ESPN College GameDay is biggest event at WSU in 25 years

Sports Editor

ESPN’s College GameDay will be at Charles Koch Arena on Saturday and it is the biggest event to happen to the city of Wichita in 25 years — not just the event, but the game itself. The Missouri Valley Conference title is on the line.

Many sports at Wichita State (baseball, volleyball, bowling, etc.) have great history and a tradition of winning.

But, where the basketball program is right now, it blows all other sports out of the water.

Shocker basketball in the 1990s was dreadful. The program went through three different head coaches — all of whom finished their tenure with losing records. The ‘90s was a decade with only two winning seasons.

The turnaround came in the 2000s when Mark Turgeon became head coach. The best days of the Turgeon era (2000-07) were NIT appearances, one NCAA tournament Sweet 16 appearance and one MVC regular season championship.

It was an age when the biggest game inside Koch Arena was the first round of the NIT when WSU faced off against Florida State in 2004. There were also a handful of big games against rival Creighton.

This Saturday is a whole other ball game. Not only is College GameDay in town, but head coach Gregg Marshall has gone on record saying this is the biggest game in Wichita that he’s been a part of in his eight years at WSU.

This is a moment Shocker fans deserve. Fans don’t have to travel to Atlanta, Ga., for the Final Four. Fans don’t have to travel to St. Louis for the MVC tournament. Fans go to the home of the Shockers at Koch Arena.

This is also for the opposing fanbases that said, “Nobody cares about Wichita,” “Wichita State isn’t even that good” or even, “Where is Wichita?”

This is where we, as a school, as a city and as a community show those opposing fanbases what we stand for and who we are. Show them why they should care about Wichita and why WSU is a great place to be. It’s about respect.

It’s a momentous occasion, literally.

ESPN’s College GameDay has only been to an MVC school once, when it went to Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill., in 2008.

GameDay coming to Wichita will further awareness of the city, the university, the basketball program and its fans.

When it was at SIU, the Salukis had been to six straight NCAA tournaments, so the national exposure was somewhat there.

“It put the Salukis front and center in the college basketball universe,” said Todd Hefferman, sports writer for the Southern Illinoisan. “It gave SIU Arena some more pull, nationally, as far as a home-court advantage.”

So yes, Saturday will do huge things for WSU. The nation already knows about the team with a 2013 Final Four and last year’s undefeated run through the regular season and the MVC tournament. Those accomplishments have boosted enrollment and brought millions to the university, but this Saturday will put the fans on the biggest stage in college basketball.

The fans need to turn out and pack the Roundhouse for the two hours of live coverage and the two hours of the biggest game at Koch Arena in at least 25 years.

Wichita State is not a mid-major. It’s a major school in a mid-major conference. Show Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, Seth Greenberg and all the viewers nationwide how “angry” this fan-base can be.

Be there.

—For the editorial board, James Kellerman