Journey to the Super Bowl

Reprinted from the current issue of Centralight, CMU's Alumni Magazine

By Don Helinski

Sports Information Director

It’s Super Bowl XLI Media Day and hundreds of reporters are shooting questions at Chicago Bears’ head coach Lovie Smith and all 53 players on the active roster. Buzzing from station to station is Bears’ senior director of corporate communications Scott Hagel, a 1996 CMU grad and Centralis scholar.

All season long, Hagel has been managing communications for the Bears, but the last two weeks have been nothing like he’s experienced before. A two-week window between the National Football Conference Championship Game and the Super Bowl gives the worldwide media more than enough time to hype the greatest spectacle in sports.

“The Super Bowl is something you hope everyone in our profession has a chance to go through,” Hagel says. “When I watched our guys hold up the NFC Championship trophy, it hit me, We are bringing the Halas Trophy home and heading to the Super Bowl.’

“While you can prepare for the Super Bowl and talk about it, you really have no idea what it is like until you experience it. It was crazy the amount of work we had to get accomplished by the time we got there. The pregame shows start early in the morning on game day, and in order to fill all that time, media members were here in Chicago and also in Indianapolis for an entire week. There were a ton of projects our staff had to get done, but it was such an exciting and positive time that it was not hard to get members of the organization to help out because they were just as excited to be there.”

Hagel, who will enter his 12th season with the organization this fall, oversees 14 individuals working in five different areas media relations, broadcasting, events and advertising, Internet, and creative services.

While he’s been jetting around the country with the Bears the last several years, it wasn’t too long ago that he was on a bus with the Chippewa wrestling team as a student staff member in the CMU sports information office.

Hagel, a Holland, Michigan native, dreamed of a sports broadcasting or journalism career while he attended West Ottawa High School. At CMU, he double majored in journalism and sport studies with an emphasis toward public relations. After a brief stint as a sports reporter at Central Michigan Life, he approached CMU’s SID office.

Fred Stabley Jr. was the sports information director at the time, and Hagel began getting experience working on the stat crews at CMU sporting events. Hagel served as the primary contact for the wrestling team just as Tom Borrelli was starting to turn the program into a nationally recognized Mid-American Conference power.

“Working with sports information at CMU showed me that being part of the team was what was important to me,” Hagel says. “Working with wrestling and coach Borrelli solidified that. He took me in, and I was traveling with the team and got engrossed with college wrestling and the atmosphere.”

As he approached graduation in May 1996, Hagel sent out dozens of internship applications and letters to minor league teams in all four sports, figuring there would be more opportunities in the minors since there were more teams. On a whim, he sent letters to all of Chicago’s major pro teams since his parents were both originally from the city, and he had grown up watching the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and White Sox.

Hagel ended up getting an interview with the Bears, and his background in the Mid-American Conference landed him the gig.

“The only reason I got an interview was because someone had worked in the Big Ten and recognized the Stabley name on my rsum,” he explains. (Fred’s father, Fred Sr., was a longtime SID at Michigan State and one of the founders of the profession.) “When I went to Chicago and interviewed in March, the whole interview consisted of talking MAC basketball because the NCAA Tournament was going on at the time. I thought it was the craziest thing.”

Hagel got the internship and then quickly progressed up the ladder within the organization. He was promoted to public relations assistant and spent two years in that role before stepping up to an assistant director title. Just one year later Hagel was named public relations director at age 26, making him one of the youngest PR directors in the history of the NFL. In 2004, he was promoted to his current title of senior director of corporate communication.

His position is a demanding one, since the NFL is considered the highest profile professional sports league, and the Bears have the largest media market devoted to covering one NFL team (New York has two teams, while Los Angeles doesn’t have a pro football franchise).

“You can never predict what is going to happen on any given day,” Hagel says. “That’s what keeps it fresh, exciting, and fun. We work an awful lot, and if we didn’t have that element it would be tough to do for a long period of time.”

Another thing that keeps Hagel on his toes is his involvement in just about every facet of the organization, including both the football side and the business side.

“I’m the liaison between the two a lot of the time, and I help facilitate things in order to get a better product out to our fans,” he says.

Hagel considers himself fortunate to be working for one of the most storied professional sports franchises. George Halas founded professional football and the Bears team, and the Halas family still owns and manages the franchise.

“A big reason why I’m still here is this is really just a family-owned business with family values carried throughout the whole organization,” he says. “Ted Phillips, our president and CEO, Jerry Angelo, our general manager, and Lovie Smith, our head coach, are all men of great character, and they reflect the overall type of people we have here. It even trickles down to the types of players we have. You won’t find a more humble, harder working superstar than Brian Urlacher. We take a lot of pride in being a quality organization, and a lot of that is because the roots of professional football are here.”

The Bears have been the most successful team in the NFC the past two regular seasons with 24 wins. However, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts were too much in the Super Bowl as the Bears lost, 29-17.

“I had worked at two Super Bowls for the league office, and I saw the disappointment and devastation in the teams that lost,” Hagel says. “From that, I had said that I’d rather not go to a Super Bowl than to go to one and lose. But after going through the whole experience, I was wrong. It is crushing to lose a game like that, but the experience leading all the way up through the first quarter of the game was phenomenal.

“It was an unbelievable journey. When you’ve been through as many losing seasons as unfortunately I’ve been through, it really makes you appreciate getting there that much more. Seeing the Colts celebrate makes you that much hungrier to get back to experience what they were able to. For me it’s about winning the whole thing and doing it with people you have a great deal of respect for. That’s what we’ve got here a good group of people who deserve that opportunity.”

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