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ESPN's 'College GameDay' plays on, weather or not

John Roach
ESPN's 'College GameDay' crew has seen just two of its 378 scheduled on-site games changed because of weather. (Jim Proeller/AccuWeather)

ESPN's "College GameDay" broadcasters may act like U.S. Postal Service carriers, with "neither snow nor rain nor heat" knocking them off their game, but it doesn't mean they have to like it.

"I'm not a big heat and humidity fan at all," said ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit.

"I don't really like the cold, so there's no problem with me bundling up," said fellow analyst Desmond Howard.

Heat, cold, wind, rain, snow and even a hurricane have all impacted ESPN's "College GameDay" announcers throughout their careers. Sometimes they were broadcasting the games from the booth, other times they were out in the elements for the show.

The 2016 appearance at Western Michigan immediately came to mind for "GameDay" host Rece Davis. Snow and frigid temperatures in Kalamazoo, Michigan, made for some memorable "College GameDay" sights.

"It's a big snowstorm - the snow was blowing sideways - and we throw to Gene Wojciechowski on the demo field and the snow caked on his glasses," said Davis. "He looked like Frosty the Snowman, so that was pretty good." (See the 22:54 mark on the clip.)

That trip also included Samantha Ponder shivering on set so much that analyst David Pollack asked, "You cold, Sam? Your teeth are chattering a little bit." She replied, "I'm trying to fake it, but I am not an actress."

Howard chimed in kiddingly, "Toughen up!" To which Ponder pounced, "Everybody on our set knows that Desmond can't handle the winter."

There was no argument from Howard. "Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, went to Michigan, but now I live in Mi-a-mi," he said, stretching out the word and smiling. "The blood tends to thin out a little bit."

Herbstreit is the opposite. "I would say the first five weeks of this season have been the worst of my life - I'm not a big heat and humidity fan at all," he says. "Humidity is my Kryptonite. Between sweating and not being able to breathe, I just don't like the heat and humidity. And I live in Nashville, Tennessee, which is right in the middle of it."

On hotter days, ESPN uses cooling units underneath the "College GameDay" set to offset the temperature and the added heat from the show's lighting.

"It could be 20 degrees vs. being 100 and I'll take 20," he added. "I'll take negative-20 before it's 100 degrees."

The weather, of course, can be a deciding factor in a game's outcome - and also in revealing a player's true skills. "We were at Miami of Ohio [for a game] and that's when I knew [quarterback] Ben Roethlisberger had an uncommon arm," Davis said.

"There were 50-mph winds the whole game," he said. "When [Marshall's quarterback] had the wind at his back, he would throw the ball and it would just sail and he couldn't be accurate. And when he was going the other way, the wind would knock his passes down. Ben, on the other hand, it was like any other day. He was just zipping it right through the wind and it didn't matter."

"College GameDay" has been scheduled to be on site for 378 games since ESPN first took the crew on the road in 1993 for a Florida State-Notre Dame showdown. Of those, just two have been changed because of weather, with a third canceled because of the 9/11 attacks.

In 2005, "College GameDay" was scheduled to be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but the LSU-Tennessee game was rescheduled because of the approach of Hurricane Rita, so the show went to Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech instead. Oddly, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech were a part of the other "College GameDay" cancellation, as their 2000 season-opening game was postponed and later canceled because of lightning and heavy rains.

ESPN's College GameDay will make its first appearance in South Dakota this weekend, timed for the annual Dakota Marker game between Football Championship Series (FCS) rivals South Dakota State and North Dakota State, which has won seven of the last eight FCS national championships.

Brookings, South Dakota, has received just a half an inch of snow so far this season, and gameday temperatures are set to be a little above normal with a high of 60 degrees, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. The mild temperature would seem to be a win-win for Herbstreit and Howard, with the newness of the experience being the topper for Davis.

"While we love going to places we've returned to again and again," Davis tweeted in announcing this Saturday's location, "I don't know that anything quite gives me the same type of adrenaline rush quite like going to a new place."