The Media Frenzy Behind VCU’s Historic NCAA Final Four Run

The international media spotlight shined brightly on Richmond, Va., during the 2011 NCAA March Madness.

Thanks to the 14 men of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s basketball team, millions watched as the underdogs did the unthinkable — knocked out Kansas, the tournament's lone remaining No. 1 seed.

The team’s three-point brilliance and dogged determination even forced famed sportscaster Dick Vitale to “eat crow, baby” after making some disparaging remarks about the Rams earlier in the tournament.

The Rams team, led by the media-savvy and highly personable Shaka Smart, handled their sports spotlight with pose, pride and professionalism. Few fans realized the frenzy of communications, marketing and social media outreach that was being handled behind the scenes by a small, caffeine-fueled team.

On May 25, 2011, Pamela Lepley, APR, executive director, VCU Division of University Relations, and Anne Buckley, APR, director of VCU Communications and Public Relations, shared their NCAA experiences during an hour-long Public Relations Society of America chapter meeting in Richmond.

Lepley and Buckley provided candid and memorable details of the excitement that ensued as the Rams advanced further than anyone (except Smart and his 14 players) thought possible in an unpredictable and exciting trip to the Final Four.

Review this Storify recount of tweets by PRSA chapter members from the presentation by Lepley and Buckley.

Jonathan Rhudy, a JMU alumnus, remembers seeing the Dukes’ NCAA 1994 Tournament first-round performance in person. Led by famed and beloved coach "Lefty" Driesell, JMU lost to Florida by two points.