Behind the Games

To read the article that this blog post is based on, click here

This month, I celebrated four years at Coastal Carolina University. Consequently, it also marked four years since I have worked at the University of Montana. When I was employed there, I had the opportunity to do a lot, but nothing defined my time more than the work I did to enhance (or at least attempt to enhance) the gameday experience.

Being part of the gameday experience crew is an exciting, but very stressful, job. This is me with assistant athletic director Brynn Molloy during my last year at Montana.

Although I no longer play music for 26,000 people in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, develop crazy mascot skits, write public address scripts, or introduce in-stadium social media promotions, I still think about my “past life” from time to time.

I had the privilege of helping to put on the Gameday Experience while at the University of Montana. This is Christie and I up in the control room of the press box on Military Appreciation Day.

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to remember what I used to do by living vicariously through the guy who is responsible for the gameday experience here at Coastal Carolina University. Alex Souza, who served as the director of gameday experience and promotions since 2015*, allowed me to shadow him up in the control room of Brooks Stadium during a couple of football Saturdays this past season.

I had the privilege of writing a feature for Coastal Magazine titled “Behind the Games.” Lots of props to our design team for creating this opening spread for the story (graphic from www.coastal.edu/coastal-now

No, I wasn’t creeping in the press box simply to satisfy some nostalgic itch of mine. I was assigned with writing another feature for Coastal Magazine. While planning the publication early in the fall, it was determined that an all-access story chronicling the amazing work put forth by Alex and his team be told. Based on my background, I was assigned to write it.

In this photo I am holding the Spring/Summer issue of Coastal Magazine. I once again penned a feature story for this publication.

I embraced the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the magic that Alex creates, hoping it would also pay tribute to the hundreds of other athletic department employees across the nation who work tirelessly to create engaging gameday presentations. As someone who is especially sympathetic to the reality, many times folks don’t know the planning and labor that is dedicated to making sure fans leave the stadium happy, win or lose.

This is what the opening spread looks like in actual print form.

So, as mentioned, I watched behind Alex’s shoulder as he directed a couple football games. Once again I was in a booth with a spotter, video board guy, P.A. announcer, and technical support personnel. It was like a time warp! It wasn’t just the people I was surrounded by that brought me back. I also felt the stress, excitement, pressure, and comradery that became all too familiar during my days at Montana working in a similar role.

It was a lot of fun to write this piece. Alex is great at what he does.

After the observation period, I had a long sit down interview with Alex. I questioned him as a reporter, making sure not to add any experiences or opinions of my own. However, I would be lying if I said that deep down inside I wasn’t relating with everything he said.

I thank Alex for allowing me to write this story on him.

The actual writing portion of the piece was fun but also challenging. It was a topic I very much wanted to write about but I wanted to portray Alex’s role as accurately as possible. Knowing that I could make no excuse for messing it up, I put pressure on myself to produce something that did the Coastal Carolina athletic department justice.

Thanks to helpful editors, a creative design team, and the perfect subject (Alex happily and promptly answered the numerous follow up questions I had) I think the piece turned out well. It was nice to write something that I felt a special connection to for such a prominent publication. Alex Souza is incredible at what he does and I thank him for letting me write Behind the Games. Don’t Blink.

*Director of gameday experience and promotions no more! Alex was recently promoted to assistant athletic director for digital initiatives.

My Jud Heathcote Experience

Yesterday, a true legend of college basketball passed away. Jud Heathcote, a national champion coach, died at 90. The basketball world is currently in mourning.

Before Coach Heathcote turned the Michigan State program into a basketball powerhouse and before he coached Magic Johnson, he actually was the head men’s coach at the University of Montana from 1971-76. With that context, let me tell my story.

I snapped this very crooked photo of Coach Jud Heathcote (with cane) in front of his 1974-75 Montana basketball team at the 2010 Grizzly Hall of Fame induction banquet. To Jud’s left is Ed Anderson, another inductee of the ’10 class. I had the pleasure of organizing the event.

One of the first big tasks in my professional career came seven years ago. At the time I was the assistant marketing director in the athletic department at Montana. During the early summer of 2010, I was asked to organize that year’s Grizzly Hall of Fame induction banquet. In order to make this come to frution, I had to complete tasks such as choosing a venue, selecting the meal, coordinating audio/visual equipment, securing hotel rooms, and of course corresponding with the inductees. Who were the inductees, you might ask?

In 2010, we enshrined both an athlete and a team. The athlete was a man named Ed Anderson, a former three-sport Griz star who dominated the Skyline Conference in the 1950s. The team was the 1974-75 Griz basketball squad that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, narrowly losing to basketball giant UCLA for the right to play in the Elite 8. The head coach of Montana was no other than Jud Heathcote.

