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Lessons learned from the NCAA headquarters

By Reese Anderson

When Yahoo! Sports published documents from the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball Feb. 23, it implicated players from more than 20 of the nation's top programs in possible NCAA rules violations.

That same day, the PRSSA sports committee took a trip to Indianapolis to visit the NCAA headquarters.

On what may have been one of their busiest days this year, five members of their PR team took time out to meet and answer questions from students. They talked candidly about the job acquisition process, their day-to-day responsibilities and long-term insight they’ve gleaned as women working for such a highly criticized organization.

Every day, the team receives a news briefing for the day. They described their job as issues-driven rather than department-driven. Some of their assignments occur consistently or on a year-to-year basis. They designate most of their time, however, to a slew of different challenges each day.

Director of Public and Media Relations Stacey Osburn talked about her role as a woman in a male-dominated sports industry.

“It can be tough,” she said. “I try not to think about the fact that I’m the only female at the table sometimes. The more you think about it, the more weight you give it.”

The other women told stories of being asked why they wanted to go into sports PR, followed by “Do you just want to marry a player?” Not only did they describe the challenges of working in the sports industry, but they spoke on their individual routes to their current jobs.

“Everyone should work at an ad agency,” said Emily James, IU graduate and associate director of public and media relations. “You learn so much about time management. There were a lot of 80-hour work weeks.”

They answered questions on job searching, as well. They placed an emphasis on the role of cover letters as a source of personality. Cover letters, they said, can differentiate.

Assistant Director Meghan Durham said she got her job at NCAA because of her cover letter. She talked about the NCAA’s specific business model and how she fit into that, which she later found out to be extremely attractive for an applicant.

Michelle Hosick added that the industry is extremely relational, and that an interview speaks even louder than a cover letter. She added, however, that she wished she would have relaxed more during her time in college. She said she worried so much about getting a job she missed out on life her senior year.

“It’s okay to make the wrong career choice,” she said. “Knowing what my job is and that it’s not my life is important.”

All of the speakers talked about their experiences at NCAA as positive, but not without woe. Despite personal attacks on social media, they talked about having thick skin and enduring alongside each other.

“We laugh a lot,” Hosick said.

They talked about how close they’ve become as a result of the intense amount of scrutiny they receive. They receive criticism working for the NCAA, sometimes deservedly, they admitted.

From a public relations standpoint, their jobs can be difficult, but this has ultimately benefitted them they said.

“You will never work for a perfect organization,” Durham said. “We all believe in what we’re doing. You have to globally believe in what you do. Holistically, there’s a lot of good here.”


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