University of Florida journalism student Adam Pincus attends Super Bowl media day as part of a sports reporting class trip to New Orleans Jan. 29.
The closer the Super Bowl is to Gainesville, Fla., the better.
Since 2010, University of Florida (UF) journalism professor and Yahoo! Sports writer Jason Cole has given his sports-reporting students the opportunity to attend Super Bowl media day, if it is in close proximity to UF.
It started when Cole had Sports Illustrated writer Peter King drive from Tampa to Gainesville before the 2009 Super Bowl to talk to his class. He then decided to have the students take the trip to the media day themselves.
“I’d rather put the students out to travel then make someone drive to them,” Cole said.
He made them a deal: Find your own transportation and he would cover the hotel and dinner.
In 2010, his entire class of 15 students took him up on the offer and attended Super Bowl media day in Miami. Cole, who has covered the NFL since 1992, has made enough contacts within the league that they trust his intentions with the students.
“My approach is much more real world than academic,” he said. “You can’t learn in a classroom.”
New Orleans was “right on the cusp” for the students to take the drive this year. About four hours more than the 2010 trip, the six students drove up Monday night and arrived Tuesday morning, going straight to an IHOP. They did not realize Café Du Monde, a New Orleans staple known for its beignets (French doughnuts), was open 24 hours a day.
After breakfast, they obtained their credentials and met Cole before going to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where throngs of media outlets set up shop.
Cole organized several guest speakers for the students, including King, NFL Network reporter Jeff Darlington and The Record sports columnist Tara Sullivan.
The students also toured Radio Row, where a line of national radio stations held their equipment, before they were bused to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for media day.
There they saw everyone from newly hired Inside Edition correspondent Katherine Webb to a reporter in a Viking costume. Even Nickelodeon had a reporter.
“It’s kind of a party,” junior journalism student Adam Pincus said. “The professionalism is not there from everybody.”
John Wright, UF’s director of sports journalism and communications, says the experience outweighs any potential concern.
“It’s extremely valuable for our students to get involved with events of this level,” he said. “There is always concern, but we have been extremely fortunate.”
On Facebook and Twitter, the students shared pictures featuring themselves alongside notable sports analysts such as ESPN’s John Clayton.
Junior journalism student Jon Czupryn even had his question answered by Baltimore Ravens quarterback and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco during a press conference.
“You had to be there to see it,” Czupryn said. “As a college student, it was truly a blessing to be doing this so early in our career.”
After media day, Cole bought dinner for the students at southern food hotspot Jacques-Imo’s Cafe before they headed back to Gainesville the following morning.
“I have the media pass in my backpack right now,” Czupryn said. “I still can’t believe it.”
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