I corresponded with the players, mostly through mail and phone, to get as many of them as possible to Missoula for the banquet. A couple members of the team proved especially helpful to me, doing all they could to reach out to guys I didn’t have contact info for and putting the pressure on the ones who were on the fence about making the commitment.

Of course, the big question mark was whether Jud Heathcote would attend. Living in Spokane and 83 years old at the time, it wasn’t a sure thing that he would be able to make it. Whenever I would talk to a player or assistant coach on the team via phone, they would all ask me the same thing: Is Jud coming?

That question was answered one day when I received a phone call.

Me: Grizzly Marketing, this is Brent.
Voice: This is Jud Heathcote.

I was on the phone with Coach Heathcote! He didn’t have someone else RSVP for him, he decided to call me directly. He confirmed that he would attend the banquet and then went down the entire roster asking me if each player would be attending. He was to the point and brief.

The night of the banquet I was incredibly nervous. The event would be attended by donors, athletic department administrators, community big shots, and current Grizzly Hall of Fame members, not to mention the people we were celebrating that night, the 2010 class. Would my organization skills and attention to detail pay off? Or would I embarrass myself?

Throughout the evening, the pieces fell into place. Venue, food, equipment, crowd, etc., all proved satisfactory. With most of my personal questions now answered, there was a prevailing BIG question that everyone at the ceremony was asking themselves: Would Coach Heathcote speak?

Ah yes, Jud spoke.

Some thought he might leave it to an assistant coach or player to address the large crowd that had turned out, but the celebrated leader himself took the podium.

I don’t remember word for word what Heathcote said. In fact, to be honest, I don’t really remember the theme he centered his speech around. However, I can clearly recount three of my observations from listening to him speak:

1. He was gracious – Coach Heathcote spent a considerable amount of time praising his fellow inductee, Ed Anderson. He was not about to let Mr. Anderson’s amazing accomplishments become overshadowed by himself or his team.

2. He was funny – With a sense of humor drier than the Sahara Desert, Coach Heathcote slipped in jokes and references that had the place howling.

3. He was sharp – Using uncanny precision, Coach Heathcote remembered seemingly everything from his Montana days: games, statistics, plays, etc. It was incredible to hear him recount so many details from 40 years ago.

After the ceremony, I can’t even remember if I shook his hand or not. However, I did get to greet him prior to his entrance into the banquet hall. With that said, I didn’t get an autograph, selfie, or intimate conversation with the coaching legend. But it wasn’t that important to me. I had our phone call and I had the memory of his speech. I send my condolences to the Heathcote family and I hope Jud rests in peace. Don’t Blink.

Can I Interest You in a Thursday Rundown?

In one week from today it will be September. Crazy, huh? Here comes your final Thursday Rundown of the month.

End of a Mini Mascot – One of the very first things I did in my professional career while working in the athletic department at the University of Montana was introduce a mini mascot. Sounds creepy, right? Don’t be so quick to judge! Fresh off of graduating from college in 2009, I worked with the mom of a talented boy to create Mo, a miniature version of the University of Montana mascot, Monte. It was borderline magical the day we surprised a wild Washington-Grizzly Stadium sold out crowd with the newest addition to our mascot family. Well, after a great seven year run, Mo will no longer grace the sidelines…at least for now. I want to thank the two kids who wore the costume and represented Grizzly Athletics so well.

I enjoyed helping to develop Mo (right) when I was at the University of Montana.

I enjoyed helping to develop Mo (right) when I was at the University of Montana.

War Dogs – It had been a couple months since I saw a really good movie. However, the bad streak ended last week when Sidney and I went to the theater to watch “War Dogs.” Finally, a movie that lived up to the hype I set for it! The true story was portrayed in an intriguing way and the acting of Jonah Hill was out of control (in a good way of course). Bradley Cooper played a darker role that you don’t always get to see him in. The film also delivered plenty of laughs as well as a recent history lesson. I totally recommend “War Dogs.”

In Front of the Camera – Classes started for Coastal Carolina University this week and it has been a very exciting time. Luckily for me, I was able to share some of my enthusiasm with WPDE (ABC 15) on Monday. The station called wondering if I would do an interview addressing our social media momentum. Thankfully they didn’t have me talk that much. To watch Sydney Glenn’s story, click here.

A screenshot from my interview with WPDE's Sydney Glenn on Monday.

A screenshot from my interview with WPDE’s Sydney Glenn on Monday.

Final Thoughts on Summer Olympics – The Rio Games concluded on Sunday and I must admit that I didn’t watch much of the closing ceremonies. I just find it sad. I love the Summer Olympics and to see them end after four years of anticipation is hard. I feel bad in my heart for all the athletes who worked so hard for their moment in Rio only for it now to be over. On a lighter note, I really enjoyed watching America dominate the games. What I didn’t enjoy was the Ryan Lochte saga. It really took A LOT away from the games and unfortunately it will forever be a defining part of the 2016 Summer Olympics. But I try to look at the positives and I can say that there was nothing better than watching the games with my wife in the evenings.

