Students continue to improve and grow Gus Macker at CMU

​For the fifth straight year, students in CMU's Recreation Parks and Leisure Services Administration program had the opportunity to organize and execute a national-level event.

This year's Gus Macker three-on-three basketball tournament brought 214 teams – 41 more than 2013 – to CMU's campus the weekend of May 3 and 4. Students in RPL 333 – Production of Festivals and Events – planned the event from start to finish. The Mount Pleasant basketball tournament is the only one in the nation organized entirely by an academic class, according to Tim Otteman, who teaches the class will colleague Lori Irwin.

The Gus Macker tournament was started in 1974 by CMU alumnus Scott McNeal, also known Gus Macker, at his home in Lowell, Michigan. It has since grown to national prominence.

Real world experience

The students had their hands in every aspect of the planning and execution of the event.

Fundraising and outreach began with a launch party in February where $2,600 was raised for the event. Students then secured sponsorships, planned logistics by working with the national Gus Macker organization and secured volunteers. They then worked together to set up and run the event.

Planning the Gus Macker event is not the only real-world experience the students receive. Securing a spot in the increasingly popular class is very much like applying for a job. Nearly 100 students applied for the class by submitting a resume, essay and more. Only 33 were selected.

The Gus Macker foundation donates $10,000 to CMU each year, which is dedicated to the Dick Parfitt gym in the CMU Events Center. Parfitt, a former CMU men's basketball coach, visits the RPL class to speak each year, which helps to build a connection to the cause for the students.

Making it their own

Each year, the class develops a theme for the tournament. This year they used the theme "FoodFurHoopin" as a campaign to feed the hungry. Players and volunteers were encouraged to help by donating food items that were donated to the Compassionate Care Network and the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen.

The class also created a blog, which they updated every class period throughout the semester to share their experiences in the class.

"The bonding of this class is remarkable," said Otteman. "Students build such a connection with us as the instructors and also with each other. Several former students also connect with current classes to pass on knowledge."

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