College GameDay in Madison (copy)

ESPN's College GameDay broadcast from Bascom Hill earlier this month.

ESPN’s College GameDay was a big presence on UW-Madison’s Bascom Hill earlier this month, with semi-trailers lined up along Observatory Drive as early as Thursday to set up for the pre-game show on Saturday.

An estimated 4,000 people showed up to see the Oct. 15 broadcast in person, campus spokesman Greg Bump said.

The scene was great for ESPN, said coordinator producer Drew Gallagher in an email. “Wisconsin was as picture perfect of a campus scene as we get for College GameDay. It provided a great backdrop on the quad and had great energy from the crowd.”

The Badgers lost 23-30 to Ohio State in overtime, but the big pre-game show didn’t mean big costs for UW-Madison, Bump said.

All told, UW-Madison will absorb $6,262 in expenses for hosting the cable sports giant’s pregame show that ESPN said drew a telecast audience of 1.7 million viewers.

Here’s how the costs broke down, said Bump:

UW’s Office of Legal Affairs negotiated a $1,000 payment to the university by ESPN.

That payment helped offset costs of $775 for portable toilets and $720 in “costs incurred at the School of Education.”

That leaves UW with a tab of $495 so far.

Add to that:

  • $2,600 in labor costs for electricians to wire the School of Education for cable service, which the network needed to broadcast;
  • $2,400 for grounds maintenance;
  • $767 to the UW Division of Informational Technology for tech services.

None of those expenses were reimbursable under the agreement between UW and ESPN, Bump said.

So that brings UW’s tab to $6,262.

UW Police will bill ESPN $4,725 for its services, however, Bump said. The network also hired and paid a rental company $1,688 to provide lighting equipment on Bascom Hill for the safety of spectators who lined up overnight to get into the event area, he said.

Bump said officials weren’t aware of any class disruptions or cancellations caused by the network’s presence. Faculty, staff and students had been notified in advance that the show was coming.

There were no complaints, and in fact the show was an educational opportunity for some students, Bump said.

“We were able to accommodate 80 students for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Department of Communication Arts and interns from University Communications with tours of the ESPN GameDay set and production work,” he said.

ESPN officials declined to provide information on what they usually pay college campuses to broadcast or how much they are paid by their sponsors.

UW’s Laurent Heller said hosting the game had value for the university well beyond any incidental costs.

“Hosting ESPN’s College GameDay at UW-Madison was an excellent opportunity to showcase our university to a worldwide audience. The value of this type of exposure for the university and athletics program, in millions of social media impressions and dollars in earned media, and our students far exceeded any incidental costs the campus incurred,” said Heller, vice chancellor of finance and administration.

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