From the Archives – So, would you like to read about me defending a social media user, reviewing a Darius Rucker concert, or evaluating Instagram Video? On this date in 2015 I came to the side of a typical American who was condemned for giving the play-by-play over Twitter of a breakup on a plane. In 2014 I shared my thoughts on the Darius Rucker concert I attended that weekend. Finally, in 2013 I reviewed Instagram Video about two months after it launched. Pick your poison.

Me with my Darius Rucker shirt after his concert in 2014.

Me with my Darius Rucker shirt after his concert in 2014.

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Thank you to my readers for taking the time to read Don’t Blink. Hopefully soon I will be introducing another reader appreciation opportunity for all of you. Enjoy the rest of August. Don’t Blink.

Offers That People Refuse

Yesterday evening, Sidney and I went out to the ballpark to watch our local minor league baseball team, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. After indulging in $2 craft beers on the stadium’s concourse, we went to our seats. The second we sat down I saw a young guy take notice of us and immediately start walking our way. He was in uniform so at first I thought he was an usher who was going to check our tickets. Turned out he was part of the marketing crew.

“Hey guys, would you like to be our Cheerwine Fans of the Game? We upgrade your seats, give you Cheerwine gear, and put you on the video board,” the probably 19 or 20-year-old nervously stammered.

Sure! We stood up, grabbed our boiled peanuts and beer, and followed the kid to the first row behind the third base dugout. With us seated, he went and got us Cheerwine hats, cozies, and wrist bands. Oh yes, he also brought us each a tall cup of the beverage itself. In our new seats, the guy sat down right next to us so we wouldn’t miss our “big moment” on the video board. While we waited for the first inning to end (at which time the cameras would be on us), the kid chatted us up. He explained how it was a big night for him because he had been moved off of the 50/50 raffle team and given the chance to help lead the promotional efforts for that game.

Sid and I enjoying the Myrtle Beach Pelicans game from our upgraded seats.

Sid and I enjoying the Myrtle Beach Pelicans game from our upgraded seats.

After a long first inning in which the Pelicans scored five runs, it was finally time for us to wave at the camera. For 15 seconds we stared at the designated spot and smiled. Because I am a mindful marketer, I made sure to wear my Cheerwine hat and feature my beverage as much as possible during the cameo. After we got the thumbs up from the camera guy I turned to Sidney and said let’s go back to our seats.

What stood out to me most about our fan of the game experience wasn’t that we got free swag or that a stadium full of people saw us on the video board. What registered with me was something else that the young lad said to us prior to the third out in the first inning.

These were the Cheerwine hats we received...pretty nice if you ask me!

These were the Cheerwine hats we received…pretty nice if you ask me!

“You two were the very first people I asked to do this,” the Pelicans employee confessed, “I don’t know what I would have done if ya’ll said no.”

As someone who used to work in the sports marketing and promotions industry, I wanted to blurt out, “You would have turned right around and asked someone else!”

Working in the marketing and promotions business, I quickly learned that it is a person’s gut reaction to say “no” to just about everything. I remember working as an intern in the athletic department at the University of Montana and pitching the exact same promotion (different sponsor) to folks up in the nosebleeds who would DECLINE it. Premium courtside seats, free food, apparel, and arena recognition just wasn’t enough for them. Although I now know it really wasn’t about the compensation. In reality, people just don’t like to leave their comfort zone, both physically and mentally, even if it means a big improvement.

When I worked at Montana, especially during basketball games, you learned how sometimes it could be harder than you thought to get people to do promotions.

When I worked at Montana, especially during basketball games, you learned how sometimes it could be harder than you thought to get people to do promotions.

When you learn that a person’s first inclination is to say no, you simultaneously learn how to deal with rejection. Even though plenty of people say no to it, getting folks to agree to become fans of the game is by far one of the easier promotions to convince someone to do. Trust me, try to bait someone into doing an actual on-court or on-field promotion and see what I mean. My point is that the young man we dealt with yesterday will most likely get denied far more times than not.

Sure I could have been a jerk and declined his fan of the game offer or I could have replied back to his “I don’t know what I would have done” comment but there was really no need to. He will learn for himself very shortly. Besides, I love to help out any young and ambitious sports marketer. And, let’s just be honest here, I don’t have a comfort zone. If you are going to offer me free stuff, I am going to take it. Sidney and I had a very good time at the Myrtle Beach Pelicans game last night. Don’t Blink.

Great Mistake, One Year, Camp Carty, Olive Garden

A reason why I like my Thursday Rundown weekly post is because it breaks up the traditional paragraph format that I usually write in. However, this past week I have written a few times in a bullet point/list style. So let me apologize right now for taking away some of Thursday’s thunder because here I go again with a list of five random items.

