How ESPN’s “GameDay” landed a new campus home at USC for Saturday’s appearance

74_fullESPN’s “College GameDay” marks its 10th visit to USC (Saturday, 6 a.m.), but for the first time, the staging won’t take place in front of the Coliseum.

EI_78720_20120328_ESP_6840-scr-e1363276603171Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN’s vice president of programming and acquisitions and a USC alum, worked with university officials on short notice last week to convince them of the benefits of setting up in an area on campus called McCarthy Quad, a block west of Figueroa with the iconic Doheny Library in the background.

It’s also not far from Pardee Tower, a popular residence hall for freshman — and where Ben-Hanan spent his first year at the school.

gameday_web “Attendance has been good in the past at the Coliseum, but the bar can be raised, and I’ve always wondered how cool it would be to have ‘GameDay’ on campus,” said Ben-Hanan this morning.

“The Coliseum has its charm and it’s historic, but ‘College GameDay’ lives and breathes better when it’s on the campus. We know there are all kinds of complications perhaps with homecoming activities taking place, but I’ve very thankful to the athletic administration and President Nikias to allow this to happen. We’ve pledged to them that we’ll be in and out quickly.”

Starting with Friday’s UCLA-Washington 6 p.m. contest at the Rose Bowl and capped by Saturday’s USC-Stanford 5 p.m., game at the Coliseum, “Game Day” throws an added spotlight on L.A. for the sport that no other part of the country has experienced this year.

“L.A. is the center of our universe this weekend, and that’s a pretty rare situation that it’s happened this way,” said Ben-Hanan, who joined ESPN in 2002 after working in USC’s athletic marketing department, holder of a broadcast journalism degree.

“From our perspective, Thursday and Friday games are set far in advance, so we knew we’d be here for UCLA. With the Stanford-Oregon game last Thursday, we put in a six-day pick request (to set the time and network for USC-Stanford) based on the outcome, and when Stanford won, we found the game at USC to be a great national prime-time exposure for us. It was quite a quick turnaround to then get ‘Game Day’ to follow, but USC has become a story itself with its turnaround.”

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