STORM LAKE, Iowa — Four University of Buena Vista students spent the first weekend of March Madness volunteering to hand out stats, help with instant replay, help sports media, and more as the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament was held at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Along the way, they spent some time with sports celebrities such as Reggie Miller, Kevin Harlan, Jeff Goodman, Fran Fraschilla, Sidney Crosby and Terrell Owens.
“I spoke with Kevin Harlan for 15-20 minutes,” says Max Olsan, dual sports and digital media specialist at Huxley. “Kevin Harlan, the voice of NBA2K, knew where BVU was.”
Harlan shared his perspective on the industry, gave Olsan his email address and asked him to send in a resume as he would offer to help if he could.
Other Beavers who have joined the experiment include Max Murphy, a junior double major in business marketing and business education under Sergeant Bluff; Kaden Howard, a double major in sports management and business from Independence; and Drew Marksbury, a junior sports business and management double major from Sioux City.
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The experience came following an in-class Zoom session conducted with BVU students in October by Andrew Woodley, assistant director of sports media relations at NCAA region host school Duquesne University. Woodley knew BVU athletic affairs instructor Philip Locante when they attended California University of Pennsylvania together.
“Andrew spoke in our Zoom session about sports communications,” says Locante. “At the end of the course, he sort of laughed and told the class that if any of them were going to be in Pittsburgh in mid-March, they might need volunteers.”
Murphy leaned over to Howard and said, “We should do this.”
Murphy, Howard, Olsan and Marksbury approached Locante after class. Locante called Woodley and soon the arrangement involving four “Iowa Boys” (as they became known in Pittsburgh) was put in place.
Funding for students and Locante to travel and stay in downtown Pittsburgh comes from the Harold Walter Siebens 25th Anniversary Entrepreneurship and Corporate Leadership Development Fund, which was endowed to support business students engaged in value-added educational opportunities that will develop and develop their skills as they seek to become future business leaders in their chosen industry, according to Lisa Kesting Best, dean of the Siebens School of Business.
“It’s an amazing gift,” Best says of the Siebens 25th Anniversary Fund. “A great example of how our benefactors continue to make experiences like this possible for our students.”
“We paid for a few meals and that was it,” Howard says. “It was a great experience to play a role in hosting a regional site during March Madness.”
“We weren’t spectators, we were working,” says Locante. “The hard work and attitude our students showed on Thursday gave them the opportunity to work more on Friday and again on Sunday.”
“I did the BVU GameDay camp with the Minnesota Vikings, and it was similar, but a little faster paced, a little more hectic,” says Olsan, who hooked up cables and cords for the monitor. instant replay before one of the sessions then stood by to make sure it was working when the officials went to the monitor midway through the first half. And yes, it worked.
“During TV downtime, we were sending copies of stats to teams and announcers while people were dealing with all kinds of technical issues,” Murphy explains. “It’s amazing to see all the work going on while the rest of the country is watching a commercial.”
Marksbury agreed, saying it was memorable to be able to watch March Madness from the front row while networking and showing off the BVU initiative at one of the nation’s biggest sporting events. For him and Murphy, the experience makes them think more about careers in sports marketing and event planning.
“At BVU, you can have experiences like this,” Murphy says. “But they don’t just come to you. We have learned the benefits of stepping in and offering our help.