Happy, ummm… Half Birthday? – Today my office went out to lunch to celebrate those people who have birthdays in March and April. During the meal, our graphics team handed out birthday cards. If you didn’t read my post about this very special tradition, please click here and do so because what they do is awesome. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I was given a card! There was a miscommunication and our Director of Creative Services (the one who I put on a t-shirt) had one created for me, thinking it was my birthday. I don’t turn another year older until October 8. I felt a little bad that so much effort was put into creating something for me that I didn’t deserve but man what they created sure was funny. Join me as we go Behind the Blog.

Our graphics department created this hilarious birthday card for me based on VH1's "Behind the Music." Yes, that is my face on Slash's body.

Our graphics department created this hilarious birthday card for me based on VH1’s “Behind the Music.” Yes, that is my face on Slash’s body.

One Year Ago – Today marks one year since I last worked for Grizzly Athletics. On April 16, 2014, I walked off the campus of the University of Montana for the last time, lured away by the amazing opportunity at Coastal Carolina University and the beautiful weather of Myrtle Beach. A lot has changed within the Adams Center since I left but I definitely still feel connected to the place. If they aren’t playing the Chanticleers, I am cheering for the Griz.

It has been one full year since I last worked for Grizzly Athletics.

It has been one full year since I last worked for Grizzly Athletics.

Carty Camp – Regarding Sean Carty’s quest to retain his rightful spot as Mead High School head football coach, the appeals process is close to getting started. From what I have been told, union leadership and district coaches (not to mention the Mead community) are devoting all efforts to get this terrible decision overturned. In a development that will make any student-athlete or 99% of parents cringe, the small group who fought for the ouster of Carty actually did so with threats of a lawsuit. Can you imagine? I don’t like my kid’s coach so I am going to sue. I hear that as time goes on, these parents will be exposed more and more. Once again, the e-mail address of Dr. Rockefeller can be accessed by clicking here. If you have a few minutes, I encourage you to write a letter of support for Sean Carty.

The community is united to save this warrior (photo courtesy of Dan Pelle).

The community is united to save this warrior (photo courtesy of Dan Pelle).

Olive Garden Improvements – In the past I have been critical of the Olive Garden but I love the changes they are making. Pretty soon every single table in every single Olive Garden restaurant will have a tablet. Via the device, customers will be able to order drinks and appetizers. Talk about convenience! Having the power to bypass the wait for a server to come to your table to take such an order in my mind is a nice luxury. The human interaction will still be there though as servers will take entrée orders and provide customer service. Probably best of all though, customers will be able to use the tablets not just to pay bills but to split them as well. Although I might think Olive Garden breadsticks are extremely overrated, I have always appreciated the restaurant’s dedication to improving the dining experience.

Two Babies – It has been too long since I updated you on my niece so let me get you up to speed. Mikayla is now seven months old and is smiling, playing, and kicking. She is starting to get a fuzzy head and is developing a very loving personality. This past week, my parents welcomed a brand new baby kitten into the family. Muffin replaces Nabisco, a treasured cat our family had for about 16 years who passed away in September of 2013. I can’t wait to get back to Spokane at the end of June and see both Mikayla and Muffin.

Mikayla and my sister on the left and Muffin on the right.

Mikayla and my sister on the left and Muffin on the right.

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Another Thursday Rundown in the books! Have a great evening and thank you for your readership. Don’t Blink.

The Gym That Became A Home

First the bad news: This is another blog post consisting of me saying goodbye to something in Missoula. Now the good news: You only have two more days of this left.

When it comes down to the one place where I have spent the majority of my days in Montana it is surprisingly not at work. It is not a residence I have lived in. It isn’t even Buffalo Wild Wings. From the time I arrived in Montana in 2006 to my departure tomorrow I have spent some part of probably 90% of my days at the University of Montana Fitness and Recreation Center.

Out of my years in Missoula, I entered the doors of this facility more than any other place in the state.

Out of my years in Missoula, I entered the doors of this facility more than any other place in the state.

When I complete my final workout at the rec tomorrow it will put an end to an exercise era for me where I went through the turnstiles of the facility no less than 2,000 times (yes, I did the math). The UM Rec Center provided me with the one constant I had during my entire eight year odyssey in Missoula. It will be strange walking out of it for the last time.

Right when I got to campus as a college freshman I started to hit up the gym. Throughout my time as a student I would rise at 5:30 a.m. every morning so I could arrive at the rec for the 6 a.m. opening. I would get my workout in and then move on with my day. When I got hired by Grizzly Athletics I had the ultimate perk of working only 200 feet from my loyal gym. My exercise sessions transitioned from early morning to the lunch hour but as my iron pumping times switched something else stayed the same: Relationship building.

Me standing outside of the University of Montana Fitness and Recreation Center this afternoon.

