WASHINGTON - The 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament got underway this week to begin "March Madness" but several members of the Gallaudet University Sports Information Office got an early start the week before.
For five days the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament was front and center in the nation's capital in the Verizon Center (March 8-12). Gallaudet students received a first-hand look behind the scenes of the media operations of a big Division I conference tournament.
"We were thrilled to have all of the Gallaudet students join us as a part of the media operations crew at the Big Ten Tournament. They handled themselves professionally, were helpful and always happy to work where needed. I am happy it was such a valuable experience for them. They were key members of our team assisting the media with distribution of stats, quotes and notes throughout the 13 games at the Verizon Center," said Big Ten Assistant Commissioner for Communications Jason Yellin.
Gallaudet Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Sam Atkinson was contacted by Yellin back in the fall about getting volunteers for the Big Ten Men's Basketball Media Day being held in Washington, D.C. GU had three representatives at the Media Day in October and that helped to pave the way for six Gallaudet students and staff members to volunteer at the Big Ten Tournament.
Atkinson was joined by Sports Information Graduate Assistant William Lovik, student-workers Jeremy Franz, Tony Libit, Dylan Mento along with Cole Nebb. The six members combined to volunteer 100 hours in five days.
"I had a great experience! I was able to get an inside perspective on what goes on behind the scenes," said Libit, a sophomore double major in history and secondary education. "I have always loved watching sports but with this experience I was able to gain access to how it all happens. It was a great atmosphere and I really enjoyed every second."
There were many different tasks that were handle by Gallaudet students and staff including microphone holders at postgame press conferences, media credential distribution, statistic runners, passing out stat sheets to CBS, ESPN, The Big Ten Network, national and local media reporters, distribute quote sheets and press row coordinators.
"I was able to meet a lot of people, including media members," said Mento, a sophomore business administration major. "This experience will benefit my career. I gained a lot of knowledge of what sports information people do at NCAA tournaments."
Gallaudet's heavy involvement in a big men's basketball tournament is a first for the GU Sports Information Office. Atkinson, who has volunteered for countless other NCAA tournaments, was excited to share this opportunity with his staff who showed they belong.
"My favorite memory was working closely with the Big Ten Media Relations staff and seeing how they run their tournament," said Franz, a junior business administration major. "It was fun to learn something new. We were also able to show that deaf and hard of hearing individuals can do anything."
The experience also made GU students appreciate what they do on campus at Kendall Green.
"This experience has made me extremely grateful for the position that I have as a graduate assistant in the athletics department at Gallaudet," said Lovik, who will graduate this May with a Master of Arts in Interpretation. "During the tournament there were so many different people focusing on one or two things throughout the day to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Our sports information office at Gallaudet is so small that I am forced to learn so many different tasks.
"The benefit of working for a Division III school like Gallaudet is you get a lot of experience developing a variety of skills such as; writing, statistics, editing photos, video work, graphics, photography, working on websites, social media, etc. All of these are required at the Division I level but interns and graduate assistants are not always doing that. I didn't realize this until I met other Division I interns and talked with the people who organized the tournament. Many of them started or recommended starting at a Division III school."
In the end, the experience for Gallaudet students might have opened more doors for a career in collegiate sports after graduation thanks to the Big Ten Tournament opportunity.
"It always means a lot to me to offer opportunities to students and volunteers where they get a glimpse of how the operation works behind the scenes and the impact they can make. Perhaps this experience will open their eyes to a new avenue for a career in college athletics," said Yellin.