By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau
All eyes zoom in on Phoenix this week for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball Final Four. Five days’ worth of festivities, events and concerts throughout downtown Phoenix and University of Phoenix Stadium are sandwiched around three basketball games.
Grand Canyon University is getting the weekend started.
If you’re going or watching on TV …
What: College Slam Dunk and 3-point Shooting Contest
When: 7 p.m. Thursday (pregame tailgate begins at 4:30 p.m.)
Where: GCU Arena
Tickets: $10 for GCU students/staff; $15 general public; purchase here
The men’s semifinals Saturday (Gonzaga vs. South Carolina followed by North Carolina vs. Oregon) and Monday night’s championship are the headliners, but GCU Arena will host the College Slam Dunk and 3-Point Championships Thursday night. The 29th annual event is not sponsored by the NCAA but will feature several of Division I college basketball’s best dunkers and long-range shooters (men and women) who aren’t playing in their respective Final Fours.
“We are anticipating a full house,” said GCU Arena Marketing Manager Christina Wagner.
Eight men’s players will compete in the dunk contest before a three-person panel (GCU men’s basketball coach Dan Majerle along with Arizona Cardinals players Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu).
Eight men and eight women will compete in the 3-point shootout, including GCU senior guard DeWayne Russell. Russell is also playing with the West squad in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) All-Star game with his Division I peers at 3:30 p.m. Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
The Havocs will be prominent during these events, and several GCU students are volunteers after employees from the event’s sponsor, Intersport, spoke with Colangelo College of Business students.
There also will be a pregame tailgate, starting at 4:30 p.m. Pizza, kettle corn and cotton candy will be available for purchase, and there will be rides and face painting for children.
In addition, dozens of students are volunteering throughout the weekend’s events at the stadium, Fan Fest at the Phoenix Convention Center (Friday through Monday), the March Madness Music Festival at Margaret T. Hance Park (Friday night through Sunday night) and during Final Four Friday leading up to the games.
Last weekend, the NCAA provided more than a dozen GCU students a chance to tour University of Phoenix Stadium for a behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to put on the Final Four.
Dr. Brian Smith, Colangelo College of Business assistant dean and director of the sports business programs, said students participated in a walking tour of the stadium and had Q&A opportunities with staff from the NCAA, CBS and the stadium.
Students learned about the planning period for major events (up to 18 months ahead of tipoff), turning a football stadium into a basketball venue, the roles of contractors and consultants, and what it takes for CBS to put the games on TV.
Smith said six GCU students are helping with the Basketball Hall of Fame live show Saturday morning on ESPN.
“We strongly encourage students to get in the trenches of the sports business industry by developing relationships and by gaining real-world, practical, resume-building experience,” Smith said.
The Thundering Heard pep band will be the “house band” for the Final Four Friday events, including the Division I men’s basketball All-Star game at 3:30 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium.
A smaller, 29-piece GCU band ensemble will play during Final Four Friday, similar to what will happen during any road games beginning next year in GCU’s first year of postseason eligibility in Division I athletics.
“We look forward to representing Grand Canyon University well and look forward to demonstrating our talented pep band,” said Paul Koch, GCU director of bands.
A complete list of weekend events can be found here.
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or firstname.lastname@example.org