Me standing outside of the University of Montana Fitness and Recreation Center this afternoon.

I have met many people by way of working out at the rec center. When you bust your butt to get better at a consistent time each day you notice the other people who are also consistently busting their butts to get better too. A bond forms. Many times the bond develops into a verbal, first-name relationship. Other times it doesn’t get to the talking stage but more than enough is expressed by the nod of respect that is exchanged each time paths cross. I have developed both of these types of bonds over the years.

Besides the people, I will miss other things about the rec center. I will miss the beautiful facility itself, a multiple story building complete with an outstanding weight room floor, top notch cardio equipment, climbing wall, racquet ball courts, running track, and great smoothie bar. I will miss the convenience that I have enjoyed so much over the past 4+ years working for Grizzly Athletics. I will miss the interactions, conflicts, and people watching I observed. I will miss the respite I got each day when I would stop what I was doing at around noon and sweat it all out at the gym.

But with that in mind I still go back to the people. You can’t replace them. When I interviewed at Coastal Carolina my student tour guide took me to their rec center and it is a beauty! I will have no problem getting my workouts in and getting a good escape from the rigors of the daily grind. However, the people who go to the rec center at the University of Montana will still be in Missoula. But you know what? People bust their butts at gyms all across the country. Soon enough I hope to have relationships with the folks I will see on a consistent basis at the CCU facility. But I won’t forget about the regulars who I shared the gym floor with at the University of Montana Rec Center for eight years. With that said, I can’t wait to dominate my workout tomorrow. Don’t Blink.

My Top Ten Best Moments Working For Grizzly Athletics

I have just one week remaining at the University of Montana and I can’t help but think of all the wonderful moments I have had the privilege of taking part in or helping directly with during my tenure. Tonight I want to reflect on some of the times I will never forget while serving the Montana Grizzlies. I give you my top ten moments working for Grizzly Athletics:

10. 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament: After experiencing the men’s tourney the year prior, I got the opportunity to attend the Women’s NCAA Tournament when the Lady Griz qualified for the Big Dance in 2013. Serving as the Pep Band/Spirit Squad contact while also covering all facets of the trip for our social media audience I enjoyed my time in Spokane at Gonzaga University. Although the Lady Griz ended up falling to powerhouse Georgia they put up a great fight and I got to watch all the action from under the basket.

I snapped this photo of the team at the practice session at Gonzaga the day before the game.

I snapped this photo of the team at the practice session at Gonzaga the day before the game.

9. NACMA Retreat: During the summer of 2012 the University of Montana had the distinction of hosting the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators Board of Directors retreat. Former Marketing Director Christie Anderson worked her way up to a prestigious spot on the NACMA Board of Directors and spearheaded a successful campaign for the hosting opportunity. She let me come along to beautiful Whitefish, Montana, where the retreat was held and help out with the three day event. I had the opportunity to network with the best intercollegiate athletic marketers in the country. Listening to their ideas and challenges provided me with a wonderful learning and development opportunity.

I hung around these intercollegiate athletics marketers for a few days

I hung around these intercollegiate athletics marketers for a few days

8. 2013 Home Opener Against Appalachian State: In what would be my last football season for the Griz, our home opener was truly memorable. After much buildup to a brand new fan experience in Washington-Grizzly Stadium our advertising did not disappoint as the game went perfectly. All of our planning, brainstorming, and hard work paid off as everything from the sky divers to the Monte entrance to the fireworks to all the intricacies of our protocol went off without a hitch. And oh yeah, on a gorgeous night under the lights our football team steamrolled Appalachian State, 30-6.

My brother and dad got to come over for this great game. After the game I went on the field with them to get a picture.

My brother and dad got to come over for this great game. After the game I went on the field with them to get a picture.

7. The Roots of “United”: After our athletic director and head football coach were let go completely out of the blue in March of 2012 the Missoula community was in crisis mode as people reacted to the news in a variety of different ways. As the dialogue started to get very volatile and as the national media started to converge the young men on the Griz football team gave all of us a true example of what class and restraint is all about. The team provided us with a letter that we posted on www.gogriz.com that gave a nod to their former leaders, took responsibility for the allegations, promised to hold themselves to higher standards, and asked the community to stick with them. At the conclusion of the letter it stated that with or without that community support they would come back stronger than ever. They certainly did.

6. Montana Grizzlies Facebook Page Reaches 100K Likes: In a major milestone for the Griz Social Media program, our department’s official Facebook page went over 100,000 likes in early March of 2014. In a league completely above anyone else in the Big Sky Conference and the FCS, this mark validated the emphasis our department had placed on social media and provided just another example of why Griz Nation has some of the best fans in the country.

