March Madness can see some big wins for college basketball, but this year brought about some other big wins for UT students and the Big Orange Pantry. UT recently participated in the Coca-Cola March Madness Bracket Challenge, a point-based challenge based on traditional March Madness brackets, that saw competition between UT and 17 other universities in the country.
The goal was to get as many students involved to get as many points as possible to win. With over 700 students involved, UT took home the top prize in the Bracket Challenge. This included a $5,000 donation to Big Orange Pantry on behalf of Coca-Cola. Brittney Wright, coordinator of student programming in the Center for Student Engagement, was one of the people tasked with getting student involvement.
“With the goal being to have the most overall points as a university, this meant that the total number of students to fill out a bracket was crucial,” said Wright. “Over the course of that week, I worked with various departments and offices to help promote the challenge through digital signage, social media, and newsletters. Many students who claimed they ‘knew nothing about basketball’ still filled out a bracket after hearing that it could potentially help us receive a $5,000 donation for the Big Orange Food Pantry.”
UT had the third-highest participants out of the 18 schools, which Wright says is very exciting on its own, but it was even more exciting to see that our students are apparently great at predicting basketball game winners since we got the most overall combined points.”
First, second, and third place winners received a $500 airline voucher, $100 Grub Hub gift card, and AirPod Pro’s, respectively. Coca-Cola was generous enough to donate 275 Coca-Cola blankets for students who reached at least 400 points in their bracket.
“This donation is impactful in so many ways,” says Abigail Brumfield, interim assistant director for Outreach and Initiatives in the Office of the Dean of Students. “By including the pantry in such a visible campaign, we have helped destigmatize the use of this important resource for UT students, faculty, and staff. The pantry could not provide services at the same level without generous support like this donation.”
Wright notes the importance of hosting programming that appeals to students with all kinds of interests and programs that reach students where they are, which might not be here on campus. COVID-19 has impacted how Wright’s office is able to engage students and programs such as this one can help them with that task.
“I think programs like this are important for students because they can reach a broad audience that includes on-campus undergraduate students but also extends to distance learners, grad students, and other non-traditional populations. Sports has a way of bringing people together – it always has here on Rocky Top – so a program like this brings a sense of comradery and healthy competition among participants.”