It was quite the contentious weekend for College GameDay signs when ESPN’s traveling college football roadshow stopped in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the Crimson Tide’s contest with Ole Miss. First, GameDay and ESPN drew criticism for showcasing a sign that said “Ole Miss girls are easier than their out of conference schedule” on both television and social media. ESPN, somewhat incredibly, has left this tweet up in spite of the sign being condemned on air by Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit.
(Ed Note: ESPN eventually deleted both tweets referenced here some time on Monday, so here are screenshots.)
— KTLA (@KTLA) September 19, 2015
That’s only the beginning though. A second sign that GameDay promoted on its Twitter page on Saturday is drawing ire for making fun of Urban Meyer’s 2009 health scare. It shows Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (who Alabama wasn’t even playing on Saturday, but *rivalry* I guess) along with the words, “If this crap keeps up.. I’m gonna fake a heart attack and go join the Big 10.”
The College GameDay tweeted it out saying it was the most RT’d and “appropriate” sign from Tuscaloosa.
The sign is a reference to Urban Meyer’s health scare in 2009 while head coach at the University of Florida. Meyer was admitted to the hospital after experiencing chest pains and later admitted he fought depression and felt “mentally broke.” After coaching one more season, he resigned after the 2010 campaign and joined ESPN for a year before going on to coach at Ohio State.
Meyer’s family – his wife Shelley and daughters Gigi and Nicki called it classless…
— Shelley Meyer (@spinnershells) September 20, 2015
Makes me sick. "Appropriate" my a**. Stick to what happens on the field. That's all y'all know anything about. https://t.co/X46VsELkcn
— Gigi Meyer (@GG_40) September 20, 2015
Shame on the fan for that sign but even more shame on @CollegeGameDay for promoting such trash. Someone's health isn't a joke – classLESS.
— Nicki Meyer Dennis (@Nicki_07) September 21, 2015
Obviously, anyone with a shred of decency would (should?) agree that making fun of a serious health scare is out of bounds… even for (likely) hungover college kids trying to get on television. In a sense, this is the nature of the beast. If ESPN is going to make College GameDay signs into the cultural phenomenon they have become, there are going to be several that aren’t kosher. This should be understood by all parties involved because again, likely hungover college kids.
However, the responsibility falls on ESPN to determine which signs are appropriate to display and promote and which ones are not. There are likely dozens of signs like this every week, so let’s not make this into a thing about Alabama or the SEC or whatever and continue the regional tribal war that college football has become. Nevertheless, these are both two pretty big failures over the weekend in Tuscaloosa.
Forget the connection with Meyer working at ESPN for a year after he left Florida, I’m shocked that somebody in Bristol didn’t think to themselves that maybe mocking serious health scares wasn’t exactly “appropriate.”
ESPN has done a great job encouraging fan participation and the signs have become one of the most engaging parts of GameDay. That whole fan atmosphere is what sets that show apart from all the other 9,000 sports shows on television. Let’s just hope that ESPN gets their act together before a few bad apples ruin the entire GameDay signs experience for everyone.
(H/T Saturday Down South)