March Madness Becomes a Working Venture for BVU Students

Sports marketing class Zoom session leads to fun assignment for Beavers who travel and stay in Pittsburgh with value-added funding provided by BVU, benefactor.

Four Buena Vista University students spent the first weekend of March Madness volunteering to distribute statistics, assist with instant replay, aid sports media, and more as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament played out at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Along the way, they enjoyed a little time with sports celebrities such as Reggie Miller, Kevin Harlan, Jeff Goodman, Fran Fraschilla, Sidney Crosby, and Terrell Owens.

“I talked with Kevin Harlan for 15 to 20 minutes,” says Max Olsan, a senior sport business and digital media double-major from Huxley. “Kevin Harlan, the voice of NBA2K, knew where BVU was located.”

Harlan shared insight on the industry, gave Olsan his email address, and asked him to send a resume as he’d offer his assistance if he could.

Other Beavers joining in the experience included Max Murphy, a junior business marketing and business education double-major from Sergeant Bluff; Kaden Howard, a sports management and business education double-major from Independence; and Drew Marksbury, a junior sport business and management double-major from Sioux City.

The experience came about following a class Zoom session done with BVU students in October by Andrew Woodley, Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations at Duquesne University, host school for the NCAA regional. Woodley knew BVU Instructor of Sports Business Philip Locante as they attended California University of Pennsylvania together.

“Andrew talked in our Zoom session about athletics communications,” Locante says. “At the end of the class, he kind of laughed and told the class that if any of them were going to be in Pittsburgh in the middle of March, he might be in need of volunteers.”

Murphy leaned over to Howard and said, “We should do that.”

Murphy, Howard, Olsan, and Marksbury approached Locante after class. Locante called Woodley and soon the arrangement involving four “Iowa Boys” (as they came to be known in Pittsburgh) was put in place.

“The work and the attitude our students demonstrated on Thursday afforded them opportunities for more work on Friday and again on Sunday.”

Philip Locante

Funding for students and Locante to fly to and stay in downtown Pittsburgh came from the Harold Walter Siebens 25th Anniversary Entrepreneurship & Business Leadership Development Fund, which was endowed to support business students engaged in value-added educational opportunities that will build and develop their skills as they seek to become future business leaders in their chosen industry, according to Siebens School of Business Dean Lisa Kesting Best.

“It’s an incredible 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 couple of our 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 spectating, we were working,” Locante says. “The work and the attitude our students demonstrated on Thursday afforded them opportunities for more work on Friday and again on Sunday.”

“I’ve done the BVU GameDay Internship with the Minnesota Vikings, and this was similar, but a little faster paced, a little more hectic,” says Olsan, who plugged in cables and cords for the instant replay monitor before one of sessions then stood by to make sure it worked when officials went to the monitor midway through the first half. And yes, it did work.

“During the TV timeouts, we’d run copies of statistics to the teams and the announcers while people addressed all kinds of technical issues,” Murphy says. “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 BVU initiative during one of the country’s greatest sporting events. For he and Murphy, the experience has them thinking 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 learned the benefits of stepping up and offering our help.”