8/1/2014

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Cougs plan to fly flag during ESPN 'College GameDay'

Cougs plan to fly flag during ESPN 'College GameDay'

SEATTLE -- John Bley walks into the University of Washington's Red Square like a rebel in a foreign land.

"This is the first time I've set foot into Red Square,"  Bley says nervously.

Decked out in a Washington State Cougar hat and shirt, he carries with him the Washington State University flag that has become famous to football fans who watch ESPN's "College GameDay."

Bley is checking out the center of Huskyville to plan a strategy on how to bring the flag into a group of thousands of Husky fans.

"I look forward to it, it's going to be allot of fun," he says.

For 10 straight years and 138 consecutive broadcasts, Ol' Crimson, the Cougar flag, has flown behind the set of ESPN's "College GameDay."  Every Saturday during college football season, ESPN broadcasts its popular three-hour show from a college hosting a big game. 

This Saturday, Gameday will originate from Red Square in the middle of the University of Washington campus.  It's the first time Gameday has been in the state. It's also the first time Ol' Crimson has flown on the campus of its arch rival during Gameday. 

While some sports shows have talk about actively preventing the flag to be flown, Bley is not worried.  He has recruited a close friend, a former Husky lineman, to help him continue the tradition.

"We are a quarter ton of offensive linemen and an aggregate age of over 100 so we are like the movie grumpy old men but on steroids," Bley says with a smile.

Bley is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University, where he was co-captain and played left tackle on Frosty Westering's first national title team in 1980. But his dad was considered one of the great lineman of Cougar lore under coach Babe Hollingbery.  He's been a fan every since he was a kid.

In 2003, he and a few other Cougar fans had an idea to convince ESPN to host Gameday in Pullman. They began to recruit Cougar fans and alumni to fly the Washington State University flag behind the set at every Gameday location.

Thousands of fans bring signs, mascot heads and flags to Gameday for a chance to appear on national TV.  But somehow, a shot of the cougar flag has always made it into the broadcast for the last 10 years without missing a show.

"There was a little bit of hassles from time to time but we've braved through those," says Bley.

Bley is hoping Husky fans will respect the tradition and let the Cougar flag fly.

Gameday host Chris Fowler took to twitter to defend the tradition saying, "flag carriers will be protected if needed! It's a tradition."

The broadcast begins at 6a.m. in Red Square on the UW campus and is free.

 

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