BVU Grad Works 24 hours Straight After Auburn Final Four Berth
As assistant director of athletic communications at Auburn University, Cody Voga '13 has a front row seat while the Tigers make their way through the NCAA Tournament and the Final Four.
Charles Barkley. Dick Vitale. Dan Patrick.
Those names figure prominently in Cody Voga’s work this week as the Auburn Tigers prepare for their first Final Four appearance in the NCAA Division I Men’s National Basketball Championship.
Voga, a 2013 BVU graduate, serves as assistant director of athletic communications at Auburn University. His primary sport: men’s basketball.
“All of this just blows my mind. It’s a dream come true.”
“I sit next to our bench on scorers’ row,” says Voga, explaining the location of his high-visibility seat mere feet from Bruce Pearl, the head coach.
“I don’t get to cheer because I’m on the scorers’ table and that is frowned upon, and I have a job to do,” Voga says. “But when the final buzzer sounds, all bets are off!”
Voga danced and hugged his way through the celebration on Sunday, snipping his portion of the net after the Tigers’ 77-71 overtime victory over Kentucky, a win that earned Auburn the Midwest Regional title and a spot in its first Final Four. The team faces Virginia at 5:09 p.m. Saturday, April 6 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Voga has clipped pieces of three nets from the rims to celebrate championships during his three years at Auburn. The first came last season after the Southeastern Conference regular-season title. The second occurred after the Tigers won the SEC Tournament two weeks ago. The third came on Sunday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“This is stuff you dream about,” says Voga, who majored in sports management at BVU.
The closest Voga got to cutting down the nets prior to his time at Auburn came at BVU when, as a fan, he stormed the court following the Beavers’ victory over Coe College in the finals of the Iowa Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2012.
“I was a junior at that time,” Voga says, relishing the memory. “I was a front-row member of the ‘Beaver Den’ at home basketball games, cheering on guys like Wes Nordquist and Troy Ticknor. I went to the Iowa Conference Tournament and painted my chest. I did the same thing when we (BVU) played in St. Louis at the national tournament.”
His fandom, he says, might partially explain why he didn’t do as much work as he could have for BVU Sports Information Director Steven Phelps during that time. That, plus the fact Voga wasn’t sure of his career arc at the time.
Voga also played a sport as a Beaver, suiting up for the men’s soccer team for two seasons. And, he logged time conducting play-by-play announcing for BVU football and basketball games on BVTV.
His immersion into the sports information sector came at the end of his junior year when Voga applied for internships at five universities in southern California. Ultimately, he landed at Pepperdine University and worked there for five months in the fall of 2012, forgoing his final season of collegiate soccer.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional soccer player,” he says with a laugh.
He would be a pro in the sports information trade, however, and, following his BVU graduation, he landed at DePaul University in Chicago and worked in athletics communications while completing his master’s degree in new media.
“The day after I earned my masters, I headed to the Twin Cities and began working for the University of Minnesota,” he says.
Auburn hired the BVU grad in July 2016 and he’s been there since. Midway through the last school year, a retirement opened a position in the men’s basketball office for Voga. Ever since then, he’s handled Tigers basketball and communications for the program’s players and coaches, including Pearl, who coached under Dr. Tom Davis at the University of Iowa. (Pearl also helped direct the University of Iowa Basketball Camp at BVU for a handful of years in the late 1980s/early 1990s.)
No time has been more exciting or hectic than this week, Voga admits. Following the victory in Kansas City and the traditional net-cutting ceremony, players and coaches did dozens of interviews before boarding a flight and landing back at Auburn late Sunday night. They were welcomed by thousands of fans in a scene Voga describes as “chaotic.”
“My cell phone died because of all the texts, calls and emails,” he says. “My inbox also tripled in size overnight. I stayed up and worked all night, figuring I’d get some sleep tonight (Monday).”
Along the way, he’s crossed paths with Vitale and set up interviews for Patrick and former Auburn Tiger Barkley, among many others.
Voga says he’s extremely excited about the Final Four, especially since it’s a manageable drive for his parents, Stuart and Jolene (Denney) Voga, of Jewell. The family has some national tournament experience, after all, as Jolene, a 1983 BVU graduate, was part of the NCAA Division III runner-up softball team her senior year.
Thirty-six years later, Stuart and Jolene will be on hand to watch their son take his seat courtside as the Auburn Tigers compete for an NCAA title.
Cody Voga smiles and says, “All of this just blows my mind. It’s a dream come true.”