5. A Memorable 2013-14 Lady Griz Basketball Season: Although the 2013-14 Montana women’s basketball team did not advance to the NCAA Tournament I will still remember it very fondly for a couple reasons. First there was Robin Selvig’s 800th win. The celebration that ensued with him and his team followed by Coach Selvig’s humorous and touching speech will forever stay with me. Secondly, the two games we got to host for the WNIT were so much fun. The team played their hearts out and our fan base truly showed up to support them as much as possible. Although I really wish the Lady Griz would have picked up the win against San Diego I will just remember the noise level in the arena and the feeling inside of me that our players and fans truly valued the post season opportunity they were given.

I hope somewhere this speech is recorded (photo courtesy of the great Todd Goodrich).

I hope somewhere this speech is recorded (photo courtesy of the great Todd Goodrich).

4. 2009 Appalachian State Snow Game Semi-Final: This game goes down as the most memorable game ever inside of Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Besides the national television audience, the snow, the lights, and the big time victory to advance to the national championship it was also a breakout game for me as the stadium DJ. As a brand new employee for Grizzly Athletics tasked with the big job of running music at the football games, I was always nervous come game time. However, after that game my nerves seemed to permanently go away. Mostly because of the atmosphere that night everything I sent through the stadium speakers seemed to work. Music traditions were born that evening and it was the only time I ever played music postgame at a football event as fans stayed long after to party on the snowy Washington-Grizzly Stadium turf.

3. Griz Demolish Montana State in Bozeman in 2011: During the football season of 2011, the Griz-Cat game was held in Bobcat Stadium with Montana State boasting an undefeated record in Big Sky Conference play. No one gave Montana a chance. It was supposed to be some type of formality for the Bobcats to win and celebrate with the Brawl of the Wild trophy. Are you kidding me? The Griz used the disrespect to kick the tar out of Montana State from the get-go. Early third quarter the fans inside Bobcat Stadium were literally leaving. When the final horn sounded Montana had sealed the victory 36-10 and at the time secured another Big Sky Conference championship. Vacated or not, standing on the sidelines for that game was the sweetest moment I have had as a Griz.

Christie and I during the half at the 2011 Brawl of the Wild Griz-Cat game.

Christie and I during the half at the 2011 Brawl of the Wild Griz-Cat game.

2. Griz and Lady Griz Go Dancing on Same Day Under Same Roof: Just the buildup in general to March 16, 2013 was an awesome moment all in itself. Grizzly Athletics had the pleasure of hosting both the men’s and women’s basketball Big Sky Conference tournaments last year. As I worked every single one of those tournament games I kept telling myself how lucky I was to have the opportunity to be a part of something like this. To get to the final day and realize that we very well could send both our teams to the premier college basketball tournaments in the nation made me know that an already awesome experience could get even better. Boy, did it.

With fireworks going off pregame and confetti falling from the rafters after, the game presentation we put together was almost as good as the play of our teams. The Lady Griz defeated Northern Colorado and the Griz took down Weber State as both Montana basketball programs punched tickets to the Big Dance on the same day on their home floor. Not only had both our basketball teams pulled it off but our staff had pulled it off as well in providing quality tournaments that you don’t see at other conference schools. Along with the 2013 Griz football home opener, I had never been more proud of the experience afforded to fans that day.

March 16, 2013 will never be forgotten in the history of Grizzly Athletics.

March 16, 2013 will never be forgotten in the history of Grizzly Athletics.

1. 2012 NCAA Tournament: By far one of the best experiences of my entire life, getting to travel with the Griz basketball team to Albuquerque for the 2012 NCAA Tournament earns the #1 spot on my list for top moments while at Grizzly Athletics. NCAA Tourneys are so special in general but to have the opportunity to be front and center as a participating institution takes it to a whole different level. I had the opportunity to cover the tournament for our social media outlets and gogriz.com. I got to attend the practice with the team. I enjoyed a tour of The Pit. I volunteered my services passing out tickets to the people on the travel party. I watched the game courtside with Christie and our dance team coach.

But you know what? Besides the responsibilities strictly related to the tournament I also got to have a lot of fun. I soaked in the refreshing Albuquerque sun, ate the best Mexican food I had ever had, stayed in a super nice hotel, toured the town, and had the best time with my co-workers. What an amazing experience!

Monte and I before we went out on the court for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Monte and I before we went out on the court for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

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I am so indebted to Grizzly Athletics for these special moments that I will carry with me forever. I will reflect on them now but in three weeks I will be totally committed to making new top moments and memories at Coastal Carolina University. Can’t wait to start building a new top ten list in the South! Don’t Blink.

Not A Fan of Snow Days

Today I awoke at 6:15 a.m. to an e-mail from campus communications informing the community that classes at the University of Montana had been cancelled due to the extreme and dangerous weather conditions. About fifteen minutes later our associate athletic director sent out an e-mail to all athletics staff saying there was no need to come to work today. Similar messages were relayed to most all other staff on campus as well.

