3-minute read

Behind the curtain in March

Brackets are set, teams have arrived and Ohio State students are ready.
Two Ohio State students talk to a basketball player as they stand in a locker room during the NCAA tournament regional
Ohio State students Sharon Nimyel (left), a third-year journalism major, and Lauryn Luderman, a third-year communications major, interview a player in the University of Vermont locker room prior to a practice session for the NCAA men's basketball regional tournament in Columbus. Nimyel and Luderman are among a number of Ohio State students who had real-world professional experiences working at the tournament. (Photo by Logan Wallace)

March Madness tipped off this week with Columbus hosting first- and second-round games in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. While on-court activity takes center stage, it’s also a jam-packed weekend for Ohio State students working behind the scenes to ensure a smooth experience at Nationwide Arena.  

The students got a test-run before games started during midweek practice and media sessions. For them, the experience is not only an exciting behind-the-scenes look at one of the biggest events in college athletics, but a unique opportunity to add to their resumes and hone their skills in a fast-paced, high-pressure setting. Here’s an inside look at their first day on the job. 

On the run

Students Gabe Payne (left) and Jack Weller, who are serving as stat-runners during the NCAA men's basketball regional tournament, prepare for their work on the floor of Nationwide Arena. (Photo by Logan Wallace)

How are broadcasters able to so quickly report statistics from games as they are happening? It wouldn’t be possible without “stat-runners” like fourth-year sports industry major Jack Weller and third-year strategic communication major Gabe Payne. At timeouts and between halves, the pair grab the printed ledger of points, rebounds, blocks and other stats from the scorer’s table, then sprint to hand copies along the press row, to TV and radio broadcasters, and up to the press box. “It’s a lot of running,” Weller says, laughing. “It’s not as simple as it sounds. We have to make it look nice, and we have to hurry, too.” 

Opportunity knocks

Students Peyton Purpura (center) and Sharon Nimyel (right) participate in an interview session with a player from USC during the NCAA men's basketball regional practice sessions. (Photo by Logan Wallace)

About a half-dozen students are gathering quotes from players in the locker rooms after practices and games, playing a critical role for sports media covering the tournament. The students are side-by-side with experienced journalists, providing them an unparalleled opportunity to witness the craft in action. Here, first-year journalism major Sara Sharp, first-year sports industry major Peyton Purpura (front) and third-year journalism major Sharon Nimyel watch a reporter interview a USC basketball player. “I don’t know anything about sports,” says Nimyel, “but I remember my professor telling me something that really stood out: ‘Always grab every opportunity you have.’ So that’s the reason why I signed up. Honestly, this is a great opportunity.” 

Notable and quotable

Ohio State student Isabel Mangus transcribes an interview during NCAA men's basketball regional practice sessions. (Photo by Logan Wallace)

First-year student Isabel Mangus, a double major in psychology and neuroscience, developed a method for gathering great quotes. “I have a routine,” she says. “First, I ask them what they’re most focused on. Then I ask them about strategy and gameplan, and what the upcoming game means to them. Then I ask them about their pre-game rituals.” She was struck by how ready the players were with good answers. “They are the best at guiding the conversation,” she says. “You just take it from them.” 

‘A top-10 experience’

Third-year communications student Lauryn Luderman works on a laptop during NCAA men's basketball regional practice sessions. (Photo by Logan Wallace)

The students have to work quickly to transcribe and send their quotes, often having only 15 minutes before rushing back to the locker rooms for more interviews. But third-year communications major Lauryn Luderman is embracing it. “It’s been cool getting to see something that fans and other people don’t get to experience,” she says. “Going inside the locker room, talking to the players, actually getting to know what’s going on inside their heads before what can be the biggest game of their careers.” She was looking forward to game day, even though it meant an early-morning arrival and staying until late at night. “The hours — that’s nothing. I’m here for it.” The highlight so far? Interviewing 7’4” Purdue superstar Zach Edey, which she called “a top-10 experience.” 

A team approach

Student Sara Sharp gets instructions for distribution of game day media materials from NCAA tournament administrator Alissa Clendenen. (Photo by Logan Wallace)

Here, Sharp speaks with sports information director Alissa Clendenen, who is helping guide the process. The quotes that were gathered earlier are printed, organized by team and made available to media members who are hurrying to meet their own deadlines. It’s just one of several crucial ways Ohio State students are involved this weekend, with others working on event management, video and IT crews to make this leg of the tournament a success. Whatever their roles, these students make clear that the most important teams aren’t only those on the court. Before heading to the Michigan State locker room Thursday, Luderman mimicked breaking a huddle with her fellow students. “1-2-3-TEAM!” she said, raising her hands in the air. “I think we should do that every time.”  

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