Recreation, parks and leisure services administration students are building a sports dynasty of sorts at Central Michigan University.
This spring will mark the ninth consecutive year that CMU undergraduate students organize and host a Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament on campus. It's through the course "Production of festivals and events," and CMU is the only university in the nation where students plan and host the tournament.
And Gus Macker founder and director Scott McNeal is committed to continuing this experience at his alma mater. The 1979 alumnus recently renewed support of the class for another 10 years.
"This coming year will be our 45th anniversary for Gus Macker, and I want us to continue this relationship through our 50th anniversary and beyond," McNeal said. "I knew that I wouldn't be able to donate millions of dollars to CMU, but these experiences for the students, I hope, are priceless."
“Being a part of the
only class in the world that plans a Gus Macker tournament
will set me apart from my peers.” — Summer Sharrard
Planning the Gus Macker tournament helped Madison Rains confirm she is pursuing the right career path. In addition to taking the class as a sophomore, the Rockford, Michigan, recreation and event management major has twice served as a teaching assistant.
"When it is finally event weekend and I see all of our hard work pulled together, and participants and spectators are enjoying themselves, not a single thing could take the smile off my face," Rains said. "Seeing the final product and seeing people enjoy what you've done, there is no other feeling like it."
Summer Sharrard, a senior recreation and event management major, looks forward to serving as a teaching assistant this year. Beyond the hands-on experience, she said the class also will help when she starts looking for a job.
"My experience with Gus Macker has given me hands-on experience that not everyone has access to," said Sharrard, of Essexville, Michigan. "Being a part of the only class in the world that plans a Gus Macker tournament will set me apart from my peers."
A perfect partnership
More than 100 students apply for the class, but enrollment is limited to 32 students who are selected based on several criteria, said Tim Otteman, RPLSA professor.
Students learn in the classroom how to plan, organize, staff and manage a large festival, and their final exam is actually executing a national basketball festival on CMU's campus.
"The awesome result is not only a real-life, hands-on experience, but also the ability to illustrate those skills on a résumé even before graduating from CMU," Otteman said. "This partnership with Scott and the staff of Gus Macker is the perfect marriage of our undergraduate curriculum and practical experience."
Gus Macker will contribute $10,000 annually to CMU for the next 10 years, Otteman said. At the end of this agreement, McNeal and Gus Macker Basketball LLC will have contributed $200,000 on behalf of CMU students.
McNeal feels it's the least he can do for a school that gave him so much.
"I always had CMU in my heart and spirit, but to have Gus Macker come back and help CMU, that makes me fired up every morning when I get up," he said.
The 2018 Gus Macker tournament at CMU will be April 28 and 29.