Alumni shape media content, coverage of Super Bowl XLIII

University Park, Pa. — Numerous Penn State alumni, including more than a dozen from the College of Communications, shaped how people across the country and all over the world got information about Super Bowl XLIII.

Those alumni — who work for the National Football League, NFL Films, a variety of media outlets and private companies — hold positions that influenced the content and "look" of Super Bowl media coverage this week, as well as how the game between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla., will be remembered for years to come.

Almost all of those alumni start their work long before the game itself, and perhaps none start earlier than Michael Signora ('96 Journ), the NFL's director of media relations and international communications, who coordinates the league's relationship with local, national and international media members who converge to cover the game.

Signora, a 2007 recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award — which recognizes Penn State graduates age 35 and younger who have shown extraordinary professional accomplishment — is responsible for directing media operations at all NFL events, including the Super Bowl and NFL Draft. He oversees football publicity efforts for the league, driving media coverage to support multiple NFL initiatives and serving as spokesman to the media on key league issues and policies.

Some 150 million television viewers in the United States will watch the game, which will also be shown in more than 220 countries across the globe. Media members from magazines, newspapers, radio stations, television stations and Web sites all over the world cover the Super Bowl and Signora and his staff handle all the corresponding requests for media credentials.

The NFL staff also works closely with media rights holders and visiting media to plan how and where those oranizations set up their operations in Tampa throughout the week and during the game.

Along with Signora, the NFL office also includes Penn Staters Dave Blasic ('84 Bus), the controller for NFL International, and Jeff Miller ('01 MPA Cap), the league's director of strategic safety.

Among those with credentials who start to work well before the game begins are alumnus Dan Wilhelm ('79 Bus), a member of the advisory board for the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism and a principal with Orlando, Fla.-based Sports Partners Inc. The Emmy Award-winning company builds sets and provides support for TV networks covering the game. This week that means designing sets and providing lighting for commentator positions for NBC Sports and providing nearly 300 people for camera positions, tape operations and production assistance for the NFL Network.

Penn Staters fill roles in all aspects of media coverage for the game. That includes Amanda Gifford ('04 Journ, Edu), who serves as a producer for ESPN Radio and "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," a daily sports talk show heard on more than 300 stations across the United States that will broadcast on location from Tampa throughout the week leading up to the game.

In a form of communications dominance, the sports editors of the hometown newspapers for both teams — the Arizona Republic and Pittsburgh Post-Gazetteare Penn Staters. They are Mark Faller (’80 Journ) at the Republic and Jerry Micco (’76 Journ) at the Post-Gazette. Also, the St. Petersburg Times, one of the major news organizations in the Tampa area, includes two alumni among its editorial staff, executive news editor John Schlander (’84 Journ) and pop culture/fashion writer Sharon Fink (’82 Journ).

Journalists covering the game include Gerry Dulac (’79 Journ), a sports writer for the Post-Gazette, Gene Collier (’75 Journ), a columnist for the Post-Gazette, and national media members such as USA Today sports writer Gary Mihoces (’69 Journ).

On TV, alumnus and former NFL and Penn State football standout Matt Millen (’80 Bus) will work for NBC Sports.

All those people help shape media coverage leading up to, during and immediately after the game. Another group of Penn Staters will have a hand in how Super Bowl XLIII will be remembered.

Those people work for NFL Films, the league-related entity best known for its highlight packages and storytelling about pro football. Seven alumni from the College of Communications work for NFL Films. They include: project manager Sandra Aiken (’98 Film-Video); production assistant Matthew Curran (’05 Telecom); film logger Nicholas Fittipaldi (’01 Media Studies); producer Sharon Furman (’03 Journ); assistant producer/director Jeremy Lettiere (’96 Film-Video); production assistant Leo McCafferty (’06 Journ); and producer/director John Weiss (’85 Journ).

Along with media-related positions, three Penn Staters will be in uniform for the game — offensive tackle Levi Brown (’05 Lib) for the Cardinals as well as tight end Sean McHugh (’04 Lib) and defensive tackle Scott Paxson for the Steelers.

In addition, on-field personnel for the teams includes orthopedic physician Jim Bradley (’75 Sci) and trainer John Norwig (’79 HHD, ’84 MEd HHD) for the Steelers and former Penn State graduate assistant Teryl Austin, who serves as defensive backs coach for the Cardinals. Austin worked at Penn State in 1991-92.

Another College of Communications alumna holds a front office position for the Cardinals. Pamela Craven (’95 Adv) serves as manager of business development for the team.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010