IUPUI may not have a football team, but Jaguars are playing a part in college football's biggest night, the College Football Playoff National Championship. The game will be held in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium on Jan. 10. It is the first time a cold-weather city will be hosting the game, and Indianapolis is the only city to host that does not also have a bowl game.
Students and faculty from four IUPUI schools are helping the College Football Playoff Indianapolis Host Committee get the city ready.
"You've got Informatics, Engineering, Liberal Arts, and Health and Human Sciences all working together through the Sports Innovation Institute to support the grassroots community efforts of the College Football Playoffs," said David Pierce, director of the Sports Innovation Institute at IUPUI.
For some students, the opportunity comes in the form of an internship. Sports journalism major Thomas Butler-Guerrero spent this fall working on the Indianapolis Host Committee's Tailgate Tour, an initiative that highlighted high school football across the state with special events for fans and donated a total of $54,000 to participating schools and athletic departments.
Butler-Guerrero traveled to games across the state to shoot highlights and capture the Tailgate Tour fan events. Once he edited his video, it was posted on the Indianapolis Host Committee’s social media pages.
"My favorite part about working on this project was independently covering football games," Butler-Guerrero said. "This was the first time I was able to travel to an event solo and instead of writing recaps, I was able to gain experience in videography."
Sports management students in the School of Health and Human Sciences helped with the Tailgate Tour project, as well. More than 35 students helped put on the tailgate activities for fans at the games.
For some, College Football Playoff projects were part of class. Senior media arts and science students in the School of Informatics and Computing designed their capstone projects to support the playoff's social media. Sports data analysis students are also taking part in collecting data related to the championship for the city's economic impact analysis.
"It cements that we are a premier destination for sports management, but it also shows our versatility to bring in all these different units on campus that have creative skill sets to support these internationally recognized and important events that come to Indianapolis," Pierce said. "We are definitely part of the fabric of why Indy is a great place to host major sporting events."
Students will be there to help when gameday comes, too. Those studying sports management will volunteer as part of the street team helping visitors navigate Indianapolis, while others will help in guest relations at the Playoff Fan Central inside the Indiana Convention Center.
Some students will be at the game, covering the championship alongside major media outlets. IUPUI's Sports Capital Journalism Program will have at least two students sitting in the press box and covering the game in real time.
"The challenge of navigating through a high-profile national event, the pressures of media day and the tight deadlines of a game ending late at night has helped our students get jobs and develop the confidence to do well in the industry," said Malcolm Moran, director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program.
This is the eighth national college football title game IUPUI students have covered. During several of those years, students had their work published in outlets such as Newsday, a newspaper in Long Island.
So, whether it's Alabama, Michigan, Georgia or Cincinnati battling for the trophy, IUPUI students are getting the win.
"This opportunity made my entire senior year helping prepare for the College Football Playoff National Championship," Butler-Guerrero said. "Hands-on experience has more value than any reward to me because I will be able to use the skills that I have learned in the future."