Though the floors of UD Arena were vibrating from the shouts brought on by legions of fans during the second day of the First Four Wednesday night, each basketball team had a little extra encouragement coming straight from the sidelines — from their spirited cheerleaders.
For the University of California Davis cheerleading team, their job was made sweeter after their basketball team beat North Carolina Central, 67-63.
“It’s so exciting because this is our first time in the March Madness tournament,” said Alexis Julien, a UC Davis cheerleader. “It’s just so cool to win our first finals ever and then make it here.”
For the UC Davis cheerleading team, cheering is a chance to be a part of the game’s action.
“You get to interact with the game more, really be there with the players and the crowd,” said another UC Davis cheerleader, Anna Verdiguel.
Squad-mate Tatiana Ferla felt the same excitement in the middle of the USC vs. Providence game Wednesday night.
“We love the crowd at home, but it’s so cool to have fans from everywhere,” Ferla said. “You see Providence and Dayton supporters as well as fans from USC, which is great.”
Amidst the cameras and media surrounding March Madness, these NCAA cheerleaders don’t quit when it comes to cheering their players on.
“We really push ourselves,” Ferla said. “We remember that it’s all about this amazing experience.”
During the strenuous schedule of March Madness, it’s not just the players that bond during hours of traveling – the teams’ athletic staff members do as well.
Libby Garcia, Heather Bell and Lauren Rados all work for University of Southern California basketball, either as an academic adviser, equipment handler or recruiter.
“The best thing about working for USC basketball is the relationships,” Bell said. “We get along really well with each other.”
All three women have found friendship together in a mostly male-run program. After leaving California at 11 a.m. Monday, March 13, Garcia, Bell and Rados had a few days to enjoy one another’s company on their cross-country road trip and time at UD Arena.
“Even though we’re usually on different schedules,” Rados said, “the tournament is great because we get lots of girl time.”
Despite their excitement of experiencing the First Four together, the three staffers feel the stress that comes with planning such a high-stakes game.
“Scheduling is definitely tricky,” Garcia said. “We come to this tournament and have to plan for the ifs, ands or buts. You don’t know what is going to happen.”
Though the future is unknown, these three USC staffers can thank the tournament for bringing them closer together.
Resilience. This 10-letter word means a lot to people, but to the five seniors on the mighty 16-seed UC Davis, it tells their story.
Before their First Four game at UD Arena, head coach Jim Les told the team that this game was their fight. He believed it wasn’t their time to go home. So, they laced their sneakers for battle.
The game was tight. The bands were loud and the cheerleaders yelled with fervor. Every point was countered with another and it wasn’t until the last five seconds that UC Davis knew they would be making school history.
“We all have roles on the team and mine is defense, pick up the tempo on defense and use my athleticism and continue on the defensive end. When I do my job, we’re all top-notch players,” said senior Lawrence White.
With the 67-63 win over North Carolina Central, UC Davis advances to the round of 64 for the first time in program history to play Kansas, a No. 1 seed. One would think that this match up would be intimidating for a first-time NCAA tournament team, but the Aggies, again, show resilience.
“I don’t fear anybody, but I respect everybody and I feel like the way we play defense we can make any game a game. And, if we play the way we’ve been playing the past few weeks, then we can definitely do that,” said junior Chima Moneke.
Les beamed with pride throughout the press conference as he listened to his players’ confident reactions:
“It’s special — I’ve said this, our guys grew up as little hoopers dreaming about playing and having this opportunity. And it’s so special to be here. And we’re just going to continue to fight to keep this story going.”
When winning basketball teams advance in the NCAA March Madness tournament, the teams’ athletic merchandise travels cross country, too.
UD Arena volunteers at the March Madness apparel table make sure as many fans as possible leave the games with NCAA gear. Such volunteers throughout the First Four make the event possible.
“Shirts sell out fast at the beginning of the game,” merchandise volunteer Tracy Johnson said. “In the past five minutes, three stacks of shirts have disappeared.”
A West Carrollton resident, Johnson has volunteered at UD Arena for the NCAA First Four games for around nine years. She has some experience since she used to help sell athletic apparel for her son’s baseball team.
“All teams in the tournament get shirts,” Johnson said. “We also sell UD shirts, which always sell out.”
On Tuesday, March 14, the volunteers started with roughly 10,000 shirts, and by the end of the night had about 4,000 remaining.