Yes, a very rare snow day occurred in Missoula. I think the early morning deafening howls of wind proved the final factor to UM administrators to make the decision on an unscheduled three day weekend. They probably made the right choice.

In the past couple days Missoula has received several heavy snow showers. The white stuff has literally dumped into our valley. But most people who live in Montana can handle large amounts of snow, we deal with it six months out of the year. However the tipping factor was the wind. With gusts over 50 miles per hour and the truest whiteout conditions you could ever imagine I think most people understood and appreciated the closures and suspensions of services.

When I first heard about the news I rose from my bed and informed our social media audience of the closures. I then texted with my direct supervisor who confirmed that it was best to just stay home. A thought then ran through my head: “An unplanned weekday off? This is very strange.”

Not that I didn’t have plenty to do. I had a full agenda of work tasks that I had the full capability to complete right on my cozy couch. I also had a couple personal projects to work on as well. I also realized the perfect opportunity I had to clean around my apartment. So after taking a longer than normal shower I went right to work, keeping busy for several hours. However, even with my brain fully stimulated I still just had a very different feeling. It didn’t seem right sitting on my couch at 11 a.m. on a weekday. It didn’t seem right eating something other than my peanut butter sandwich for lunch that I always have at work. It didn’t seem right turning on ESPN and watching daily shows that I haven’t seen since I was a college student. It didn’t seem right (it actually wasn’t right) that I didn’t have the luxury to finish my week off with a great workout. It just didn’t seem right to be home.

I managed to get plenty of work done from home today but I didn't particularly like it.

I managed to get plenty of work done from home today but I didn’t particularly like it.

Although I know shutting down the town for the day was in the absolute best interest for the community I don’t care for the feeling I get with a free day off. I just feel like I am getting behind, I feel like I am slacking in a way. I feel like I haven’t earned it. With that said I worked hard today to fight that feeling and get as much done as possible. I believe I made progress so I won’t go to bed with too much disappointment. But would I have rather worked in the office today? You bet.

Kudos and respect to all the people out in the Missoula community right now plowing roads, delivering mail, picking up garbage, patrolling the streets, responding to accidents, etc. Also, thoughts and prayers to the people impacted by the avalanche today (yes, we had an avalanche this afternoon). The weather will get better and things will get back to normal…let’s just hope it is sooner rather than later. Don’t Blink.

The Red Book

As someone who loves history and as someone who loves to write out detailed daily records, I take great appreciation in a priceless resource we have available at Grizzly Athletics. While I think I have showed commitment by writing out a thorough summary of every day I have lived for the past fourteen years, I am quickly put to shame by a legend who kept handwritten records on a much larger scale for 43 years.

My office is right next door to the office of our Sports Information Director, Dave Guffey. In his own right, Dave is a legend himself in Grizzly Athletics having served as our SID for 35 years. It only makes sense then that one legend cares for the work of the other. The other day Dave and I were talking in his office about something that I can’t even remember but it led him to exclaim “Let’s check out the Red Book!”

Here is me with the Red Book. It is HUGE.

Here is me with the Red Book. It is HUGE.

He then went to the end of his office to a book shelf and pulled out the greatest representation of Grizzly Athletics history, the Red Book. Because the thing is so large and weighs so much, I felt some concern as Dave lifted it from the shelf and transported it over to his desk (but he managed just fine). He opened the encyclopedia and investigated the issue at hand. Because of the clarity and the magnificent organization of the book he found the info we were looking for within seconds. The two of us then engaged in a conversation over how remarkable the book is.

The Red Book is one of the most precious items within Grizzly Athletics.

The Red Book is one of the most precious items within Grizzly Athletics.

Jiggs Dahlberg was a student-athlete, coach, and athletic director at the University of Montana. He guided the men’s basketball program for many years and holds the school record for most wins. Our basketball arena is named after him. Besides the three roles I mentioned that he held you can also add a fourth: Historian.

Jiggs Dahlberg filled up around 1,000 pages just like this of Grizzly Athletics history in the Red Book.

Jiggs Dahlberg filled up around 1,000 pages just like this of Grizzly Athletics history in the Red Book.

In 1937, Dahlberg started to write in the Red Book. He reached all the way back to 1897 and started his record keeping there and then updated it all the way through 1937. At thay point he dutifully updated it on a regular basis throughout his whole tenure with Grizzly Athletics and even through retirement, writing his last entry in 1980. As you can see from the image I took below of his last entry, he filled up 963 enormous pages with schedules, stats, rosters, summaries, and more detailing the history of all sports within Grizzly Athletics. In fact, he wrote more than that as at the end of the book you will find “bonus pages” filled with the names of award winners. Jiggs filled up over half the book, as its numbered pages extends past 1,500.

Looking at this image you can see the depth that Jiggs went into, even making sure to include the names of squad members who did not letter.

