Final Four a lesson in large-event planning

Photo by Charles Hallman Sheila Her

A group of University of Minnesota students studying event management are getting hands-on experience working with the Men’s Final Four. 

Event Management in Sport is a graduate-level class that has been meeting every Wednesday evening this semester. Along with a required reading list and submitting short papers, the nearly 30 students, thanks to a partnership with the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four, are connecting “theory to practice” for a better understanding of what it takes to put on such a large-scale sporting event. 

“If [the class] wasn’t partnered with the Final Four, we would still look at similar content as far as marketing and planning events,” Instructor Dr. Vicki Schull told the MSR in her Cooke Hall campus office. She taught a similar class last year at Mankato State in which her students worked with Super Bowl volunteers at the same Vikings Stadium where the Final Four will be held in a couple of weeks. 

The seven-course objectives include creating and implementing a volunteer management plan for the Final Four. “This class is offering a little bit more,” Schull explained. Her students are serving as Final Four “point guards” working with volunteers. “This is much more experience-based, so their grades [nearly 70 percent] are based on training the volunteers,” the professor said. 

An estimated 1,000-plus volunteers participated in an orientation session Sunday afternoon at Williams Arena and the Gopher football stadium. “We have 2,000 volunteers,” said Sheila Her of the Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee (MLOC). “We have people of all ages, 18 to 80-plus, people from all over Minnesota, the U.S. We even have someone coming from Australia.” She noted that the group is diverse as well: “Asian to Latino to African American [and] Native [American].”


Photo by Charles Hallman Dr. Vicki Schull

Her was among the event’s scheduled speakers who included top officials from the school’s athletic department, the NCAA, and others who spoke to her class, Schull said. “With this class, we are more integrated with behind-the-scenes [hands-on experience] and learning from industry professionals.”

With Minnesota slated to host more such large-scale events in the next few years, Schull said similar classes could well be offered in the future. “I definitely would like to see it continued. I think it might be scaled back, [because] the Final Four is one of the bigger events.”