#CollegeAmesDay: How One Banner Sparked a Movement Years Ago

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AMES, Iowa -- The CyHawk game is just around the corner and for the first time, ESPN's College GameDay is going to be broadcasting from Ames.

Leading up to the big day, Iowa State Athletics and ESPN is promoting their show with a hashtag, #CollegeAmesDay. It’s a catchy phrase, but it wasn’t created out of thin air. The term actually came about back in 2017 by a group of Iowa State alumni desperately wanting ESPN’s big pregame show to finally come to their college town.

“A group of us on Twitter who regularly converse about Iowa State Athletics kind of got together and while we were chatting one week [Iowa State football] went to play Oklahoma and we ended up beating [them] which was kind of against all odds considering our quarterback situation so we decided at that point, ‘hey let's make a game day banner,’” Paul Gerhke, an ISU 2012 graduate, said.

With an architecture background, Gerhke quickly constructed a banner, with the phrase “College AmesDay” on it.

“Obviously the show is called College GameDay and Ames just slid in there so well,” Gehrke said. “I think those three words, it sends such a message in such a short phrase.”

He quickly sent it to Ohio State, the next location for College GameDay.

“It didn’t work so well the first time,” Gehrke said. “We sent it to Ohio State and we ended up hiring someone on Craigslist to carry it for us and they didn’t do a great job at first, but they did end up getting it on TV at the end.”

After that the #CollegeAmesDay banner took a hiatus. Gehrke says the 2018 season started off slow for the Cyclones and once they started to go on a roll, there weren’t any prime home games left good enough to lobby for GameDay to come to town. But then the 2019 season started.

“Iowa State and Iowa were both ranked in the preseason poll, and looking at that week three schedule there weren’t a whole lot of big games there,” Gehrke said. “So all the stars were starting to align and we needed just a little magic.”

Gehrke sent on the #CollegeAmesDay banner to Dallas for week one and then Austin for week two. Both times, an alumnus who lived in the area camped out for hours at the College GameDay site to make sure they had a prime spot to be seen on primetime TV.

“The rest is history. All the stars kind of aligned. We needed Syracuse to lose last weekend and they did and here we are, #CollegeAmesDay right?!” Gehrke said. “It’s been really exciting to see it all come to fruition. I think it means so much more than just a football game. I think looking back at Iowa State history, from a football standpoint, there were a lot of bad years. So yeah, the game will be played on Saturday and we all want our respective teams to win, but I think it’s more identifying Iowa State as a level we’ve risen to.”

Gehrke said seeing the phrase #CollegeAmesDay used in so many different ways, there’s even a Raygun shirt now with it, is exciting.

“It was super satisfying it was fun to kind of circle back with all the original group members who conceived the idea and just congratulate each other, I guess,” Gerke said. “#CollegeAmesDay isn’t coming to Ames because of what we did, but I like to think it certainly helped and it gave something for our fans to rally around and kind of push on social media and created quite the storm.”

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