One Shining Moment

April 4, 2012

Sports communication majors Julie Piatek, a junior from Willowbrook, and Katie Casey, a junior from Shorewood, enjoyed a "slam dunk" weekend when they interned March 22-27 at the NCAA women's basketball tournament regionals at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

The pair, both avid women's basketball fans, were thrilled to meet University of Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt, who they called "the face of women's basketball," and representatives from ESPN and other national, regional and local media outlets. Their responsibilities involved working the microphones at press conferences, escorting participating teams at the venue and helping with other public relations duties.

Piatek and Casey jumped at the chance to intern at the regionals when the opportunity was announced in class a few weeks ago. The call for volunteers originated with Colin McDonough, assistant director for athletic communications at the University of Northern Iowa, a fellow Missouri Valley Conference member and  host of the event. Four Bradley freshmen also volunteered at the regionals: Lauren Watts of Watseka, Kelly O'Brien of Rolling Meadows, Dee Moore of Ottawa and Charlene Manio of Lansing.

Piatek, who hopes to work in marketing for a professional sports team after graduation, said the experience confirmed that she is in the right field. Casey, a marketing intern for Bradley's Athletics, agreed.

Discussing their work at press conferences after each game, Casey said, "It was interesting seeing the moderator work. He would say which reporters could ask questions, and we took the microphones to them. He knew the media, and it was interesting to see who he would allow to ask a question. Some reporters were more aggressive, and he knew when to go to them and when not to."

Casey was pleasantly surprised at the interaction among the media, coaches and players. "Of course, the losing teams were upset. The media were respectful of that and would tell the players they'd had a good game. I had the impression the media were more ruthless, but they were not."

Since the pair helped with press conferences after games, they could watch the games and even had floor seats for the tournament. Teams playing in the Des Moines regionals included Baylor, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Tennessee, with Baylor and Tennessee playing on Monday for the chance to advance to the Final Four. Baylor won that game.

Casey said, "Baylor is undefeated this season, so it was fun to watch. Brittney Griner is considered by some to be the best college basketball player among both men and women. It's rare to see a woman player dunk the ball, and we saw her do it. It was the seventh time in her career, and it was cool to see her play in person."

The volunteers enjoyed the tournament atmosphere. Piatek said players and coaches seemed laid back when they arrived on Friday. "On game day, the players were more serious and the coaches were more to themselves. And on Monday, there definitely was more tension."