“By the end of the night people will buy shirts of teams they haven’t even heard of, just to have some souvenir from the tournament,” Johnson said.
Last night, the volunteers sold March Madness beach towels for the first time — on a night when the wind chill dipped to 7.
“I saw one guy walking out of here last night wrapping it around his bare legs,” said another volunteer. “He was wearing shorts.”
The NCAA First Four in Dayton has a way of bringing people together — including seven people crammed into one car that made its way to Dayton from Kansas.
Katie Hammbrschmidst, sister of Wake Forest assistant coach Brett Ballard, spent the first half of the Wake Forest vs. Kansas State basketball game March 14 at UD Arena holding her 1-year-old daughter, Hadley, who slept contentedly on her mother’s shoulder.
“We drove nine hours all the way from Kansas,” Hammbrschmidst said. “My husband and I, our four children and their grandmother in one car. It was a bit crammed, but the kids were great.”
Hammbrschmidst and her family are originally from Kansas, and her brother previously worked for University of Kansas basketball.
“We traveled a lot when he was there because there were so many tournament games,” Hammbrschmidst said.
Though Ballard has made the move to Wake Forest, she still enjoys cheering on her brother and his team.
“It’s so awesome that he made the tournament,” she said. “We’re here to cheer him on, and Dayton has been great so far.”
She’s among the fans who go the distance to get to Dayton.
On Tuesday, March 14, press row at UD Arena filled as the First Four commenced.
Communication and media professionals traveled from across the country to warm courtside seats. Even though female professionals were present, they were scarce.
Erin Meyer, assistant director of athletic communications at Wake Forest, shared her experiences about what it is like to be a woman in athletics.
“Most of the time [being female] doesn’t really seem to make a difference,” Meyer said. “But, there have been times when people outside of sports have asked me, ‘Are you a cheerleader, dancer or what do you do with the team?’”
Meyer is the primary media contact for various sports teams at Wake Forest and the secondary contact for men’s and women’s basketball. She grew up in a basketball family and always knew sports was the place for her.
As a St. Louis native, Meyer sees the NCAA First Four as an opportunity to come back home to her Midwest roots and connect to more female media professionals.
Traveling for Wake Forest sporting events is a perk, she said, and has allowed Meyer to meet many females who are in her same position.
Her advice to women working in athletics: “See yourself as an equal, and you will be treated as one.”
I have attended college basketball games before, but I have never taken part in behind-the-scenes activities — until I attended NCAA First Four open team practice Monday, March 13, at UD Arena as a student writer for University of Dayton Magazine or UDQuickly.
I am a dancer. I know art events, and the day’s practice session felt like a dress rehearsal. Exploring the rooms and hallways felt like exploring backstage. Journalists and photojournalists from all over the country were busy at their laptops writing stories and jotting down notes or capturing the best shots from the basketball players on the court. I looked down and realized that these national reporters were wearing the same press credentials around their necks that I had dangling around mine.
I have never been a basketball person. Did the second- and sixth-grade boys sitting behind me have better basketball predictions? Without a doubt. But, through my reporter’s eye, I got to see the game as few do. I saw what it takes to put on such an event, from the woman whose job it is to sweep the floor after each practice session to the man dressed in black who guards the media refreshment area to a student whose task it is to refill water pitchers for press conferences.
I witnessed basketball as a high-production event and less as a sport. A basketball bounced way too close to my head, and I’ll never get used to the extremely loud buzzer, but I’m happy to have been an insider in an athlete’s world.
In Dayton, Ohio, the fragrance of March is in the air, and some residents in Oakwood can feel it too.
Just up the hill from the University of Dayton campus is Oakwood, population 9,000, including Shannon Tucker. “I went to Ohio State and there was just something in the air on football game days,” she said. “You just feel it. And here, we get it up in Oakwood, too.”
As a mother of two boys living not far from UD Arena, Tucker chaperoned her sons and their friends to the open practice Monday, March 13. The basketball-loving group of six can be split in equal parts of second- and sixth-graders, also known as, the “littles and the middles.”
With candy-covered lips and hot dogs and nachos in hands, the boys discussed their predictions for the tournament. Will UD be playing Duke in the final round, or will Arizona be winning it all?
