As the final seconds of the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl ticked away, the WVU football team’s sideline was electric. A small group of players lifted interim head coach Bill Stewart onto their shoulders, and he triumphantly pumped his fist into the air. As the players poured onto the field in celebration, five School of Journalism news-editorial students interviewed players and snapped photos to capture of the experience.
Todd Krise, Kendal Montgomery, Tony Dobies, Dan Stefano and Kathryn Gregory were given the opportunity to spend four days in Glendale, Ariz., to cover the Fiesta Bowl for The Daily Athenaeum.
“I was really excited to get the chance to travel and get the valuable experience of covering a huge sports event,” said Gregory. “It was exciting to branch out of my comfort zone and go to my first bowl game.”
The trip was a long-awaited opportunity.
“I always told Dan [Stefano] that there was a chance we could go to a BCS bowl,” said Dobies. “This could be the highlight of my career, and I’m still in college.”
The students traveled to Glendale, Pa., from Pittsburgh at 5 a.m. on Dec. 31, preparing to spend the New Year’s holiday covering the biggest story of their college careers.
For two days before the game, the students covered fan activities, including the Insight.com Bowl Block Party held at Arizona State’s campus, where they chose WVU fans to interview from a crowd of a few thousand people.
On game day, the students parted ways, with four of them heading to the press box at University of Phoenix stadium and Montgomery going down to the WVU sideline to set up for photos during the game.
Once the game started, emotions ran high as the WVU crowd cheered on the Mountaineers, who started out strong and maintained a lead they would never relinquish. The four students in the press box sat above the WVU fan section but had to keep their own excitement in check.
“As everyone knows, the game went well,” said Krise. “We tried to refrain from cheering in the press box, but it was hard not to go crazy. We were all-smiles though.”
In the fourth quarter, the other four students were allowed to head down to the field and report on the celebration firsthand. As the final seconds of the game ticked away, the students’ school spirit erupted as Stefano and Krise went so far as to do the signature shoulder bump that the Mountaineers do after big plays.
“It was unbelievable,” said Stefano. “Once we got to go on the field and interview the players, it was one of the best experiences of my career and especially special being a senior.”
Throughout the trip, the students were on constant deadline and had to produce multiple stories at once.
“This experience was very valuable for me because I got shots for my portfolio,” said Montgomery. “It proved to me that I could cover big sports for a living and could be happy doing nothing but that.”
The coverage of the game also gave the students a chance to prove they are more than capable of covering sports at a national level.
“It was a great opportunity – everything was first class,” said Stefano. “Professionally, it gave me the motivating factor that one day I want to do this again.”