As more than 90,000 fans flooded San Antonio for the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four, Hailey Wilson ’19 brought the event to life for millions more who couldn’t attend in person.
Wilson, a communication major, was one of 10 students from Trinity University’s sport management and communication programs who interned with the NCAA social media team during the Final Four —San Antonio’s first time hosting college basketball’s signature event since 2008. These interns gathered photo, video, and other media assets to help the NCAA publicize the festivities happening off the court, including concerts, fan events, slam dunk contests, and even flaming wing eating contests.
“When you learn how to really work social media, you can allow an entire group of people to access something that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see,” Wilson says. “If you didn’t live in San Antonio and you couldn’t get here for the Final Four, you couldn’t experience this at all. Now, you can just open Instagram and click through Twitter and feel like you are there.”
Wilson and the rest of her fellow interns were recruited by Jacob Tingle, Trinity’s director of experiential learning, and Jennifer Henderson, chair of the department of communication, in partnership with the NCAA. The organization has run some variation of this coordinated social media program over each of the past four NCAA tournaments, typically tapping talented students from local universities to help with social media efforts at each Final Four venue, from Indianapolis, Houston, and Arizona to San Antonio.
Here in the Alamo City, the Trinity interns promoted concerts, the fan experience, and helped visitors explore the host city, says Abby Holland ’20, a communication major.
“We’ve been covering the free concerts—Jason Aldean was here—and all of the free all-star games, dunk contests; this whole experience has just been huge,” Holland says. “And we’ve gotten to come up with cool content, because we’re really trying to capture what’s happening through pictures and video. I think that’s really powerful.”
“Imagine Dragons and Maroon Five had concerts too, David Robinson was out here signing autographs,” Wilson says. “A lot of this stuff isn’t televised, so people wouldn’t be able to see those (events) if we weren’t doing this work.”
With the Final Four being a huge, multi-layered event, Wilson, Holland, and the rest of the Trinity team got plenty of practice at staying on their toes all weekend. The group made use of their phones, but also got experience with high-tech, Wi-Fi-enabled cameras to get more high-quality shots. The interns even benefited from working with permanent NCAA staffers out in the field who gave the Trinity students real-time feedback.
“One minute, we’re told, ‘we need pictures of Kansas fans.’ Then the next, they want video from one of the concerts or fan experiences,” Wilson says. “We’re doing all that while promoting the brand partners at the event—Coca-Cola, AT&T—it’s a lot to handle.”
Still, tackling this real-time pressure was well worth the time crunch, Holland explains.
“When Dr. Tingle and Dr. Henderson approached me with this internship, I knew this was just a crazy, one-in-a-billion opportunity.” Holland says. “I want to go into working in media relations in the sports world, sport broadcasting, so just getting to witness how a corporation’s social media team works is a tremendous opportunity.”
“As long as I get to go and experience the Final Four, that’s pretty cool too,” Holland laughs.
And while the Final Four will move on to Minneapolis next season, Wilson says Trinity’s sport management and communication programs will continue to put Tigers in the heart of big-time real-world experiences.
“When you get to participate in a Final Four—not just watch—that’s what’s so special about opportunities like this,” Wilson says. “Ever since I moved down to San Antonio to attend Trinity, there’s just been so many of these chances to learn and ‘experience’ at the same time.”