After covering three games in three days of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Men’s Basketball Tournament, Matt Schroeder, Tony Bleill and Mark Harper walked out of then-Cobo Arena March 11, 1990, into 44-degree temperatures.
Schroeder, 1990 Ball State graduate, spent his senior spring break covering Ball State Men’s Basketball's second straight MAC Tournament championship in Detroit. There was a light drizzle falling from the sky, and Schroeder and his team realized there wasn’t any time to waste. They jumped on Interstate 69 to return to Muncie.
It was Selection Sunday, and the NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament pairings were being announced, so the group fiddled with the radio, attempting to pick up a station. Meanwhile, Schroeder was writing stories in the back seat because of an approaching deadline.
“I remember we were working in the back seat on these old Tandy laptops — they probably still got some in a museum somewhere,” Schroeder said. “We were writing stories because even though spring break ended, there was a Daily News that was supposed to come out on Monday.”
Schroeder and Bleill spent the next two weeks covering No. 12 Ball State’s Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the furthest the Cardinals have gone in program history.
Reporting on a historic run
Schroeder said the access was not any different for student journalists than it was for reporters from CBS, ESPN and The New York Times in the NCAA Tournament. Schroeder had lunch with CBS broadcaster Len Elmore and sat next to then-ESPN reporter Tim Brando on press row.
"It's not like they give you some different path that says ‘student journalist’ on it, and therefore, you don't have the privileges,” Schroeder said. “When you're 21 and you're just getting started in the field, it's amazing just to be around them [Brando and Elmore]. I wish I'd maybe asked more questions about ‘What do you do?’ and ‘How do you get into this?’ But I was just so absorbed in covering the basketball games — I didn't look at it as anything more than that.”
From running into boxer Buster Douglas in Salt Lake City to walking past rapper MC Hammer on his way down to press row of then-Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena in Oakland, California, Schroeder witnessed what life was like somewhere else.
Though Schroeder and Bleill understood their positions as student journalists and didn’t root for Ball State, Schroeder said their neutrality didn’t stop them from not wanting the Cardinals’ tournament run to end.
“We didn't want to get back on a plane and fly home after 36 hours,” Schroeder said. “We were pretty excited just that it was going on for another day, [to] get to have that experience and in the hotel and interviews.”
Schroeder remembers writing his game recap in the moment after No. 12 Ball State defeated No. 4 Louisville in the Round of 32 but can’t remember the specific interview or writing process behind his story because of how focused he was on his next opportunity.
“I don't remember anything of the postgame press conference,” Schroeder said. “It was sort of a blur, because to be completely honest and selfish, not only are we thinking we need to document this and chronicle it and ‘Oh, boy, it's going to go on my portfolio,’ we're also thinking, ‘Oh, my god, we get to do this again.’”
Between their trips to Salt Lake City and Oakland, Schroeder and Bleill flew back to Muncie and attended classes. Schroeder said he remembers classmates having the newspaper in class and seeing them reading parts of his story.
“You're kind of doing your work, sending it in and then packing up your stuff and getting on a plane to come back,” Schroeder said. “You're certainly an anonymous person in writing, and when you go into class on a Monday, nobody knows you've written that, and you could be sitting next to them and they don't necessarily know [it] was you, but everybody looks at The Daily News.”
Bringing in a new era
Mike Mudd, 1994 Ball State graduate, covered the opening of University Arena in 1992. Mudd lived in LaFollette complex and saw the arena being built his freshman year. As a sophomore for The Daily News, he covered the first men’s basketball game in the new arena.
Mudd said, at the time, the arena’s opening was a proud moment for the Ball State community to showcase what it hoped would become a successful long-term home for both basketball and volleyball.
Ball State Men’s and Women’s Basketball hosted Miami (Ohio) for their first games in the new arena Jan. 15, 1992. Mudd said The Daily News brought its full staff because of how much attention the arena, now Worthen Arena, warranted. He said press row was directly beneath the student section and the atmosphere was something he never experienced at Ball State prior to the arena’s opening.
“There were people down close to us and people with signs,” Mudd said. “It reminds you when you see some of these big-energy, high-profile games on TV, whether it’s Duke or some of these other places where students are right down on the court and everything's packed and noisy.”
Irving Gymnasium, the previous home to Ball State basketball and volleyball, didn’t have a media room. Daily News reporters traveled down hallways, and sports information directors brought out players from locker rooms for interviews. But in University Arena, Mudd said, the experience for Daily News reporters felt different from the beginning.
“All of a sudden, we had a whole media room with a food spread, actual places to plug in equipment,” Mudd said. “It was a very sort of jaw-dropping experience, and I think based off of that first night, I think everybody was excited at what potential the arena could bring.”
Making the most of her opportunity
Michelle Rusk, 1994 Ball State graduate, enjoyed feature writing for The Daily News but didn’t envision a sports journalism career after Ball State. However, her future ambitions didn’t stop her from covering Ball State Football’s matchup against Utah State in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl during winter break.
Due to the conclusion of the fall semester, The Daily News wouldn’t print until January. David Knott, then-adviser of The Daily News, called Rusk in his office and he booked a plane ticket and hotel for her.
“He's like, ‘You can't not go. You have to be there. This is a bowl game — we won the conference. You have to go there,’” Rusk said. “He believed that even though it was going to be three weeks later, it was still important to have an article.”
The Cardinals lost 42-33, but Rusk remembers the cold weather and meeting Don Yaeger, 1984 Ball State graduate who had published “Under The Tarnished Dome: How Notre Dame Betrayed Ideals For Football Glory.” Rusk said her discussion with Yeager helped her gain perspective as a writer.
“I'm freezing cold,” Rusk said. “He's got a coat on — I don’t because I've been sitting inside the press box. I just felt so lucky to have that time. I don't remember what we talked about, but to be able to have that time with this man whose book was on the bestseller list, that was my dream.’
Although the stories have not always been instantly published, The Daily News has placed an emphasis on covering important moments in Ball State Sports like bowl games, postseason tournaments and grand openings of athletic facilities for decades.