When the San Antonio Local Organizing Committee launches its volunteer registration for the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four on Wednesday, Deirdre Murphy will be among those leading the call. She’s been assigned to run the organizing committee’s command center, to be a point guard of sorts, for an army of volunteers.

The need for volunteers is great.

“We will need twice as many volunteers for the 2018 Men’s Final Four as we had in 2008,” said Mary Ullmann Japhet, San Antonio Sports senior vice president for communications and community engagement. “The scope of the entire event is significantly larger. Our numbers have gone from roughly 1,500 volunteers in 2008 to a need for more than 3,000 volunteers in 2018.”

Murphy can’t seem to get away from basketball. She hasn’t played organized hoops since high school. But for the past 21 years, she has been a passionate, you-can-count-on-me volunteer.

When Murphy, 45, moved to San Antonio in 1996, she helped with the Fan Jam at the NBA All-Star Game and met Charles Barkley at Rivercenter Mall. Two years later, she chauffeured then-Kentucky coach Tubby Smith around at the NCAA Men’s Final Four.

Deirdre Murphy with the 2018 NCAA National Championship trophy.
Deirdre Murphy with the 2018 NCAA National Championship trophy. Credit: Courtesy / Deirdre Murphy

She has since become a go-to volunteer for San Antonio Sports, serving the nonprofit in a variety of ways  at three men’s and two women’s Final Four events. A tireless worker, Murphy spent approximately 20 hours transporting visitors in a 15-seat van around town at the 2008 Men’s Final Four, touting the wonders of San Antonio.

“I enjoyed the experience and believe wholeheartedly in the San Antonio Sports’ mission,” said Murphy, who is social services manager for the City of San Antonio. “I don’t think I was ever exhausted. I am always a bit disappointed when a fun volunteer position ends.”

The Final Four drew just under 44,000 fans to each game at the Alamodome in 2008. The seating capacity for 2018, however, has grown to approximately 70,000. A study from the SABÉR Research Institute projects the 2018 Final Four will attract 71,000 out-of-town visitors, an influx expected to generate an economic impact of $138 million.

The SA Local Organizing Committee will join the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball committee and the Spurs Coyote at Main Plaza Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. to start on-site and online registration for volunteers. Help is needed at the Final Four Fan Fest, the March Madness Music Festival, the Final Four Dribble and the SALOC command center. The committee will be recruiting airport greeters, courtesy car drivers, and media shuttle monitors.

Registered volunteers will receive a 2018 Final Four polo shirt, hat, drawstring bag, and, perhaps, some memories to savor.

A longtime college hoops fan, Murphy grew up in Northern Virginia, playing basketball and softball at Yorktown High School in Arlington. The daughter of parents devoted to service, Murphy attended Guilford College, a small Quaker school in North Carolina. She did not play sports, focusing instead on a double major in education studies and Spanish while cheering her favorite team, the Duke Blue Devils.

After graduation, Murphy spent a year teaching library skills in Spanish at Blessed Sacrament Child Development Academy in San Antonio.

“I did that on a voluntary basis,” she said. “It was a Catholic service program. The idea was to live simply and give back.”

Four months after arriving in San Antonio, she answered a call for NBA All-Star Game volunteers. “I thought it would be a good way to meet people interested in the same things I was interested in,” she said. “So I started working with San Antonio Sports and stayed involved.”

When the Men’s Final Four came along two years later, she jumped. “I’ve always been a huge college basketball fan,” Murphy said. “The opportunity to volunteer and be a part of it was super appealing.”

She remembers only a few details from her first Final Four: driving Smith, nonstop chatter about the arrival of actress and noted Kentucky fan Ashley Judd, the devastation of North Carolina fans after their team lost in the semifinals.

As the years passed, San Antonio became home. Murphy embraced the culture, the people, and the joy that came from volunteering.

“For me, it’s about getting to meet people and talk to them about San Antonio,” she said. “I pride myself in knowing a lot about a lot of different places, especially downtown. My favorite part of volunteering for the Final Four is [that] it gives me a chance to show off my adopted hometown to visitors from all over the world.”

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native and award-winning journalist.