Students take shot at free tuition in halftime challenge

At every halftime of Marquette men’s basketball games at the Bradley Center, one student – selected randomly from the crowd – gets a shot at free tuition.

However, Erin Fitzgerald, a freshman in the College of Nursing, has a different theory.

“They must choose people who look terrible at basketball,” said Fitzgerald, who was plucked from the student section Tuesday night to participate in the tuition shot at the men’s game versus the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The tuition shot is a promotional halftime activity that is part of Marquette’s corporate sponsorship with two companies – Camping World and Pepsi. Each sponsor its own version of the tuition shot challenge with separate rules, according to Brian Bowsher, director of marketing and sales for Marquette Athletics.

Camping World, an RV service, maintenance and repairs company, requires that participants sink a half-court shot to win an RV, or hit a 3-pointer to earn a semester of tuition – about $14,000 – in its Camping World Half-Court Shot contest.

The Pepsi Tuition Shot Challenge is a four-step process that requires the completion of a lay-up, a free throw, a 3-pointer and then a half-court shot within 24 seconds. Those who make all the shots within the allotted time frame win $10,000 toward their tuition at Marquette.

Kimberly Mueller, assistant director of marketing and sales for Marquette Athletics, said 56 contestants have participated in the Pepsi Tuition Shot Challenge since 2002.

But none have succeeded, Bowsher said.

On Tuesday, Fitzgerald only made it halfway in the Pepsi Tuition Shot Challenge after making a layup and free throw, but she ran out of time to finish the rest.

If given the chance to go back to that moment on the hardwood, Fitzgerald said she would have done some things differently.

“I would have attempted the 3-pointer as a granny shot instead of a normal shot,” Fitzgerald said. “My friends had requested a granny shot and I definitely should have done that – way cooler.”

The last student to make a tuition shot was Patrick Bender, a junior in the College of Business Administration, who won the Camping World contest as a freshman at the Marquette versus Louisville game in 2007.

“People always ask me how I felt after I made the shot and it’s hard to explain because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bender said. “It’s awesome to say that I made a shot on a NBA court during a Marquette men’s basketball game on ESPN.”

For all the students out there yearning for a chance to channel their inner Lazar Hayward, Bender has some advice.

“Try to remain calm and take your time until you are ready to shoot,” he said. “The one thing I made sure I did was keep my eye on the basket and try to block out all the people watching me. My dad always tells me to keep my eyes on the basket and the ball will go in. That’s what happened.”