Washington State Flag

One of college football's most known traditions does not involve a field, a rivalry or a specific college town. It involves a flag and a TV show.

On Oct. 18, 2003, ESPN College GameDay aired in Madison, Wisconsin before the No. 14 Badgers hosted No. 13 Purdue. At the time, No. 6 Washington State was 5-1. A group of Cougars fans flew Washington State crimson and gray in the crowd, with the hopes of convincing College GameDay to make a trip to Pullman.

More than 12 years later, Washington State fans have continued to fly flags -- typically two, one crimson and one gray -- at every broadcast of College GameDay since. That's 177 outings. College GameDay locations are announced with only one week to organize, so the WSU alumni network works quickly to find alumni in the host area willing to wave the flags. Then, the flags are shipped (about a $1,500 cost).

Cougar Nation also has a signature seasonal flag that goes with 'Ol Crimson and the gray flag. This flag is signed by all of the alumni to bear the flag at a broadcast. But after making a stop in Stillwater this past Saturday, the flag went missing.

Earlier this year, Cougars fans had a flag transportation issue between Sept. 19 in Tuscaloosa and Sept. 26 in Tucson. The flag got stuck in Mississippi.

College GameDay senior producer Lee Fitting would not allow the streak to die. Fitting borrowed the crimson flag from the ESPN cafeteria and had it shipped overnight to Tucson for the broadcast.

The current scare is a bit different. Ol' Crimson is not in danger of missing the trip to Indianapolis for Saturday's broadcast at the Big Ten Championship Game. However, the signature flag may not be present for the newest flag-bearer to sign.

Ironically, Pullman has not hosted College GameDay since the streak began. In fact, Pullman has never hosted the program in its 22 on-site years, although College GameDay has attended two Cougars games: the 1998 Rose Bowl vs. Michigan and a 2002 non-conference trip to Ohio State.

Washington State came close this year. With No. 8 Stanford coming to down on Oct. 31, Cougars fans finally thought they would get their wish. But after allegedly weighing the cost of getting to Pullman, the broadcast chose to instead visit Philadelphia to cover Notre Dame at Temple.

But Fitting made Cougars fans a guarantee.

Washington State football is on the rise. The program's 8-4 overall record and 6-3 conference record is its best in both categories since the 2003 season. Before a loss to Washington last week, the Cougars reached No. 20 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. That's pretty good for a program that has only reached one bowl game since 2003.

Washington State will play in a bowl game this season, but right now, that's not the focus. Pullman only cares about getting that flag back.

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-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.