UCLA students give ESPN GameDay a uniquely Westwood welcome
LOS ANGELES - ESPN's College GameDay has not made a stop at UCLA since 2008.
Westwood was ready for its return as hundreds of UCLA students began camping out for Saturday morning's 5 a.m. taping at noon on Friday. Several students took advantage of Los Angeles' 80-degree heat by soaking in a children's pool all while holding their place in line.
"We see people camping out, we just don't see them camping out with swimsuits in kiddie pools," GameDay host Rece Davis said. "I got invited to take a dip in the pool after I change out of my suit."
A UCLA administrator said Saturday's turnout was double the size of the 2008 crowd, despite the Bruins being ranked No. 7 at the time and boasting top 10 NBA draft picks Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love.
Bruin coaches and players kept morale high around 6:30 p.m. Friday by delivering 40 pizzas and playing video games with campers. Music continued to play all night until students were let into Pauley Pavilion at 5 a.m.
College GameDay went live at 7 a.m. and included interviews with coach Ben Howland, freshman forward Kyle Anderson and senior Larry Drew II.
Analyst Digger Phelps - who has a storied history coaching against John Wooden teams while at Notre Dame - relished the opportunity to take a picture with a student section sign that reads "Digger is a wimp." The sign has lived in the student section since 1978.
"We had a great relationship between UCLA and Notre Dame for years," Phelps said.
Select students were also awarded with free tickets to the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
UCLA and Arizona will tip tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The No. 11 Wildcats will be looking for redemption after the Bruins stole an 84-73 win in Tucson in January.