As host university, ASU instrumental in ensuring Final Four runs smoothly

Athletic department leadership has been working on preparations for a year

A group of people seated in a stadium.

Final Four volunteers listen in during the volunteer orientation at Desert Financial Arena. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/ASU News


Jay Parry had a huge smile on her face as she addressed the 200-plus NCAA Men’s Final Four volunteers gathered at Desert Financial Arena on a mid-March Saturday morning.

Parry, the president and chief executive officer of the 2024 Host Committee, was thanking the volunteers for all the work they would be doing during the Final Four, to be played April 6–8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

As she spoke, Mike Chismar and J.D. Loudabarger sat quietly, more than 25 rows up from the floor.

Chismar, Arizona State University’s senior associate athletic director for operations and facilities, and Loudabarger, the associate athletic director of athletic operations and facilities, are the two men primarily responsible for ensuring ASU’s role as the host university goes smoothly.

They have been working on Final Four preparations for a year, ever since they traveled to Houston for the 2023 Final Four and thought about all the details they’d have to take care of over the next 12 months.

“Oh, man,” Loudabarger said at the time. “It’s hard to even say (how many). But it’s a lot.”

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Now that the Final Four is almost here, those details are now a working plan, composed after hundreds of emails, conversations, checks and re-checks.

“We’ve got a lot going on,” Chismar said.

ASU is playing a prominent role in the Final Four. Students from across the university will either be volunteering for the event or covering the games, and Loudabarger and Chismar will lead a nearly 50-person crew that will be responsible for everything from operating the scoreboard to making sure there’s enough soda in each team’s locker room.

On the Monday after the volunteer orientation at Desert Financial Arena, Loudabarger held a series of meetings to go over the game management operation of the Final Four — that’s ASU’s responsibility — to ensure everyone was on the same page.

ASU’s role is multifaceted. One group consists of the floor crew: scoreboard operator, shot clock timer, ball boys and girls, even mopping the floor when it gets slick.

In addition, when the Final Four teams enter State Farm Stadium, they’ll be welcomed by an ASU employee who will make sure they have the proper credentials.

ASU is also responsible for the “back of the house,” which includes the locker rooms, and its trainers will be on site working in conjunction with physicians from Mayo Clinic.

“We’ll meet with them beforehand and talk through things like safety issues, emergency situations, evacuation-type stuff,” Loudabarger said. “Like, ‘If a player gets hurt and has a catastrophic injury, what does that look like? Where’s the ambulance? How are we going to get them to the nearest hotel or hospital?”

ASU’s Final Four team will be busy even before the semifinal games are played Saturday. In an all-day event on Thursday, the Next Generation Officials event will be held at Desert Financial Arena, where Chris Rastatter — the NCAA’s men’s basketball national coordinator of officials — will work with and train local officials from high school and junior college ranks who would like to work NCAA games.

There’s so much to do that Loudabarger, Chismar and about 10 other ASU employees will stay in Glendale during Final Four weekend.

“We’re pretty much there and working 24/7,” Loudabarger said.

J.D. Loudabarger (left), Associate AD, Operations and Facilities, and Mike Chismar, Sr. Associate AD, Operations & Facilities, stand by the Arizona Final Four truck at the Final Four Preview on Mar. 16, 2024. (Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University)
J.D. Loudabarger (left), associate athletic director of operations and facilities, and Mike Chismar, senior associate athletic director of operations and facilities, stand by the Arizona Final Four truck on March 16. Photo by Emma Fitzgerald/Arizona State University

ASU also has to ensure the practice sites for all four teams are ready to go.

But ASU's preparations have been made easier by the fact it was the host university in 2017, the last time the Final Four was played in Glendale. Also, approximately 75% of the game management crew that worked in 2017 will perform those same roles this year.

“I think to have that experience is invaluable,” Chismar said. “You’ve gone through the whole process. J.D. and I worked the Final Four together the last time. We know what we’re getting into.”

Still, they’re taking nothing for granted. They know that just because things went well seven years ago doesn’t guarantee a smooth ride this time around.

“We’ll do a walkthrough before (the teams get here) and get our wits about us,” Chismar said.

Loudabarger and Chismar both said it’s an “honor” to be working at, as Chismar put it, “the mecca of college sports.”

And once the champion has emerged and the streamers have fallen from the rafters and the fans have gone home, what will Chismar and Loudabarger do?

Show up for work. The Final Four may be over, but ASU’s athletic season isn’t.

“We’ll be back in the office. Business as usual,” Loudabarger said.

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