By Brandon Scalea
Following its victory over Valparaiso in the NIT Final, the George Washington University men’s basketball team sat at the podium in the Madison Square Garden (MSG) media room, taking questions from reporters.
As the postgame session was about to wrap up, there was time for one more question. A young man wearing a Rider pullover raised his hand and asked the players: “On a lighter note, President Obama does live in your area, so do you think he was rooting for you tonight?”
The room filled with laughter.
The young man who asked the question was junior communication studies major Daniel Kingsley, who was one of the nine Rider students covering the championship game held annually at the holy sports cathedral of MSG.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” he said. “I wanted to make the most of it. I was a little nervous asking that question because I was scared it would be taken negatively or sort of fall flat. But I was definitely relieved when I got a few laughs, especially because I had never been in a press conference before.”
The students were there for a live sports reporting class assignment, with their media access obtained by their professor, Chuck Bausman.
Bausman, the former executive sports editor for the Philadelphia Daily News, is in the midst of his first semester ever teaching a college course. His class will return in the Fall 2016 semester, where students will get to cover both major and minor league baseball games.
With endless experience to boot, he hopes his hands-on approach has been beneficial for his students who are looking to pursue a career in sports media.
“The idea of attending a major sporting event is to give the students an opportunity to experience how the media works in such a setting,” Bausman said. “It is the next step in moving from the classroom to the real world. If students are motivated by the experience, all the better.”
On March 31, the class took the train to bustling New York Penn Station, which is conveniently located right below the Garden. They then entered an “employees only” section where they picked up their credentials, just as any ESPN.com, New York Times, or Associated Press sports writer would do.
After convening in the media room where the students picked up game notes and statistics for both G.W. and Valparaiso, they headed up the escalator to the eighth-floor press box. They were treated with a sweeping view of the Garden from the corner of the court.
According to Kingsley, the experience was second to none.
“To have the chance for a real hands-on sports writing assignment is one thing, but for it to be at Madison Square Garden is surreal,” he said. “I was treated like a VIP for the entire evening. It was probably the best experience I have had at Rider.”
In the game itself, the Colonials controlled the Crusaders from start to finish, winning 76-60 for their first ever postseason tournament championship. In front of almost 8,000 fans, the majority of which were pro-G.W., junior forward Tyler Cavanaugh dropped 12 points and earned NIT Most Outstanding Player.
In the postgame, the sports reporting class first had the opportunity to hear a somber Valparaiso head coach speak about his team and the 30-win journey it had in 2015-16. Then, the victors entered the room, with Colonial Head Coach Mike Lonergan donning a cut basketball hoop around his neck — the custom in college basketball.
For the Rider students in attendance that night, it was the first of what they hope will be many first-hand experiences in sports media.
However, on April 1, their path to the industry may have gotten even brighter when the school’s incoming sports media major was recommended for approval by the Presidents’ Council of the New Jersey Academic Issues Committee. It will be further discussed on April 25 and it is likely the major will pass.