The SID for whichever team loses tonight’s national championship game between Villanova and Michigan will be faced with a tremendous dilemma about 15 minutes after the game ends. I lived this dilemma after the 2011 final.
The entire Final Four week is a TV extravaganza – it’s the biggest stage in the entire industry. The media schedule is meticulously fine-tuned and coordinated, but at the same time TV will ask for the sky and you need to find a middle ground. The night before Butler’s 2011 championship game, CBS wanted to record Matt Howard watching TV in his hotel room. We were always accommodating and easy to work with, but even I thought that was a little much.
This idea goes all the way through until CBS (or TBS this year) signs off on Monday night. During the final minutes of the 2010 final vs. Duke, I asked my boss and hall of famer Jim McGrath, “Where do you need me?” He said, “If we win, go to the floor. If we lose, go to the locker room.” I was headed to the locker room when the final halfcourt shot bounced out. I was already with the players after that Duke game in 2010, and didn’t face the TV dilemma someone will face Monday night.
In 2011, it was the same drill. Head to the locker room. We lost by 12 so there wasn’t any hand-wringing about what to do and where to be. The hand-wringing came when TV asks (demands?) that you open the door.
After a team loses its final game – in any sport – it’s an emotional scene. Goodbyes. Thank yous. Gallons of tears. Particularly in something as high-charged as a college national championship game. It’s important that the team owns that moment, and I learned that a TV clock shouldn’t dictate it. The team doesn’t get that moment back.
I was called out of the locker room in Houston in 2011 and the volunteer helping Tracy Wolfson told me time was up. Time to open the locker room door. I was in a panic. We always did our best to help the media but I knew the team deserved that final moment together. I delayed as long as possible until the asking turned into pleading then to demanding. It was protocol.
I put my ear on the door and gave it a little pull just to get a feel for what was happening. It started to crack open – and then I closed it. After some more pleading, I went for it again. This went on for some time. After a few times doing this, someone on the staff (probably the strength coach) held the door closed this time. I was relieved. I’m not opening this thing until they’re done.
The interview with the losing coach is never a pleasant one, and the significance of achievement isn’t readily realized in the losing locker room. Monday night’s losing team will have a lot to be proud of and thankful for, and I hope they get that last moment together in the locker room.