By: Tania Kennedy, Assistant Director of Championships
A new element of the MAAC Championship week will be the addition of the MAAC Honor Roll Dinner on Friday, March 2 at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The Honor Roll Dinner is a cultivation event built around the MAAC’s presence in the Hall of Fame for the next three years. It also helps to leverage the Hall of Fame brand and its national visibility with the MAAC championships. The purpose of the Honor Roll Dinner is to recognize past MAAC student athletes on their success in life after MAAC basketball. Each school will be honoring one male and one female basketball alumni (coach or player) that evening. (Click here to view entire honorees list)
The honorees will receive a special recognition from a Hall of Fame legend at the dinner and each honoree will be added to the MAAC exhibit at the Hall of Fame. Jack Powers, Director of the NIT, will speak on behalf of the entire induction class. John Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will also give remarks along with Hall of Famer Gale Goodrich. The honorees profile and photo will be added to the video display at the MAAC experience as well. Honorees will be recognized in between the men’s first round games this Friday and be interviewed in a broadcast during the tournament. There will also be a four page profile on each honoree in the basketball championship program.
The 2012 MAAC Honor Roll Dinner will allow the MAAC to recognize individuals that have made a difference on each MAAC campus. This will be an unforgettable night for all the honorees.
by: Tania Kennedy, Assistant Director of Championships
Beyond the actual basketball games, the MAAC basketball championships in Springfield, Massachusetts include numerous community outreach programs designed to engage fans and non-fans alike. The MAAC Championships allow the MAAC to give back to the community in different ways. The league has programs that give elementary school students the opportunity to get to know what college sports are all about and give students the chance to experience MAAC basketball. Two programs that are intertwined with our MAAC Basketball Championships are MAAC Gives Back and Bus Brigade.
MAAC Gives Back is a community outreach program in its 17th season. This program allows MAAC student athletes to become pen pals with grade school students in Springfield, Mass, where this year’s championship is being held. Through the correspondence, the students receive the opportunity to personally know the MAAC student athletes on a personal level. The MAAC schools also send team gear, schedules, and posters to the elementary school for the classroom. This livens up the discussion held in the classroom.
Another component to the MAAC Gives Back program is the essay contest. The contest asked the participating students in the program to explain why sports and fitness are important to everyday life. The league received dozens of letters from participants and a committee chose the best written essay. This year’s winner, from Center School in Springfield, will be honored at the post season award show on March 1. Teachers are encouraged to use this program to educate the students about stats (as used in basketball) the location of schools (relative to geology discussions), and other related topics.
Another program is Bus Brigade which is a community outreach program that gives elementary school students a ticket to our Women’s basketball championship game and transportation to the game. The MAAC subsidizes the cost of the buses which allows elementary students to attend the game. The league funds this program because it believes that the MAAC student athletes are great examples of players who excelled on the playing court and in the classroom. As such, they serve as good role models for the students attending the game.
The league also provides students with goodie bags (items donated from our sponsors). The MAAC will also usually have a speaker come in and talk to the kids, and this year’s speaker is WWE wrestler David Otunga, who will speak to the kids about issues related to bullying. It is anticipated that over 1040 students will be participating in the program this year.
Community outreach programs are crucial because they show the commitment from the MAAC to the community that hosts the championships. These experiences will leave lasting impressions on students that hopefully have a positive impact on them for the rest of their lives. As a former student-athlete myself at Saint Peter’s College, I participated in these programs while playing basketball. I’ve witnessed young students hanging onto every word spoken as MAAC athletes or coaches would speak to them in the classroom. I also recall in my own life when Tammy Sutton Brown, a former Rutgers University standout, coming to my summer camp and talking to us about basketball the summer going into 5th grade. Her speech inspired me to be just like her, a 6’2 dominating force in the paint. Unfortunately that never happened because I was a point guard, but Tammy’s speech did motivate me to work harder on the court, in the classroom, and in everyday life. These programs have encouraged students in the past and I’m certain students attending this year’s programs will continue to be encouraged.
by: Tania Kennedy, Assistant Director of Championships
One valuable element to the 2012 MAAC Men’s and Women’s basketball championships is the local community in Springfield, Massachusetts. As marketers, we have to find different ways to inform the local community about the championship and provide them with the opportunity to experience all the events we have to offer. In the last few blogs I’ve discussed the marketing efforts that are being done on each campus, through our ESPN3 broadcasts, and online at maacsports.com, but I haven’t discussed the things we are working on with the local community.
In engaging the community, the first step is to educate the local audience about the MAAC, its schools, its student athletes, and its coaches. Because Springfield is a very diverse city, with a large Hispanic and African American population, we are looking to feature different Hispanic and African American student athletes and coaches. A local Hispanic newspaper is working on having interviews with different athletes that are of Hispanic descent. Damika Martinez, a half Puerto Rican half African American freshman women’s basketball player from Iona for instance, is having a stellar season, currently second in scoring in the MAAC, averaging 15.4 points a game. We are working on having a feature about her in the local newspaper. We may also do a feature on Sydney Johnson, an African American head coach who is doing a tremendous job with Fairfield’s men team in his first season at the MAAC.
In addition to the above public relations elements, the MAAC is working on promotional elements of the championship to drive more participation like FanFest, Bounce to the Arena, the Cheer & Dance Clinic, and the College Fair, all of which we would like the local community to participate in. The FanFest will be held the Exhibition Hall in the MassMutual Center during the championships. Each MAAC school will have a display at the Fanfest. There will be inflatable displays, interactive games, a full-sized basketball court, and local exhibits. This event is free to the public. FanFest should attract the local audience along with our usual MAAC fans as well. (Click here for more information)
The MAAC’s Bounce to the Arena, will take place on March 4th. This program gives local Springfield youth groups a ticket to a men’s semi-final game, and the opportunity to literally bounce a basketball to the arena. Kids will dribble basketballs from Naismith Hall of Fame to the MassMutual Center arena. This program includes a t-shirt, a ball, and game admission. (Click here for more information)
The Cheer and Dance Clinic will take place on March 3rd in the Fanfest from 10:30am until 1:00pm. This program is geared towards kids interested in cheerleading and dance ages 5-12. They will have the opportunity to practice a routine with MAAC cheer teams, and perform the route on March 4th, at half time during a men’s semi-final game. (Click here for more information)
The College Fair, which is on Friday, March 2 at the MassMutual Center, is an administrative event for the local community. All ten MAAC institutions will have a campus representative present to discuss enrollment, majors, and financial aid at each institution. This is a great opportunity for students interested in attending college to talk to administrators on a one-on- one basis. It is aimed at high school juniors, but all students are welcomed to attend. (Click here for more information)
The Republican and Westfield Evening news will be pitching stories about these events, which will cause the local community to understand what our championship is all about. Our marketing affiliates from the MassMutual Center have been in contact with ABC/FOX, who are looking to capture these events. These marketing components will make a different and reach audiences that we may have missed thus far. These stories and interviews will help the Springfield area relate to the MAAC and the players/coaches that make up the conference.
by: Tania Kennedy, Assistant Director of Championships
This article falls into the category of being careful of what you think of when writing a blog story. In my previous blog, I made a note to myself that the MAAC needed to begin a PR campaign on how close Springfield, Massachusetts is to most of our school campuses. This is needed to address any misconceptions like those I heard while traveling on the road with Nate Harris, from the Mass Mutual Center, and the rest of the marketing team when fans question how far Springfield was compared to previous championship sites.
My new task is to develop methods to change fans perception on MassMutual Center’s distance from their institutions by providing them with factoids that individually address this issue on a campus by campus basis. I put together a chart that showed the time it would take to get from each MAAC campuses to the MassMutual Center and the distance between each campus and Springfield. (Click here to view chart)
In the chart, I added a column that showed the distance for each campus to the Times Union Center in Albany, and the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. For instance, in the case of Albany, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, and Saint Peter’s are closer to Springfield than Times Union Center. Loyola and Rider are nearly the same distance away from each location, and Canisius, Niagara, and Marist are a little bit further away than Albany.
Once we had developed the information, the marketing team discussed different ways to distribute this information to the MAAC fans. Nate Harris has developed one-sheeters that will be giving out by the marketing team at our future campus visits. Each one-sheeter will be specific to the game and campus we are visiting. For instance, today we are heading to a men’s basketball game where Fairfield is taking on Manhattan. We will be handing out one-sheeters that will have the Stag’s logo, and specific facts about the time it takes to travel from Fairfield to Springfield. We will also include facts about Massachusetts including the number of restaurants and hotels in the Springfield area.
I also have developed taglines that have information about the distances that the public address announcer will be reading during MAAC basketball games for the remainder of the season. For instance, at a women’s Marist home game you will hear, “Marist fans, did you know the MassMutual Center is only 100 miles away from the McCann Arena. Come support the Marist Red Foxes on the quest to their 7th consecutive MAAC Women’s Basketball Championship title. Individual session tickets are now on sale at ticketmaster.com”. These reads are helpful and will get the attention of fans in the arena. Additionally, web ads have been developed to use on site that provide similar messaging on the closeness of Springfield.
Lastly, we put together graphics and text for our ESPN3 and ESPNU broadcasts. The graphics that will be displayed on the screen will have facts about the distance from a specific area (Albany, Poughkeepsie, NYC area, etc.) to Springfield, along with information about the championships including dates and ticketing. The script that the commentator reads will coincide with the graphic. If we continue to educate and provide MAAC fans with information about the MassMutual Center and the city of Springfield, it will increase the championships ability to attract more fans to the event.
by: Samantha Hegmann, Administrative Fellow for Compliance
6:15 am - BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! I roll over and turn off my alarm as it goes off. I get up, pull back the curtains of my hotel room and look out over Springfield, Massachusetts. The sunlight peeks in and I begin to get ready for the long day ahead of me. I go through a checklist in my head of what is on my agenda for the day: Meeting at 8:30, Luncheon at 12:00, Hospital visit at 2:30, and a basketball quadruple header at the MassMutual Center to follow. At that moment it is clear I will not be returning to my room for quite awhile. I quickly get ready and head down to the hotel lobby on my way to the 8:30 meeting.
8:30 am - I have a planning meeting for the MAAC Basketball Championships that will be coming up in March. It amazes me how a five day event needs a whole year of planning. I get lost in the talk of budgets and ticketing, but I quickly try to get a grasp of what is going on. I find it amazing how much detail goes into promoting the tournament e.g. the layout of different promotional advertisements and where to place them in the arena. I never thought that there was a strategic plan to place them in prominent areas. I figured the tournament would be promoted in the immediate Springfield area, but to plan out what newspapers to target in neighboring states and cities was something I never thought about. Along with the campus initiatives that are carefully planned to boost ticket sales, there are different components that go into a tournament that I did not account for.
10:30 am - The meeting comes to an end and I look for a quick recharge with Panera Bagels and coffee before we take off to the next event at the Basketball Hall of Fame. By noon we are sitting at center court at the HOF . The ‘Service Above Self’ luncheon honored two people who put service above themselves. I am very excited not only to be in the HOF, but because I am only feet away from one of my idols, Rebecca Lobo. I am surprised to see that she is one of the honored guests. When I was in elementary school, the WNBA was in its infancy and she was one of the key players that started the league. I had a jersey with her name on it that I wore at least once a week, until the thing almost fell apart in the wash. To be that close to her, and to see her speak is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and what better stage for it to be set at than the HOF.
12:15 pm - During the luncheon, while some people are talking I find my attention wandering to all the inductees who lined the ceiling of the hall. All the faces and names that have made an impact on one of the most loved games today was a sight to see. There is room for more plaques, making me wonder what great players will be gracing the walls of the HOF in the years to come.
1:30 pm - Off to my next activity, Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Jill, Tania and I load into the van and head off to meet up with the Fairfield men’s team for the hospital visit. I see this van ride as my chance to get in a quick power nap, since I am not sure when I will have a chance for another break. My relaxation time is short lived. Before I know it, I am at the hospital. When we arrive we meet up with the Fairfield men’s basketball team who are taking a tour of the hospital and bringing toys and gifts to the patients. Shiner’s hospital is not just an ordinary children’s hospital. It is a hospital that, amongst other things, corrects deformities and provides prosthesis and cleft palate reconstruction for children of different ages. Usually hospitals smell of antiseptic and have stark white walls. However, at the Shriner’s hospital, I find it to be a very warm and inviting place, no antiseptic smell, and colorful murals on the wall . There is even a play house in the middle of the waiting room for children to climb on. As we toured the facility, it amazes me just how much work the hospital staff does for the children. Usually, on the news or in heroic stories I hear of adults who have lost limbs or suffered injuries, but rarely do I hear about children who experience similar disfigurements. The Fairfield players are out and about interacting with the patients. There is one child who is getting fitted for his wheelchair and I can tell he is going through a rough time. He becomes excited when he sees the basketball team. One of the player’s walks up to him, gives him a t-shirt, and speaks to him in Spanish. The child immediately changes his mood. The little boy is so happy and excited. The small gesture made his day.
3:30 pm - I have already accomplished more than most people do in a day, however, I am just gearing up for the second half of my day. We head to the MassMutual Center to watch the quadruple header that is taking place. While I prepare myself to watch the games, I slowly lose my wind and I see a coffee run in my near future.
7:00 pm - In desperate need of caffeine, I walk the two blocks back to the hotel to refuel with some much needed Dunkin Donuts. I order an extra-large coffee, in hopes that it will keep me awake for the next 5 hours.
7:45 pm - The Siena Saints play the UMass Minutemen. The Saints pull an early lead. However, as the game goes on, the Minutemen slowly chip away at the point spread. The Saints end up losing the game in the last few minutes with a final score of 78-82.
9:15 pm - In between games I talk to Joe Desantis one of the members of the upcoming MAAC Honor Roll Event. He played for Fairfield in the 70’s and will be a member of the first class to be honored at the prestigious MAAC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. I find it interesting as I start to discuss his playing days with him. Being a college athlete myself, I can relate to his stories in many ways. He says a few things that I find very insightful. He notes how very humble and privileged he is to be included in the first induction class. There is one particular thing that strikes me most when I am talking to him and reflecting on his playing career. While he enjoyed his years playing at Fairfield, and he credits Fairfield for giving him an education that has lasted longer than four years, it was his role as an athlete that has helped him become successful. When I ask him what piece of advice he has for current student-athletes he says, “Be selfish, prioritize, and have fun, but don’t forget why you’re here. Academics come first. After you leave the institution you will continue to learn, teach, and grow, in your professional and personal life”.
9:30 pm - The Fairfield Stags play Old Dominion University. It is the last matchup of the quadruple header. The Stags play very well together as a team. Once they take the lead in the second half, they run with it, defeating the Monarch’s with a score of 59-51.
