TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Hours before Hampton's game at Florida A&M kicked off Saturday afternoon, the FAMU campus was abuzz with the presence of ESPN's weekly pregame show, College GameDay.
More than a thousand people, including a number of fans wearing HU's blue and silver, attended the show's first visit to a historically black university, and Pirates players and coaches were plenty excited to be focused in the national spotlight.
"It's great because you get the nationwide exposure," said Hampton coach Jerry Holmes. "(To) have an opportunity to be Hampton University and represent HBCU schools, it's a great feeling for the kids, great exposure for them."
GameDay host and 1991 Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard said that having ESPN's presence helped raise the profile of HBCU football.
"I think it brings a lot of attention to it, first and foremost," Howard said. "It raises awareness. There's football played in other areas, other universities, not just the BCS schools."
The show, which took place in front of FAMU's Lee Hall, featured Hampton and FAMU helmets displayed prominently on the set. Segments featuring the schools were aired, and the Rattlers' Marching 100 band gave a live performance.
As a part of his weekly ritual, longtime host Lee Corso donned the headgear of Florida A&M's Rattler mascot near the end of the show, picking the Rattlers to win the game and inciting the home crowd to erupt in cheers.
"It's great because the schools deserve it," Corso said of GameDay's yearly trip to a non-BCS campus. "We're not just coming here because of the public-relations thing."
And although the Pirates were disappointed with their 45-24 loss to the Rattlers, the players still were thrilled to be a part of the show.
"It's an honor to come out here and actually make history," senior receiver Justin Brown said.
"We all tried to come out here and play the best we could for that."
Next gameWHO: Hampton (5-5, 4-3 MEAC) at Morgan State (6-5, 4-3).
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday.