For a few days in March, UD Arena becomes more than just another venue hosting a major national sporting event. It turns into a 13,000-seat classroom.
During the First Four, the opening round of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, UD students work behind the scenes with the Division of Athletics to assist with communications, facilities management, ticketing, athletic training and other functions necessary for successful event execution. Student journalists from University of Dayton Magazine also attend to cover the event for the alumni audience. (Follow their work on Twitter @daymag.)
And, during the last three years, the First Four has given one class an opportunity to integrate the NCAA tournament into its regular course work. Students from a sports media class spend an afternoon at the Arena attending press conferences, observing reporters at work and taking in the pregame buzz before that night’s First Four games.
The students, mostly juniors and seniors, are sport management majors in the Department of Health and Sport Science in the
School of Education and Health Sciences. Their class helps students understand the role of media and communications in the sports and recreation industry and prepares them for careers in the field.
“This is a great opportunity for students to take a look behind the scenes at a major sporting event,” said JoAn Scott, managing director of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship. “The University of Dayton does a great job in organizing and hosting the First Four games, and these students get a first-hand look at what it takes to conduct such a huge event.”
Doug Hauschild, director of athletics communications, works with the NCAA to secure short-term passes for the 10 to 15 students who attend the media availability. They arrive shortly after noon on Tuesday and attend the press conferences for the teams scheduled to play on Wednesday. The passes give students access to the media workroom, the press conference area, locker rooms and courtside media seating, where they can observe open practices and talk to professional communicators at work.
In 2017, students chatted with CBS/Turner Sports broadcaster and former NBA/college basketball star Steve Smith, who shared stories about his broadcast career and his pregame prep routine.
Since 2001, UD Arena has hosted at least one game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, from the play-in game that ran 2001-10 to the First Four, which started in 2011 and is guaranteed to take place in Dayton until 2022. The facility has also hosted first- and second-round games in the men’s tournament and regional games in the women’s tournament. Because of the Arena’s prolific record as a tournament venue, UD students have been able to list NCAA tournament experience on their résumés in the relevant experience category, sometimes for four consecutive years.
“March Madness is a three-week run of tremendous college basketball, with many eyes of the nation and the world focused on the games,” Scott said. “We are happy to extend the students this opportunity, and who knows, one or more of them might be interested enough to someday work in event or media operations and maybe even on this tournament.”
Shannon Shelton Miller has served as the instructor for HSS 353: Sports Media and launched the student site visit during the 2016 First Four. She is a UD editor and a frequent contributor to University of Dayton Magazine. Her story appeared in the spring 2018 issue.