Midnight - Finally I arrive at the hotel for the night. I crawl into my bed, thinking of the day I just experienced. The thought of it all makes me all the more exhausted. As I fall asleep, one thought is left in my head, “If this is a preview, I certainly have my work cut out for me in March.”
by: James Ketterer, Administrative Fellow for Championships
The 2011 Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classis took place at Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut, and I was fortunate enough to be working this event. The tournament took place on Saturday, November 19th and Sunday, November 20th, with the tournament being broken up into two brackets, the Naismith and Springfield bracket. The Naismith bracket featured Kentucky, Old Dominion, Penn State, and University of South Florida, while the Springfield bracket featured Marist, Vermont, Long Island University, and Radford. On Friday my job was to supervise team practices for Penn State, Old Dominion, Radford, and University of South Florida at the brand new practice facility of the Connecticut Sun. The facility was so new that teams couldn’t use anything except the courts. The teams couldn’t use the locker rooms or the showers because these were not completed. This facility is one of the nicest ones I have ever seen to date. Staffing these practices gave me a chance to meet the head coaches of the basketball teams and observe how these teams conduct practices. What a great experience it was, having only seen these teams on TV and now getting to watch them up close and personal.
That night we had a banquet dinner with all the teams, along with some Hall of Famers. Nancy Lieberman, one of the Hall of Famers and an Old Dominion alum, gave a speech about her life and how it feels to be in the Hall of Fame. Other Hall of Fame inductees that were in attendance were CM Newton, a former Kentucky player who coached Transylvania College, University of Alabama and Vanderbilt University; Dan Issel, a two time all American player for Kentucky and former coach of the Denver Nuggets; and Tommy Heinsohn, an eight-time NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics and a six time NBA all-star.
My job throughout the event was to be a team greeter and supervise the back of house. Back of house refers to the part of an arena that is not accessible to the public. To manage this area, you have to learn the flooring plan of the arena and where everything and anything is just in case a team needs it. For example, one question I received was if it was possible to get a projector and a monitor to Radford’s locker room for their late game. I had to get in contact with the facilities manager and see if they had a projector/monitor and if it was possible to have it in a locker room. I also was in charge of making sure the locker rooms were switched over for the next team to come in, and that the rooms were filled with Powerade and fruit for the teams when they arrived. Along with the back of house I was the team greeter, welcoming the teams as they arrived at the arena and showing them to the locker room they would use that day.
Kentucky and Penn State started off the tournament off with a noon time tip on Saturday, with Kentucky fans packing the Mohegan Sun Arena. While Kentucky and Penn State were playing, I was arranging the locker rooms for the next two teams that would arrive and checking on the status of the officials’ locker room. As the game went on, the radio personnel for the second game showed up and I had to show them where they would be stationed and help them set up. After the game was over, I assisted with the press conferences. When someone raised a hand to ask a question, I would walk a microphone over so the question could be heard by the entire room. In my mind that was a cool perk of the job, as I have only seen press conferences on TV and to be part of running one was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. As game two started between Old Dominion and USF, I was busy making sure that the previously used locker rooms were getting cleaned and nothing was left from the past teams. Soon the next two teams were showing up and the second game was over, and I was back to making sure the locker rooms were clean and ready to go for the last teams to come in.
After a long Saturday, Sunday was scheduled for another day filled with basketball. Game 1 was the championship game of the Naismith bracket featuring Kentucky and Old Dominion. My job again for the day was to be a team greeter and to supervise any issues the teams had about their locker rooms or any general questions about the facility. While setting up for game two on Sunday, Rajon Rondo a former Kentucky player and now point guard for the Boston Celtics showed up to support his old team and watch them win the Naismith bracket. As part of working the back of house, I had to make sure the trophy was delivered on time and was nice and shiny. Than I had to again make sure the locker rooms were clean and ready to go for the next two teams to come in. The championship game for the Springfield bracket featured Long Island vs. Vermont. Again my job was to make sure the trophy was delivered on time and make the trophy look like it just came out of the box.
With the tournament over and the champions crowned it was time to break everything down and clean up. On our way out the Radford team manager stopped us to say how great the tournament was run, how they loved the experience, and most of all how they would do this every year if they could. For a team that went 0-2 in the tournament to tell you how successful the tournament was run is a great feeling. It makes you feel that the long weekend was worth it in every way. This tournament was one of the reasons why working in college sports is the right career for me.