Friday, May 25, 2018
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ESPN ‘GameDay’ crew enjoys vibe at Michigan

Gardner honors UM legend, switches to No. 98 for rest of year


Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner rolls out during the second quarter against Notre Dame on Saturday in Ann Arbor. Gardner ran for one touchdown and passed for another. He will wear No. 98 for the remainder of the season, honoring 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon.


ANN ARBOR — When Samantha Ponder walked through the campus of Clemson University, prior to last week’s Clemson-Georgia football game, the ESPN sideline announcer noticed one thing that stood out: The men all looked similar, sporting Top-sider shoes and carefully styled hair.

To Ponder, it was a small slice of the culture on campus, and something she knew she probably wouldn’t see anywhere else during football season. After she left South Carolina, Ponder went to Pittsburgh — a city that’s likely the polar opposite of Clemson, S.C. — for Monday’s Florida State-Pittsburgh game.

“The best thing about college football, to me: You can tell when you’re on campus,” said Ponder, who was part of Saturday morning’s College GameDay broadcast prior to Michigan-Notre Dame. “Even if you just woke up in the middle of campus and nobody told you where you were, you’d be able to figure it out because it represents the culture of that area. To me, that’s what separates college football from even the NFL. In college, so much is about representing that community.

“It’s kind of cool to see the different aspects of American culture on different college communities.”

Ponder’s colleague, Desmond Howard, is also part of College GameDay, a weekly show that previews college football games and broadcasts live from college campuses during football season.

Howard, who won the 1991 Heisman Trophy at Michigan, said he looks forward to the turnout that each broadcast of College GameDay gets on each campus and in each locale.

“Each campus offers something unique, and that’s what makes everything so enjoyable,” Howard said. “It’s almost like an entertainer who travels and performs at different venues. Different crowds offer different energies, and different campuses offer different flavors, so to speak.”

Howard found one drawback in his job.

“We dread the fact that we get up so early, but we love the energy of the crowd,” Howard said. “It kind of offsets having to get up early, because we feed off the crowd. A place like Eugene, Oregon, is very good to go to. We like it because of the crowd, because of the campus, and what the fan base brings.”

Ponder, however, had one inquiry about Ann Arbor: “You guys should tell me,” Ponder said, “what do you see all the time on campus here?”

HARMON HONORED: Michigan honored Tom Harmon by including uniform No. 98 in its circulation of the Michigan Legends jerseys — a number that UM quarterback Devin Gardner will wear for the remainder of the season.

Tom Harmon played at Michigan from 1938 to 1940 and won the 1940 Heisman Trophy.

He ran for 2,134 yards, completed 100 passes for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns, and scored 237 points. He also played defense, was Michigan’s kicker, and led the nation in scoring in 1939 and 1940.

Harmon ran for 30 touchdowns and passed for 16 more in 24 games, and he ranks 10th all-time in school history for average yards a game (143.3).

He is the father of actor Mark Harmon, who stars in the CBS television series NCIS.

Mark Harmon described his father’s humility, as well as his passion for Michigan.

“It’s an important day for Michigan, in recognizing my dad,” Mark Harmon said. “There was never anything my dad didn’t do in his life that didn’t have the word ‘Michigan’ added to it. It was almost a part of everything he did, and he knew that.”

The elder Harmon, an Indiana native, served in World War II and became a sports broadcaster. He died in 1990 in California.

“My dad was only proud of Michigan,” Mark Harmon said. “And everything in his life came back to Michigan.”

ROSS AT HELM: Stephen M. Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins and a Michigan graduate, was Michigan’s honorary captain for the coin toss prior to the game.

On Wednesday, Ross gave a $200 million donation to Michigan, with $100 million earmarked for the athletic program and $100 million for Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at:, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.

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