Sports Journalism Blog

Reporters and photographers wait patiently in a hotel ballroom as the press conference is about to start. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Washington coach Kalen DeBoer enter the room and take their seats, sitting on either side of the College Football Playoff Championship trophy that sits in the middle of the stage. The interviews begin. Everyone looks relaxed, especially the coaches.

I’m sick to my stomach.

This is my second major college sports event, over a month after covering Michigan’s 26-0 win over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship. But covering my first football game in Indianapolis was less stressful than this. I wanted to ask the coaches a question, and as I waited for my turn, my brain sped with a broken accelerator. People from all over the nation would tune in and watch clips of this conference, read the coaches’ quotes in articles online, and everyone in the room treated this high-profile event like it’s routine. Meanwhile, I hoped I wouldn’t stumble over my words. An awkward look from one of the coaches would be the death of me. If I screwed up, people from across the nation would know it. I wrote down my question word for word on my laptop, so I had something to fall back on if my mind draws blanks talking into the microphone.

As my time to speak drew closer, it felt like my heart was about to pogo-jump out of my throat. Then, I remembered the words my IUPUI professor, Malcolm Moran, told me in the press box at Lucas Oil Stadium last month.

“You belong here just as much as everyone else.”

He’s right, of course. I regained a bit of composure, and as I spoke into the microphone, I tried to keep my voice as steady as possible and sound like a reporter worth his salt. DeBoer and Harbaugh smiled at me, and I was surprised to find myself reassured. Both men gave me great answers, and once the questions moved on, I breathed a sigh of relief.

This press conference was when I began to feel the gravity of this event, as well as the gravity of my responsibilities ahead of me in my writing career. This was just the press conference. The game would be another beast entirely. There will be more national events on deadline in the future if I want to be in this industry. As the gravity of it all set in, I thought about how I’m just a student writer, an onlooker. I can’t even imagine what’s going through the minds of the coaches and players, who would return home with a trophy or hanging heads.

Even so, I am grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to even learn what working in this environment is like. Last semester, Malcolm told our class a story about when he took a group of students to cover the 2013 Bowl Championship Series game between Alabama and Notre Dame in Miami. In the chaos after the game, the students stood in scrums on the field with other reporters, asking questions of the players. A friend of his pointed at Malcolm’s students and said, “You can’t teach that!”

He’s right. You can only do so much in a classroom. The most I’ve learned from my time in this program came during field work, whether that was at the Big Ten Championship or the College Football Playoff National Championship. This experience has taught me a lot about timeliness, attention to detail, and professionalism.

I feel so incredibly blessed to be here, and I don’t take the sacrifices my family has made or the good will of my mentors for granted. I was excited to cover the national championship on Monday, and the chance to do my best alongside my peers. Just as Malcolm said, I belong here just as much as everyone else.

By Mitch Friesenborg