Students experience March Madness at a whole new level

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Students work behind the scenes at NCAA Tournament in Orlando

By Shannon Craighead, Staff Writer

While our basketball team may have missed the tournament this year, Stetson hosted this year’s second and third-round games of the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, allowing students to experience March Madness at a whole new level.

The NCAA, Amway Center and Central Florida Sports Commission needed all hands on deck, allowing several Stetson students to participate behind the scenes.

Jobs ranged from assisting in the photocopy workroom to escorting players and coaches. Students said the experience proved to be unlike anything they could have imaged.

“I was ecstatic to be a part of such a large scale event like this tournament,” said Maria Boden, a Sport Management major who participated in the tournament. “I’ve worked for events such as the Daytona 500, but having the chance to participate in something that most of the nation pays attention to and is constantly talking about for weeks out the year was a whole other experience.”

Sports Management major Alex Wall said he participated in the event because he wants to get involved in Division I college athletics after graduation.

“I wanted to get involved in the tournament mainly because I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to gain some invaluable experience in an industry I strive to enter as a profession,” Wall said. “Granted, my love for college basketball may have played a small part in deciding to volunteer, but it was still an easy choice to make.”

The tournament was an opportunity for volunteers to be hands-on with the backstage action instead of watching from their television sets.

“It was a great opportunity to see what really goes on behind the scenes of a major sporting event,” said Meyrick Lamb, a Sport Management major.

Jamie Bataille, Stetson’s assistant director of Athletic Communications, served as the media coordinator for the tournament where he overlooked 400 media staff members.

Bataille said the experience was “one of the most challenging yet rewarding assignments of my professional career.” He played a role in scheduling four days worth of volunteers for the event, including stat keepers, stat runners, postgame quote takers, team escorts, interview room moderators and media center helpers.

Overall, the students who participated said they have a positive experience with the tournament.

“My favorite part was probably just seeing the whole thing from a different perspective,” Wall said. “I’ve always watched the tournament as a fan [on television]. To see the tournament from behind the scenes and to be a part of executing something that took so much planning and preparation was eye-opening and was incredible for me to experience.”

Sierra Smith, a Business Management major, also said she enjoyed the weekend. Her job involved escorting coaches and players around the tournament. “They were all zoned into getting ready to play, but everyone was very nice and friendly,” she said.

Some students even had the chance to enjoy the game as spectators when their work was done.

“I also enjoyed the perks of having floor seats to watch each game,” Smith said. “It was a fun experience and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.”

Boden added, “I’m very thankful I had this kind of insight into the big time college sports industry.”

Bastille added that the tournament was a chance for Stetson to leave its mark on March Madness even though we weren’t on the court.

“It was a great opportunity for Stetson to host one of the premier sporting events in the world,” Bataille said, “and I was honored to be a part of it.”

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