ESPN’s College GameDay Comes To Memphis: What You Need To Know

Posted by Holly Whitfield | October 30th 2019 4425 0

Ed. Note: November 2, 2019 was absolutely one of my top 10 Memphis days in all my years here. The atmosphere on Beale Street was electric, the crowd was energetic, and the hosts of ESPN’s GameDay had nothing but praise to bestow upon the city and the Tigers. I’m leaving this post up for a bit for posterity and because I’ve heard so many people reminisce on this day fondly. 

In case you’ve been off the Internet for several days: ESPN’s GameDay is coming to Memphis! The live show will broadcast from Beale Street on Saturday, November 2, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the game (Memphis Tigers v. SMU Mustangs) kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at a likely sold-out Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. It’s also Homecoming!

People’s knowledge on this topic varies wildly so we’ll cover basics plus need-to-know details. The University of Memphis has an extensive guide here that you should check out if you’re going.

Every media outlet in town is covering this event within an inch of its life, from every possible angle. So if you want more, check out the hard work of local journalists via websites, TV stations, radio shows, and social media accounts.

What is ESPN College GameDay?

It’s a popular TV show covering college football on Saturday mornings, broadcasting live from cities that host a game that day. The hosts – plus one guest “celebrity picker” – predict the winner. Fans in team gear show up to the broadcast location by the thousands and try to get on TV with crazy signs.

Why is it a big deal?
The show has about 2 million viewers. It’s never come to Memphis before for football. It’s a chance to showcase the city and how crazy and numerous (right??) our Tigers football fans are. People hold funny signs about their school and go bonkers. It’s historic because we’re a football program that has struggled historically but is doing exciting things. It’s important because Memphis gets too little attention or respect nationally, sports-wise or otherwise. #MemphisVsErrrbody

While I grow weary of caring about that, it’s nice to see us get some love and some credit.

Why Beale Street and not the Liberty Bowl?
Important People decided this, presumably because it will provide a lively backdrop, or because it fits the TV set needs better. Calkins makes the case here. Read more about setup and location here. If folks are Big Mad about it because they Do Not Go Downtown, that is understandable, but my friendly advice is for them to yell into a pillow and then drink some hot tea with honey so their voice will be ready to cheer on the Tigers by Saturday.

Are there street closures?
Yes. Starting at midnight on Wednesday (aka 12 a.m. Thursday) the City will shut down BB King between MLK and Peabody until Saturday evening. Read more about traffic etc. here.

What’s happening on Beale Street and when is it happening?
Fans plan to show up as early as 5:30 a.m. to start partying ahead of the broadcast. There are pregame things. Beale Street expects big crowds until the early afternoon, which is good because the national TV audience is judge-y about crowd size and energy.

– You don’t need a ticket to hang out on Beale Street for GameDay.

– FedExForum’s lobby and parking garage will be open for food, drinks, pit stops, etc.

– People who want to get in ESPN’s Pit Area should note that there are special rules, and should read the U of M guide.

When will the bars on Beale open?
Most are opening between 7 a.m.  – 9 a.m. with specials and such. There’s a handy chart:

What about Parking?
It’s the usual downtown parking scene, which is super easy. Affordable garages and metered parking are everywhere. There are rental bikes and scooters and the new electric scooters and trolleys. Find somewhere to park and walk/bike/scoot/trolley to Beale and have fun. If you’re drinking, just take a Lyft and have fun.

Trolley service will begin early, at 7 a.m. on Saturday. The U of M will have shuttles for students, staff, and faculty.

Who will be the celebrity picker for the show?
We don’t know. Guesses include Justin Timberlake, Penny Hardaway, DeAngelo Williams, and Jerry Lawler. It could be someone random. Who do you think should do it?

What’s up with the weather?
The forecast changes, but as of Wednesday night, Saturday will be chilly but nothing we can’t handle. Wear a hat and gloves and a coat.

When does tailgating at Tiger Lane start?
Tiger Lane and the Stadium parking lots open at noon, officially.

By Andrea Zucker

What do I need to know about the football game itself?
It starts at 6:30 p.m. We play against the Southern Methodist University Mustangs. It’s going to be a sellout. If you’re going, read the clear bag policy and prohibited items here. Wear warm clothes. Wear school colors.

From noon to 6 p.m., there will be a Beer Garden and Food Trucks. The Tiger Walk is at 4:15 p.m., weather permitting. See the full schedule and game day info here.

How can I get tickets?
Buy season tickets so you have them in cases like this! JK. The official answer is: buy them at gotigersgotix.com. They had to open more seats at the Stadium to accommodate the demand. It may be sold out by the time you’re reading this. Good luck.

I can’t be at the game, any watch parties?
The game is on ABC. The usual suspects should have the game on. Actually, everyone should have the game on. See a list of hotspots at the bottom of this post.

Does Holly have any random thoughts or advice?
Look out for each other; try to stay away from the hard stuff if you’re drinking; it’s a marathon, not a sprint; not everyone likes to drink and that’s good, too, it’s about football and the city, etc. Don’t block people’s driveways in midtown, and if you’re one of the, ahem, “marathoners”….don’t drive your damn car. I know I always harp on this, and it’s annoying, but if even one person makes a better decision because of my annoying MOM attitude about drinking and driving, it will be worth it.

Memphis In May rules apply, which means to embrace the insanity but be cool. Dress appropriately and wear comfy shoes and don’t forget to drink water and eat something. No matter the outcome of the game, we have a chance to get hype for the city and look good on TV, so let’s take it.

I know not everyone is going to paint their partially naked body with tiger stripes and spend the day at Beale and Tiger Lane, so if you’re looking for other ideas of things to do this weekend, there are many: Indie Memphis, India Fest, Dia De Los Muertos Parade, etc. We’ll have them all in our weekend guide, going live here on the I Love Memphis Blog Dot Com soon.

And finally, if you made it this far: I plan to be on Beale Saturday morning. If you see me in the crowd, say Hey! Let me take your picture for the ‘gram! Follow along on Twitter and Instagram.

Got more questions? Drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to find the answers.

Show Comments


  1. Donna Malone says:

    We’re bringing Ol’Crimson and welcome any WSU Coug alums to help us wave and keep the streak alive!

  2. Regina Peevy says:

    Why haven’t you mentioned Jerry Lee Lewis on the broadcast today. He is alive and still lives in the area. The greatest piano player ever!!!!

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Hi Regina! I don’t have control over what ESPN hosts discuss on their broadcast. I hope you enjoyed the Memphis showcase and the program overall, though!

    • Jr Golden says:

      Not a U. Of Memphis graduate. However, I love my city! For the city to flourish the U of M, Lemoyne-Owen, CBU, Rhodes and UTCHS must grow and thrive. Believe in Memphis!

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