Now, along with Major League Baseball games, the NFL preseason and the UFC heavyweight bout between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, sports bettors can gamble on whether Washington State’s beloved Ol’ Crimson flag will make it to the season debut of ESPN College GameDay in Orlando, Florida.
The most determined piece of fabric in college football got an initial stiff-arm from the Magic Kingdom, which is hosting the Emmy award-winning sports show on Aug. 24 in conjunction with the season opener between Florida and Miami.
Items prohibited by the Walt Disney Resort theme park include signs, banners, artificial noisemakers and, much to the chagrin of WSU fans, flags.
Ol’ Crimson has made 224 consecutive appearances on the set of the College GameDay show dating back to 2003, logging nearly as much mileage as program hosts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Rece Davis and Desmond Howard.
Las Vegas apparently likes the odds of the streak reaching 225.
One sports betting website, MyBookie.ag, posed the question “Will Washington State Flag Fly Aug. 24 at Magic Kingdom on ESPN College GameDay?” MyBookie is offering minus-400 odds that the flag will appear, plus-250 that it won’t.
As of Thursday, members of the Ol’ Crimson Booster Club – a group of “officers” who coordinate to make sure the flag is where it needs to be when it needs to be there – still hadn’t nailed down a firm plan for the Aug. 24 show.
Not to worry.
“We’re coordinating with our friends at ESPN and at Disney, and seeing if we can make something happen here,” said CJ McCoy, longtime president of the Ol’ Crimson Booster Club. “We certainly want to respect their rules and traditions, and hopefully they’ll do the same for ours, and hopefully we can make something work here.
“But you know us, we never give up.”
No, this isn’t a group that lacks in motivation. Or creativity.
One person hilariously floated the idea of dressing Ol’ Crimson founder Tom Pounds in “green toy soldier” attire and dropping the 1981 WSU alum into the Magic Kingdom via parachute, McCoy said.
A Twitter user tossed out another idea, photoshopping Ol’ Crimson atop the Cinderella Castle.
WSU coach Mike Leach weighed in on the topic after the Cougars’ practice Thursday, noting “it’s like one of the longest college traditions and certainly the longest GameDay tradition, other than GameDay itself,” and “it’d be foolish to not let it fly.”
“We can stick a mouse on it there somewhere or something, if that’s what they need,” Leach added. “But obviously it wouldn’t be GameDay without it.”
The flag isn’t inexperienced when it comes to this type of resistance. Early on, when the network of flag-wavers was much smaller, volunteers would often make long drives in the middle of the night or take red-eye flights across the country to keep the streak intact.
Four years ago, when the flag was lost in transit traveling to Tucson, Arizona, ESPN made a clutch save and shipped the Ol’ Crimson flag displayed in the network’s Bristol, Connecticut, cafeteria via UPS’ overnight service.
“We’ve had more than a few of those, and that would include having to have someone drive from Austin, Texas, to Tallahassee (Florida) overnight,” McCoy said. “There’s just been so many of them, it’s part of the fun, and I think it keeps everybody engaged in the process and the tradition. As challenging as it is, we also appreciate it.”
The Ol’ Crimson flag had one of its hallmark moments last season, when College GameDay made its first trek to Pullman on Oct. 20 for a game between No. 12 Oregon and No. 25 WSU. McCoy woke up around 3 a.m. in Hawaii to catch the show’s opening scene – Pounds, perched above a sea of crimson shirts and flag, waving Ol’ Crimson as Davis introduced him as “the godfather of the (Ol’ Crimson) crusade.”
“Just chills, right?” McCoy said. “It was everything we’ve worked for for so long.”
Pounds, who flew the original Ol’ Crimson 16 years ago in Austin, Texas, has been in conversation with McCoy about the dilemma in Orlando.
“He’s fun,” McCoy said. “Tom’s a teacher, so he doesn’t always have his phone with him, and isn’t always in tune with the social media because he’s in class. He’s funny. He’ll send me a note, he sent me a text and said, ‘I’m hearing there’s a problem.’”
“We sort of anticipated we’re going to Orlando, but there is a wrinkle in there with no flags in Disney World,” McCoy said. “For sure.”
So now, in a place known for magic, it’s time for Ol’ Crimson’s managers to work some of their own.
“Cougs are creative,” Leach said. “Somebody will probably smuggle one in and probably there will be one.”
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