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Reflections on Arizona: Waking up at 6 a.m. … never felt so good

Frank Gogola (right) and Zach Wagner preparing before the start of Media Day on Jan. 9.

Frank Gogola (right) and Zach Wagner preparing before the start of Media Day on Jan. 9.

Saying goodbye to the College Football Playoff National Championship was tougher than just leaving sunny and 65-degree Arizona for Indianapolis’ frigid 8-degree weather and having to scrape an inch and a half of snow and ice off my friend’s car at the airport.

I had gotten into a groove, a routine of covering numerous events. One day it was the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame announcement. Another was covering the presentation of the 2015 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award, given to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. (Who knew he was so funny?) There was my first-ever Media Day, which taught me multiple lessons you can’t learn in a classroom. And, of course, there was the national championship game, Alabama’s narrow victory over Clemson, an instant classic.

Each day covering the College Football Playoff weekend festivities was something new, something different, something exciting. Leaving it all behind was tough because I had gotten into a rhythm of what it was like to be a professional sports journalist. Waking up at 6 a.m. every day never felt so good. When I woke up my first day back in Indianapolis, my first thought was “Wait, what do I get to cover today?” Seconds later, I realized I was no longer in Arizona and just sat there sort of lost without a coverage game plan for that day.

I also got to work alongside journalists I admired and read for years. Asking questions in the same media scrum as writers like Dan Wolken, Stewart Mandel and Dennis Dodd, among others, seemed a little unreal at first. But, seeing how they navigated an interview and then asking my own probing questions encouraged me even more that I could do this. And listening to guys like Chris Dufresne, Ivan Maisel and Tony Barnhart speak about their experiences covering college football made me realize even more that this profession was for me.

I had started out as a history major in college with dreams of teaching high school history while coaching high school football. I changed my major to journalism after I joined the school newspaper and fell in love with covering sports during my first semester. But, never in my wildest dreams did I picture myself covering the College Football Playoff National Championship while in school.

Some professional journalists may go their entire career without ever getting to cover the sport’s biggest game. Some may only have the opportunity to cover a national championship once. I thought maybe one day – after several years of covering college football and working my way up the ladder at a newspaper, magazine or online publication – that I might have the opportunity to cover the championship game of the sport I fell in love with as a kid.

To say I’m grateful to IUPUI and the Sports Capital Journalism Program for this opportunity would be an understatement. I can only hope the work I did speaks for itself and validates the decision to send me to the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Frank Gogola | @FrankGogola

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