This was the group’s first trip to the practice session, but not the Tuckers’ first trip to the First Four. With the “little” not quite old enough to stay up past bedtime, Tucker takes her older son as her “date” to the games. This year, they will occupy two of the 13,000 arena seats for the fourth year in a row. UD Arena has opened March Madness since 2001.
Families can follow the fragrance to the final First Four open practice sessions Tuesday, March 14, from noon to 3 p.m at UD Arena. Sessions are free and open to the public. The opening game will begin March 14 at 6:40 p.m.
Fifteen students took part in the University’s first hackathon on Feb. 18-19 to work across disciplines to help find solutions to local sustainability issues.
These students assembled at ArtStreet to compete in the design competition called Hack for Impact. The event was hosted by the Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation (IACT), Hanley Sustainability Institute, KEEN/Visioneering Center, Learning Teaching Center and a team of cooperative partners.
Open to all, students in computer information systems, economics and engineering were just some of the majors who were represented in the competition.
Typically, a hackathon is an event that lasts several days where individuals meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.
Participants began with idea building and a rapid prototyping session involving Lego pieces, then expanded their equipment from Legos to laptops as the weekend went on.
“The mission of this hackathon is to bring a diverse group of students together outside the classroom to solve sustainability issues in the local community,” said Mike Puckett, program coordinator of IACT. “As students, you can develop project management skills, creativity, presentation skills and leadership.”
Unlike other hackathons, Hack for Impact relied on the creative design process rather than pure technological skill.
Participants could select any of the four challenges to address: urban youth impact through sustainability, connection and creation of local green businesses, solution for the food desert problem in Dayton and establishing a city-wide solar network in Dayton.
First-year student Tyler Berkshire participated, and his team won an award for best technical solution for their website Situalis. The website connects local businesses by offering a medium where they can sell goods that are approaching expiration for a fraction of the price. Or, the unused raw materials can be sent to a compost facility. This is an attempt to help connect businesses and solve the food desert problem in Dayton.
“I’ve gained information about the setup it takes to solve a problem,” said Berkshire, a computer science major. “It’s a different way of thinking about problem solving, since you’re starting from the very beginning.”
A second award for best social solution went to students Smit Mistry, Ashley Brown and Samantha Rennu. Their team created a mentoring program called Fridays for the Future that helps high school students prepare for life after graduation by talking with professionals about their careers.
During a 90-minute public forum Feb. 22, Larry Burnley, the University’s inaugural vice president for diversity and inclusion, outlined his emerging vision and aspiration toward making campus a more welcoming place for all.
His most powerful statement, however, was summed up in just four words.
“Diversity makes us better,” he said.
Faculty, staff and students filled most of the seats in Sears Recital Hall to hear Burnley discuss the University’s strengths and challenges related to enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts on campus, and his plan during the next four years to advance UD’s strategic goals and objectives related to diversity and inclusion.
Shortly after his arrival in fall 2016, Burnley convened more than two dozen listening and learning focus group sessions to learn more about the existing campus climate related to diversity and inclusion, and to solicit suggestions and recommendations for improvement. Hundreds of faculty, staff and students attended those sessions during the fall, and Burnley presented key findings from those talks during the two recent forums.
Burnley said he also hoped to understand how UD’s Catholic, Marianist values intersected with core values of diversity and inclusion, and how the Marianist tradition of educating the whole person through community, working toward social justice, connecting learning to leadership and service; and collaborating for adaptation and change could influence those goals.
Burnley also stressed that UD’s diversity and inclusion effort should be grounded in equity — insuring that all have the tools needed to be successful — versus equality, which treats everyone in a similar fashion without acknowledging any disparities that place individuals and groups at an initial disadvantage.
On his future aspirations for the University, he said: “Driven by our Catholic and Marianist traditions, UD will be internationally renowned for its resolute commitment to social justice, high degree of cultural intelligence, intercultural competency, its awareness of different identities and their significance to higher education.”
At the end of the forum, Burnley outlined goals for the rest of the 2016-17 academic year and the 2017-18 academic year, which include:
-Holding “listening and learning’ session with community leaders and residents in West Dayton
-Hiring new staff in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion
-Conducting training for staff in the Division of Enrollment Management on recruiting a diverse student body
-Forming a campuswide advisory committee on diversity and inclusion
-Hosting a diversity scholar-in-residence for a two-day visit to campus, which would include a public lecture.