If you look deep, beyond the coaching staff, you will see support staff of counselors, friends, families and other crucial parts of the team that never really receives the credit they deserve.
If you look around the country at every athletic department, you will find a series of workers that have decided to devote their lives to aiding programs in their media relations, fact gathering and statistical analysis. Often serving at the middle man between scoop-hungry journalists (like myself) and heartbroken athletes/coaches, the job of a Sports Information department is to help make life easier for all of all parties involved.
For the University of Cincinnati the story is no different. Filled with numerous employees working their fingers to the bone in order to get the latest and greatest is Bearcat athletics out to all the stat-hungry fans and media personnel alike. Sean Sell, a member of the Bearcat family for the past four years, is one example of the prized, yet underappreciated employees within UC's athletic department.
Coming to UC after earning his degree from Bowling Green, where he also worked in the SI department, Sell recognized the opportunity that working for the Bearcats would offer him in terms of career advancement in the competitive world of college athletics.
"I knew coming to a big-time [Division I] program would be a good situation for me, given all the opportunities for advancement," said Sell. "Since I started out as an intern, advancement was obviously a top priority for me at that time."
However, the opportunity to work with one of the premier athletic programs in the country offered a lot more than advancement for the semi-local kid.
"I basically came to UC because I liked the situation it would be putting me in and probably more important was the fact that it was still close enough to home that it wasn't too difficult to still see my family," said the longtime Cincinnati Reds fan.
"I feel very fortunate that I got the opportunity to come to Cincinnati and am even happier that I've been able to stay here as long as I have already. Cincinnati is a great town and I am very fortunate for all the great people that I have met both personally and professionally that has made my time here so enjoyable."
Sell works side-by-side with two of UC's up-and-coming programs: volleyball and baseball.
"Working with the volleyball (which is on the verge of becoming one the elite programs in the country) and baseball (which is also on the rise thanks in part to the new facilities) teams has afforded me the opportunity to see parts of the country I would have never been able to see before," said Sell. "I mean, on the road I do not pay for a thing: my room, my food, my travel, they are all paid for. Plus, I get to be around the guys and the coaches all the time."
Along with seeing many parts of the country he may never have seen otherwise, Sell has also had the opportunity to participate in and witness some of college sports most memorable events. From conference and NCAA Tournaments to local crosstown rivalries, Sell has received the chance to witness and participate in some of the most high-intensity moments in Bearcat history.
"Going into hostile environments like the game at Xavier a few years ago, hearing all the screaming and everyone shouting things against you and your team, was a great thing to witness and take part in – and I got paid to be there."
With this being said, it is not all free trips and memorable sporting events for Sell. Having to deal with upset parents about the scoring of a single/error, attempting to search for postgame quotes from a coach who has lost three in a row, and simply trying to look a player in the face at breakfast the next day after they have had a bad game, emphasize the fact for as much as he is a part of the team, he is just as much an outsider in many ways.
"I am an employee of the University first and foremost. You have to be objective in this field. That is the most important thing to remember. You are not just a fan or friend. While of course on a close play I am going to give it to my guy, but I cannot play favorites," said Sell who as usual was dawning his typical Bearcat regalia. "Sometimes people react adversely to the calls that you make, and it may be a little awkward at times, but that comes with the territory. You just have to live with it."
With all the heartaches (and headaches) the job may cause Sell, it is obvious that it has become a labor of love - and little else. Sell, who claims that working in the sports information field has been a dream since his early days as a college intern, is realistic about the potential for financial gain, or lack there of, that is possible for someone who embraces the line of work he has entered.
"I mean, you are not going to become a millionaire working this job, and I would hate to see what my hourly wage would work out to be, if I sat down and figured it out, but it's worth it," said Sell half-jokingly. "Once you get the AD label next to your name you start to earn ‘a liveable wage, but for interns and new hires like Jeremy [Martin] you do not get paid a whole lot."
Even though Sell notes that there is an opportunity for advancement within the field, often advancement requires a person to move from job-to-job in order to find their place in the sun. For Sell, though he has loved his time at UC, he realizes that this is a profession and he may have to go where it makes the most financial sense for him.
"Don't get me wrong, the University and the city have been great to me, but there are bigger University and more high-profile sports out there," said Sell hesitantly. "If the opportunity presented itself for me to move on, I would have to look at it, but being that all my friends are here, the fact I have fallen in love with the city and the school, it would be really difficult for me to leave."
Though Sean Sell and the rest of the University of Cincinnati's sports information department may never be "shown the money," as Cuba Gooding Jr might say, it is clear that being involved in the sporting world, even in the thankless position they are in, is one that transcends the superficial stigmas of how success is ultimately measured. With that being said, for Sell and all those who serve in similar positions across the country, they would appreciate it if next time you half-heartedly examine a stat sheet and then forget about it faster than day-old news you realize that there is a person behind those numbers; a person who probably loves the game more than you – and they prove their love every day.