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Sitting in press row

Sitting in press row

Nicole L. Craw March 19, 2024
University of Dayton students in Sport Media class head to the #FirstFour as journalists

One by one, more than 15 students from associate professor Hoazhou Pu’s Sport Media class filed into a small media room at UD Arena Tuesday, the second day of First Four open practices in Dayton.

As they sat down, it was quiet — the kind of quiet where people feel it’s necessary to whisper.

Bright lights shone on an elevated stage where players sat, name tags and NCAA March Madness branded water cups in front of them. For most of the students, this was their first time attending a professional press conference. For all of them, it was an excellent opportunity for an experiential learning opportunity as part of the #FirstFour. Every year since 2001, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has started at University of Dayton Arena.

Montana State men's basketball players during a press conference
(From left) Brian Goracke, Robert Ford III and Tyler Patterson of Montana State University


Players Brian Goracke, Robert Ford III and Tyler Patterson of Montana State University began answering questions from national and local news outlets. Reporters from ESPN, Skyline Sports, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Montana Television Network started asking the players about being in Dayton.

“It’s cool to be here on the big stage.”

“It’s my first time. It’s cool to be here on the big stage,” said Montana State forward Goracke.

Ford, a guard for Montana State, answered while clutching one of the three Big Sky Conference championship rings he has with the team — this is his third time in the tournament, he said.

Junior Connor McDonough asks a question during the Montana press conference for the #FirstFour.


UD sport management junior Connor McDonough, dressed in a crisp black suit, raised his hand halfway — somewhat unsteadily — and gripped the microphone as it was handed to him. He asked, “Big Sky has seen some of the biggest transfers. How do you guys, being the faces of the league lately, recruit those talents to stay in the conference?”

Each player answered the question individually, talking about the importance of building family. Then the microphone passed to a reporter from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in Montana.

“I’d like to follow up on that question [McDonough’s]. I thought it was really well thought out…”

McDonough cracked a small smile from his seat in the fourth row at the praise. In the next press conference session, he asked a similar question of head coach Matt Logie.

“I think we’ve always taken great pride in the basketball family that I’m a part of, in player development and team building,” Logie said.

coaches of Montana State
Montana State head coach Matt Logie (left)

As the press conference wrapped up, Pu and his class traveled down a big tunnel, making their way to the court floor and the three rows of seats known as press row. Many of the students’ eyes widened, including sophomore Michael Erwin.

“This feels like a fever dream right now. You always think about coming to UD games, but there’s something different about these games — it just makes it so much better,” the sport management major said. He’s also minoring in data analytics, hoping to go into the statistics side of professional sports.

“I’m a big college basketball fan,” McDonough echoed.

McDonough grew up around sports, he said, as his father is the team doctor for West Virginia University athletics. He said once he found out about his class attending the First Four with media credentials, he did a little homework.

“I’ve been thinking about them (Montana State) all week,” he laughed.

students sit in a press conference
Students from professor Haozhou Pu's Sport Media class in a NCAA tournament press conference

Pu brought his class to the Arena to experience covering the NCAA Tournament firsthand. This is the first year he has brought them back to the Arena since 2019, due to the pandemic and student spring break schedules of past years not allowing the trip.

“They’re coming here and seeing something they’ve never seen before,” Pu said. “Students have this incredible access to the atmosphere, the preparation for the games, the efforts all these people have put into this, plus seeing a highly organized professional press conference — great things our students can gain from this.”

“Students have this incredible access to the atmosphere, the preparation for the games ... plus seeing a highly organized professional press conference.”

Lauren Williamson, a junior communication major, said it was refreshing to see several female reporters among the media. She wants to go into sports broadcasting.

“It’s been awesome to see the backside of things, this perspective. The excitement around this (the First Four) happening, you can really feel the energy of March Madness,” Williamson said.

Nine of Pu’s students will attend the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Cleveland, about three hours away from Dayton, including McDonough and Erwin. They both said they’re ready for another amazing experience — and they promised to take good notes.

Photos by Sylvia Stahl

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