

Oh and what other school has their very own emoji? I don't think there is one! And don't tell me it’s just a top hat. There’s a reason it’s black with a gold band!

The Smallest Power Five School

Where else could you do a show where literally the entire student body and probably half of the living alumni could fit in the crowd and attend? I don't think there is another school in the country that could feature that.

Where else do you get a passion that is “unrivaled by any” that the Wake Forest fanbase presents? How many places do you get people saying GO DEACS! every time we see a friend, a person wearing a Wake shirt or hat, or just in general conversation. We say Go Deacs! the same way and with the same frequency that Alabama fans say Roll Tide! Maybe more! Where else do you go to class the next day with the same athletes you saw competing on the field or court the night or weekend before? And where else do those athletes know your name and become your friend? I don't think that happens at any other Power Five school.

Where else does two-thirds or more of the student body attend every game? Where else do you see a movement like Tie-Dye Nation turn national and get two-thirds of the student body attending every single basketball game like Skip Prosser did? Nowhere.

We may be small, but we’re passionate, loud, and proud. You simply won't find another experience like Wake Forest.

Wake Forest is being checked off the list of locations that ESPN College GameDay has never been to, but for us—the fans, students, alumni, and citizens of Winston-Salem—this visit doesn't really count. It has a great big asterisk, and it simply won’t do for this to be the only visit in the history of the show.

So if anyone from ESPN reads this article and has read this far, please consider brining College GameDay back to Winston-Salem another season when we can have fans in attendance. Come back when you’re coming because you want to feature Wake Forest and get the full experience. You won't regret it! I promise!

GO DEACS!!!!