Looking at this image you can see the depth that Jiggs went into, even making sure to include the names of squad members who did not letter.

As Dave and I talked he had me flip to various spots in the book. He sent me to the page chronicling the 1948-49 men’s basketball team that had a spectacular year. Guff and I got a chuckle out of some of the opponents the Griz played that year as they racked up a couple of wins against AAU teams in midseason. He also turned my attention to some of the season summaries that Jiggs would pen. Brutally honest while at the same time giving credit where credit was due, Dahlberg wrote out a thoughtful and accurate recap of each individual sports season in Grizzly Athletics from 1897 through 1980. Dave then had me flip to Dahlberg’s last entry where he wrote that at 82 years old, he felt a younger person should take over the duties of recording the history of Grizzly Athletics in the Red Book. As electronic records became dominant in the industry, that younger person never wrote a single word in the Red Book. To this day, every written letter in those pages is from Jiggs Dahlberg.

Here is the famous last entry from Jiggs Dahlberg in the Red Book.

Here is the famous last entry from Jiggs Dahlberg in the Red Book.

The care, depth, and accuracy of the Red Book is amazing. It is a true historic gem. It got me wondering how many thousands of hours Dahlberg devoted to its contents. It also validated my reasoning for keeping the meticulous records that I do of my life. As Dave and I thumbed through the pages and enjoyed the historical work of Jiggs Dahlberg, I too hope that one day my future kids and relatives will be able to look through the work that I have done and find similar enjoyment. Thank you Jiggs Dahlberg for your amazing historical contribution to Grizzly Athletics. Don’t Blink

Congrats on Win #800, Coach Selvig

Tonight I feel truly blessed to have worked a game that ended in an amazing accomplishment, by far the greatest basketball feat I have ever witnessed in person. Our women’s basketball coach here at the University of Montana, Robin Selvig, picked up his 800th victory as the Lady Griz defeated a tough Portland team, 68-61.

Just a few statistics for you real fast: There are only seven other Division I active coaches who have 800 wins. Coaches with names such as Krzyzewski, Boeheim, VanDerveer, and Auriemma. Coach Selvig has had 33 winning seasons. He has had 28 seasons where he won 20 games or more. He has won conference coach of the year 20 different times . And my favorite, he has guided the Lady Griz to 25 NCAA tournaments! That is worth repeating, he has taken his team to the Big Dance TWENTY-FIVE times.

Coach Selvig delivers his speech after his 800th win tonight

Coach Selvig delivers his speech after his 800th win tonight

But the number that really strikes me about Robin is 35. That is the number of seasons he has spent as head coach of the Lady Griz. The intercollegiate athletics coaching business is not about loyalty, well at least not to 99% of the people in the industry not named Robin Selvig. Coach could have packed up and succeeded at other head coaching positions but decided to stay at Montana. He could have traveled off to East Lansing when Jud Heathcote asked him to be an assistant coach at Michigan State. He could have pursued a multitude of other basketball related positions with higher salaries in warmer climates. But he chose to stay where he was happy. He chose to stay where he knew he was making a difference. He chose to stay at a place where a rabid fan base needed him.

Coach Selvig spent a happy minute with his team in the huddle after winning his 800th game.

Coach Selvig spent a happy minute with his team in the huddle after winning his 800th game.

Just a couple personal things about Robin Selvig that I would like to mention. Besides that he is a star employee just based on the fact that he has produced 800 wins for Grizzly Athletics, he is an invaluable employee because of how he conducts himself in the athletic department and how he treats others. Never too big for anyone, Robin always takes the time to look me in the eye and cheerfully greets me with a “Hi Brent” whenever we cross paths in the hall. He never thought twice about helping us out when we filmed a Monte video where we had him stand in an elevator (he played the part perfectly). Don’t put it past him to dress up in a Santa Claus outfit either because he will do that instantly. During press conferences he takes questions from everyone and always responds with an articulate, and many times hilarious, answer (please let me take this moment to say that very few people on this planet come close to matching the sense of humor that Robin has). His heart is enormous and he has helped countless people by way of his program, and I am not just talking players.

Besides everything I just mentioned, I have personally witnessed Robin Selvig stand up for those around him and those he has worked with in big time, high stakes situations. It was incredible to see and will forever make me recognize Robin as an amazing person before I recognize him as an amazing coach.

Congrats Coach Selvig on your 800th win.

Congrats Coach Selvig on your 800th win.

Robin Selvig is a legend. There is no other way to say it. He is a giant in the state of Montana, a highly regarded coach nationally, and a stand up human being. I will take it to my grave that I roamed the same halls as Coach Selvig for no less than four years and that I got to stand two feet away from him as he delivered his 800th victory speech. As you could probably guess, he gave all the credit to his players. Ladies and gentlemen, Robin Selvig. Don’t Blink.