INDIANAPOLIS -- This is the fourth year of the College Football Playoff, and in Atlanta on Jan. 8, the usual organizations who cover it every year will return -- outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today and ESPN.
Put the IUPUI Sports Capital Journalism Program in that group, too.
For the sixth consecutive year -- four years in the current playoff format and the previous two years of the Bowl Championship Series title game -- IUPUI students will travel and cover the games just as if a media outlet were employing them.
There is no better training for aspiring young sports journalists, and no school has offered as many opportunities in recent years to cover the biggest events in sports.
"It's incredible to learn things in classes and then have the opportunity to apply that learning at the highest possible level," said Jon Sauber, a graduate student studying sports journalism. "The College Football Playoff is the opportunity to cover a game, on deadline, in a stressful environment."
Sauber and fellow graduate student Joe Spears will cover the national championship game in Atlanta on Jan. 8. Alaa Abdeldaiem, a senior Honors College student majoring in psychology with a certificate in journalism, and Sarah Bahr, a senior Honors College student majoring in English, Spanish and journalism with a sports journalism track, will cover one of the semifinal playoff games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on New Year's Day.
"Covering the Rose Bowl is a strong contender for the highlight of my college career," said Bahr, who has also covered Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever and Indy Fuel games through the Sports Capital Journalism Program.
"The opportunity to cover live events has been invaluable to me. I mean, how many college journalists can say they've covered an NBA game as an undergrad?"
The Sports Capital Journalism Program is part of the Department of Journalism and Public Relations in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. The program helped organize the first College Football Playoff mock selection exercise for college journalists last month in Dallas, where Sauber served as chair.
In the last three years, there have been more than 50 opportunities for IUPUI students to cover events including local professional teams, the NCAA men's and women's Final Fours, and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"These are life-changing experiences," said Malcolm Moran, director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program. "That's what one of our students, Michael Whitlow, said last year when we pulled away from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa at 4:15 a.m. after the championship game last season.
"From the first days following my arrival at IUPUI, performance at these events has been a decisive factor when editors and producers have hired our graduates. The student work appears on our website and others. I can describe the logistical challenges the students overcame and the professionalism they displayed. Decision-makers have all they need to know. We are so grateful for the opportunities that the College Football Playoff has provided for us."