'Nation in crisis' over: Cougar flag flies

OL' CRIMSON has flown on ESPN's GameDay so long that Cougar Nation, indeed the college-football world, has taken its presence on Saturday mornings for granted. No longer. Friday's ESPN-headlining, Twitter-trending news that the Cougar flag was lost on its way to this week's GameDay locale in Tucson induced concern, even panic, across this great land. This morning, hearts beat gentler.

Because there, behind the heads of Kirk "Herbie" Herbstreet (pictured above this morning), Lee Corso and the rest, Ol' Crimson flies. It marks the 167th straight GameDay in which the Cougar flag has flown.

ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt opened a segment late Friday with the phrase "A nation in crisis," as he explained why it's so important that Ol' Crimson-- "a fixture on the GameDay scene since 2003, a flag that has flown proudly for 166 consecutive fall Saturdays" -- be present in Tucson.

To avoid catastrophe, ESPN pulled an old Ol' Crimson flag -- one retired in honor of Cougar logo creator Randall Johnson and on display in the ESPN offices in Bristol, Conn. -- off the wall and shipped it "UPS express critical." It arrived in Tucson late Friday.

Van Pelt asked GameDay producer Lee Fitting if the show could go on without the Cougar flag.

"The show would go on but I would not go on," Fitting said as he explained how the flag had been part of every one of his GameDay productions for 12 years. "... if the flag does not make it, they can hoist me up shirtless on a flagpole and I will paint myself in the Washington State colors and they can wave me around for three hours."

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