Each Crimson Tide home-game football weekend, we'll take a look at a different area that performs behind the scenes.
Each home football Saturday, hundreds of members of the media descend on Bryant-Denny to cover the Crimson Tide's home football games, making the press operation an event in itself.
Hosting hundreds each week takes no small effort, and a group of University of Alabama students are key in ensuring the media end of game day runs smoothly. The Media Relations' student staff, a group of about a dozen UA students under the direction of Associate Athletics Director of Media Relations Doug Walker, work all week to prepare for game day, helping with all the details that range, for them, from running game notes and releases, packing supplies, creating place cards for every seat in the press box, writing stories for the game program, and running any number of errands that come up daily.
"We make place cards and handle the seating in the press box to make sure there's enough room," Emily Screws, a
sophomore from Huntsville, said. "We stuff packets with programs, game notes, conference notes and stats, interview request forms and flip cards and get here about two hours early to hand them out before games.
"We have to be prepared. We don't want on Saturday to have to drive back to our office in the coliseum through all that traffic to get something we've forgotten," she said of the job that also finds her and her crew still working typically two hours after the final horn has sounded.
Being prepared is key, and, while many of their fellow students are beginning the relaxing phase of their weekend on a Friday afternoon, this group's is hard at work. That's when they load cases of copier paper, cases of releases, and any kind of supply that might be needed (scissors, aspirin, notepads, calculators, walkie-talkies, printer ink) into a University van and head to the stadium to set up. Game day is busy enough, so on Fridays they put out stats monitors all along press row and the TV and radio booths for live stats, telephones, seating cards (every seat is assigned), and stuff the notes packets.
"We don't want any emergencies," Screws said. "We know we'll probably have one, but we're okay because we've prepared for them."
On game days, the staff works in and around the Bryant-Denny Stadium Press Box and the Media Room in the North End Zone. Their list of responsibilities ranges from greeting the media as the step off the elevator with a notes packet and showing them to their assigned seat, answering the Press Box phone and giving national media scoring updates throughout the game, supplying the live TV and radio crews with scores from games around the country, copying and handing out stats and play-by-plays at the end of each quarter, and grabbing quotes from players and coaches from both teams after the game and typing those up to hand out to the media and place on UA's website as part of the final stats package.
"Most of our work is done either before or after games," Lenae Douglas, a senior from Michigan, said. "I'm a spotter for our stats, but we also guard the Media Room and locker room directing media where to go and keeping non-credentialed fans out, as well as direct players and get quotes after games in case there are people who can't go to the press conference to get them because they're writing on a deadline or maybe they are getting Alabama's quotes and can't be in the visiting team's area getting those quotes."
While working all Alabama home football games, the media relations student staff also helps out with all of the other varsity
sports for the Crimson Tide. Balancing the sometimes overwhelming number of games, they said, isn't always easy.
"There are certain times with football, volleyball and men's and women's basketball all in season at the same time when it can get pretty hectic," Screws said. "But everyone's pretty understanding about balancing it all with school. If you have a test or a class, then they understand. School has to come first."
The Media Relations Department also includes the area of photography and it, too, employs student workers who take pictures at all Alabama's home events, photographs that will end up, among other places, on the Tide's official website, www.rolltide.com.
Photography's student staff spends the week leading up to game days handling media requests for football, as well as media requests and pictures for all other Alabama sports and work under the direction and supervision of UA athletics staff photographer Kent Gidley. On Saturdays, his students are on the sidelines taking pictures before, during, and after all Alabama football games.
"It definitely gets hectic," Jessica Smith, junior, said. "You just have to take one thing at a time, and do a good job trying to multitask. The main thing is to try to stay calm and not get stressed. If you get stressed you're going to screw up or forget to do something.
"When it gets hectic you've just go to roll with the punches and handle it and get your job done."
While working on the media relations staff or its photography department provides a campus job for the students, it also provides real-world experience for life after college, which they say is just as important. They are meeting and working with national, regional, state and local media outlets, groups from CBS to the campus paper.
"The job entails two of my passions: sports and photography," Smith said. "It's getting me ready for the job I want to be in, so why be in a job where you're not doing something you want to do? I'm getting paid for something I want and love to do."
"My favorite things about the job are the experiences and the people you meet," Douglas said. "It's work, but it's fun establishing connections. The main reason I got the job was for the experience and the networking."
As for the worst part?
"Paper cuts," she said. "Lots and lots of paper cuts."