Final Final 4 Tonight!
Behind the scenes at the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
A lot of preparations go into making the Final Four NCAA championships seem flawless. At Media Day on the Friday before Saturday’s semi-finals, I got a behind-the-scenes look at just what it takes to host a major sporting event.
Reliant Stadium, which hosted the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo two weeks ago, had been transformed into a basketball arena. The floor had been changed from a rodeo arena good for calf scrambling and barrel racing to the hardwood needed for slam dunks and three point plays.
Because of the massive venue, the court set up is different than for standard games. The NCAA games are being played on a platform raised 30 inches off the ground.
"In most games, the court sits flat,” said David Worlock from the NCAA. “By elevating the floor, it improves the sight lines and allows more seating for the fans." Worlock is expecting a record-breaking crowd of more than 76,000 people for each game.
Not all the work of preparing for the tournament is done by employees. The Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council help "Seat Up" Reliant Stadium as part of their upcoming centennial celebration. Girl Scouts helped place more than 70,000 seat cushions on stadium seats.
“It was a lot of work, but I liked the fact that I could help set up an event like the Final Four,” said Ambassador Girl Scout Charlotte Campbell.
On Thursday night alone, Girl Scouts placed 14,447 seat cushions in under three hours. That translates to over 50 seat cushions per hour per girl!
"It was fun working with girls from other troops and seeing all the different preparations for the big game,” said Girl Scout Sharmistha Maity. “I also really appreciated the organization for the event as everything went very smoothly.”
Final Four Friday gave me an insiders view as I personally met the coaches and players. I watched team practices and the All Star game from courtside. Attending the AP player and Coach of the Year press conferences was quite exciting.
BYU senior Jimmer Fredette earned the 2010-2011 Oscar Robertson Trophy. I asked him how he was able to balance work and school.
"While on the road, they bring an academic advisor and we have study hall,” he said. “We may have one or two hours a day while we are on the road to study."
His had some good advice for aspiring student athletes.
“Learn to manage your time,” he said.
Notre Dame's Coach Mike Brey, this year's Coach of the Year, shared his insight into a winning formula.
"Look for players who play with a passion and want a competitive academic atmosphere,” he said. “When you look for students with a great attitude, great work ethic, and great teammates, you build a great team."
The cutest mascot is definitely Blue II, Butler's English bulldog mascot who made the trip to Houston with the team. He traveled on a chartered Southwest airlines flight. He even had a front-row seat, though he mostly spent his time sitting on the floor. Once inside the stadium, though, he was a definite media magnet.
In the next few days, I will be covering other events that Final Four brings to town, such as Bracket Town and Final Four Dribble—almost as exciting as the big games themselves!
Don’t forget: tonight is the final championship game between the Butler Bulldogs (also known as the Under Dawgs!) and the Connecticut Huskies.
PHOTOS: (Top)Erin's Girl Scout troop, including Charlotte Campbell (dark shirt) and Sharmista Maity (white shirt). (BOTTOM). Kid Reporter Erin Sheena with the Butler Bulldog mascot Blue II. (Photos Courtesy Erin Sheena)