by Kristie Kahl
Although the Broncs were unable to find themselves going far in the postseason this year, Rider will still find itself at the NCAA tournament. Well, hosting it, at least.
This weekend, Rider, along with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), is co-hosting a Sweet Sixteen women’s basketball NCAA tournament at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton.
The biggest job of hosting a tournament of this stature consists of providing people to staff the event as well as the many odds and ends that go into a big production.
“Basically, we do everything we would do here to run a regular game, plus about 1,000 percent added on to it,” said Karin Torchia, associate director of athletics. “So, it’s a lot of the little details that you don’t see when you watch a game on television [that] we kind of have to take care of.”
Rider students will have the opportunity to help staff the event, as about 75 students will be assigned to over 30 jobs throughout the weekend. Overall, the university has 150 volunteers, ranging from students to alumni and the community as a whole. Jobs will vary from stat crew and runners to escorts and media relations.
“Students can put a great thing on their résumé that says, ‘I did something for the NCAA,’” said Dr. Aaron Moore, assistant professor of journalism. “Especially someone who wants to do something in sports, it looks great if they did something for the NCAA. They can actually work an event and see the pressure, and be able to work under that pressure in a professional environment.”
With all of the stresses of running a big-name tournament, Torchia feels that ticket sales are the biggest concern.
“We’re working in conjunction with the arena and the MAAC to really get a huge crowd there and put our best foot forward,” she said. “Rider’s name is going to be attributed to a lot of the success or failure that we have. It’s important that we got a lot of support from the local community and the Rider community to take it on.”
The last time Rider hosted a tournament was 2006 during the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, which gave the university the opportunity to work with the MAAC to cohost another event in the future.
The framework for the NCAA tournament coming to the Sovereign Bank Arena has been ongoing for the past two years. Rider worked directly with the MAAC conference, the NCAA and the Arena to work out the details.
As Rider co-hosts the tournament, the school can put its name on the map as it is associated with every aspect of the event.
“A lot of times we run into the situation of who is Rider or where is Rider,” Torchia said. “[The tournament] is primarily publicity for the school. It’s name recognition throughout the country because everybody is going to be watching the Sweet Sixteen now.”
The weekend will kick off with a Fan Fest tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m. in the Sovereign Bank Arena parking lot. The fest will consist of music, prizes and contests. Fans may also attend open practices during this time to see UConn, Cal, Texas A & M and Arizona State. UConn will take on Cal Sunday at noon while Arizona State goes up against Texas A & M at 2:30. The Elite Eight will play Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“It’s one of the great things about this job that we can do things that are high-profile and get the experience,” Torchia said. “There’s the adrenaline and the excitement of the fact that it’s about to start. We’ve been planning this for two years and it’s finally here.”