Washington State alumni take pride in College GameDay flag tradition

A pair of Washington State Cougars flags fly over the GameDay crowd assembled on the Memorial Quad in front of the Lillis Business Complex. The No. 3 Oregon Ducks play the No. 12 UCLA Bruins at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Oct. 26, 2013. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

A pair of Washington State Cougars flags fly over the GameDay crowd assembled on the Memorial Quad in front of the Lillis Business Complex. The No. 3 Oregon Ducks play the No. 12 UCLA Bruins at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Oct. 26, 2013. (Michael Arellano/Emerald)

Posted by Chris Mosch on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1:00 pm.

Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit have all been staples of ESPN College GameDay during the past decade, breaking down and highlighting the marquee college football games of the week. During those GameDay trips to college campuses across the nation, there has been one other constant during the broadcasts: Washington State.

It all started on Oct. 18, 2003, when Washington State flags were being waved at a GameDay featuring Purdue and Wisconsin. It began as a protest of sorts, as GameDay would not travel to Pullman, Wash. despite the Cougars’ top-10 ranking. But the concept caught on like wildfire and Washington State fans have made their presence felt at each of the 141 GameDay events since.

“There’s a lot of pride that goes into it,” Washington State alum Brian Setzler said. “If you’ve been to Pullman, it’s a little, isolated school and there’s a lot of pride in that town.”

Setzler, a member of the Washington State class of 1985, was one of approximately 15 Cougars representatives that could be spotted on the University of Oregon Memorial Quad early Saturday morning for GameDay. At least four Washington State flags could be seen waving during the broadcast and they became almost as common as signs bashing UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.

“I’ve traveled and followed the Cougs and wherever we go, even here, people like seeing it,” Setzler said. “We let people fly the flags and take their pictures with it.”

The enjoyment definitely goes both ways, as Setzler was beaming with enthusiasm throughout his second GameDay experience in Eugene.

“I just love the energy,” Setzler said. “It’s fun, it’s crazy. The signs are hilarious. It’s crazy getting up at 2 a.m. while my body is just saying ‘What are you doing?’”

There’s plenty of work that goes into organizing a tradition that has spanned just over a decade. As soon as the location for the following week’s GameDay is announced, Ol’ Crimson and Stripey – as the flags are known by – are shipped off to Washington State alumni who live in close proximity to that week’s site.

Joanie Ries, a 1979 Washington State graduate, is the Oregon Chapter President of Washington State’s Alumni Association and coordinates with alumni as to who will receive the flags in the state of the upcoming GameDay. Her 27-year-old son, Damien, was on hand for Saturday’s festivities and offered his opinion on the handful of boos that the group received from Oregon fans upon arrival.

“In a Pac-12 game like this, we get a lot of boos or ‘Washington State sucks,’ but they embrace it,” Ries said. “They know their football team isn’t that good (right now), but they’re here for the tradition. They’re just dedicated to their cause. They work real hard at this and they deserve all the appreciation they have coming to them.”

But after a decade, will we actually see GameDay travel to Pullman?

“It will, when we have a good team again,” Setzler said. “Now (GameDay) wants to come to Pullman, but we have to give them a reason.”