Getting Ready to Bowl: Accommodations
Dec. 16, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. -
One of the highlights of any football team’s season is an invitation to play in a postseason bowl game. Players, coaches, administrators and fans anxiously anticipate where their team will spend the holidays.
This season, the Wolfpack is headed to Charlotte to play in the Belk Bowl. On Dec. 22, four buses will leave the Murphy Center and travel to the Queen City for five days of hard work and great fun. But before the first player steps foot on the bus or the first fan arrives in town, countless hours of work have gone into making sure that every detail has been planned for.
Prior to the team’s departure next week, GoPack.com will visit with some of the people behind the scenes who ensure that State’s 2011 bowl trip goes off without a hitch. Great tickets are still available for the bowl, visit www.BelkBowl.com.
Moving 100+ players, 10 coaches, their wives and children, managers, trainers, and other support staff, to a bowl game is a little more involved than simply hopping on a bus and checking into a hotel. Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations Kit Hughes handles the myriad of details that go into such a massive undertaking - from scheduling buses to the brand of hot sauce that is on the table when the team eats lunch.
Within a day or two of the official bowl invitation, Hughes and a group of other NC State athletic staff travelled to Charlotte for a site visit. Since that time, he has been in constant contact with the team hotel to plan every aspect of the team’s six-night stay.
“Logistics is my focus,” said Hughes. “Travel rosters, hotel, transportation, food, security, meeting space, equipment ... all of that has to be thought out and planned. There are so many distractions facing a team at a bowl, whether it’s fans, parents or events. But at the end of the day, we are there to beat Louisville. So we need to limit those distractions as much as possible and help the guys stay focussed on why they’re there.”
To help the players maintain that focus, the staff attempts to make their schedules and routines at the bowl site as close as possible to a regular game week. Hughes says when he’s planning the details of a bowl trip, he thinks in terms of making the hotel the team’s home for a week.
“We are basically moving the Murphy Center to the hotel,” he continued. “Everything we do at home, we need to be able to do at the hotel next week. We need to have position meetings, team meetings, offensive meetings, defensive meetings, staff meetings. We have to account for spaces for all of our needs in the hotel.
“The only thing we won’t have at the hotel that we have at the Murphy Center is a weight room. We will have a dining area, a locker room, a players’ lounge, a training room, a video office, an equipment room, an office for our administrative staff. Basically an entire level of the hotel will be our operations center.”
In addition to a block of close to 250 guest rooms for the team, coaches and support personnel, Hughes has identified 16 rooms to use for meeting spaces. The staff will have access to copiers and fax machines through the hotel, but will bring a load of computers and printers. A board room will be turned into the football office, where practice schedules and itineraries will be generated and staff meetings will be held.
In addition to the team functions, Hughes and members of the football staff also help line up all of the activities for the coaches’ wives and kids. If the bowl offers a kids’ day, he provides the list of attendees. If there is a reception for certain staff members, he is the one who locks down the transportation mode and departure times. If a coach has a small child, he might order a crib or refrigerator for that particular coach’s room.
Although Hughes is the one directing traffic, he is quick to add that there are numerous people who are making sure that every need is taken care, from the State athletics staff to hotel personnel to members of the bowl staff. Chad Jamison, Joe Pate, Natalie Brincefield and Denise Ritter are focused on every detail of the team’s stay.
“We have a great group of folks who basically spend their whole time at the bowl making sure that the team is taken care of,” he added.
A bowl entails a lot of problem solving on the fly. An example of this was last season, when the Pack was competing in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. The bowl gift for the players was a Best Buy gift certificate, but the time when the players were taken to the local Best Buy store to make their purchases happened to be on the second busiest shopping day of the year: the day after Christmas.
“There were so many people in the store and waiting in line to check out that the computers starting crashing,” Hughes remembers. “We allotted two hours for the visit and it took well over three hours because some of the guys ended up in the check out lines for over an our. We were scheduled for another event right after it, so while the players were shopping, I was handling the buses, changing dinner plans and notifying everybody about the change in schedule.”
Another big part of Hughes’ responsibility, at the bowl and every time the team travels, is making sure the meals are ordered and served at the appropriate times and with the specific needs of the team in mind.
“There is a lot of planning that goes into planning meals,” he said. “Our nutritionists, sports medicine staff and coaches all have input in this. Everything we have at every meal is specifically requested and everything has a reason, down to the salt and pepper, the specific brand of hot sauce or yogurt and even the flavor of the drinks. Everything that is there is there for a reason and everything that is not there is there for a reason. Feeding a football team is not like providing service to a regular hotel guest. They can’t ask ‘Is there anything else I can get you?’ All of that has been planned beforehand.”
Hughes doesn’t seem at all overwhelmed by the daunting task of facilitating the needs of so many people, but maybe that’s because this is the third bowl trip he’s planned in the past five years. “Coach O’Brien always says that you have to be able to adapt and improvise. When something goes wrong, which of course at some point it will, that is what I need to be able to do so that maybe the only person who notices is me.”