On the Hill

Students show school spirit as NBC’s ‘Today’ show films on campus

Zixi Wu | Staff Photographer

Sarah Haines, correspondent for NBC’s The Today Show, reacts as she shakes pom poms with SU cheerleaders outside of Newhouse Monday morning. SU is competing with six other universities to bring Today Show hosts Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb to campus.

The majority of the Syracuse University campus didn’t expect to see “Today” show correspondent Sarah Haines and producer Susan Bower passing around fliers on campus at 9 a.m. Monday.

But by the time the national morning show went live, SU students were taking pictures, live tweeting and calling their friends, asking them to immediately turn on the television.

More than 100 SU students, including the marching band and cheerleading squad, were filmed live on the “Today” show on Monday morning to compete for a chance to bring “Today” show hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb to the university. They posed in shades of orange and blue, and held signs on the hill in front of the Newhouse III building for the shoot.

“Syracuse University was one of the top six schools to be picked for showing school pride on social media, Twitter specifically,” said Haines.

The broadcast was part of a weeklong competition that pits SU against Ohio State University, University of Tennessee, University of South Florida, Creighton University and Brandeis College in a showcase of school spirit. At the end of the week, viewers will decide the winner.

The selection process for the top six schools began in early September, and entries were accepted on Twitter until Sept. 16. The “Today” show relied heavily on social media for the first half of the competition, tracking the Twitter hashtag, #KLGandHodaU, to find finalists, Haines said.

The “Today” show wanted to treat the airing as a “big unveil,” so the event was kept low-key on campus, said production manager Cary Grifasi. But despite the lack of an official announcement, word spread quickly. At 9 a.m., there was already a crowd of about 30 people.

The crew for the shoot was small, since the broadcast was intended to be a “series of live pops,” filmed in minute-long spurts, said Keith Kobland, media manager in the SU News Services department, who assisted the “Today” show crew.

Justin Mertz, director of the SU marching band, received a phone call from the show on Friday afternoon, but said there were no issues performing for the “Today” show, since the band has a repertoire at the ready.

Mertz was jovial before the shoot as he called the band to attention.

“Ok, so we need to impress the entire nation,” he said to the band.

Among the first to arrive to the shoot were juniors Mike Collins, Ben Maher and Brad Slavin. They were dressed in an Orange Man suit, an orange tuxedo and an Otto’s Army T-shirt and orange skinny jeans, respectively.

Maher, a psychology and sport management major, said he bought his tuxedo as a birthday present to himself. Slavin, communications director for Otto’s Army and a junior television, radio and film and information management major, wore a Boba Fett helmet he customized by painting the top and sides orange with an SU logo on each temple.

Collins, in the Orange Man suit, said he has become an icon on campus.

“I’ve never missed a basketball game,” Collins, a history and secondary education major, said. “I have another, like, as a backup.”

As a warm-up, the three students rallied the crowd into cheering as the marching band played the SU fight song.

Marching band percussionists Jon Kane and Mike Barta, donning orange headbands, joined in the school spirit.

“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else,” said Kane, a sophomore music industry major.

Some students also held up poster-board love letters to Gifford and Kotb.

Said Tory Savage, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences: “What made me fall in love with this school was when we came for orientation and you could tell how much everyone loved it here.”

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