Inside Mizzou: Game Day Preparation

Truman the Tiger is on a later washing the MU logo

Oct. 8, 2019

Homecoming week is finally here. Thousands from our campus community and beyond will gather together to celebrate our Mizzou pride. While all eyes will be on Faurot Field during game day, many of our staff and students will be working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly. What exactly does it take to prepare our athletic facilities for Tiger home games?

In this week’s Inside Mizzou podcast, Chancellor Cartwright talks with Nick Britton, director of facility operations for Mizzou Athletics, and Ben Goodman, a master’s student in educational, school and counseling psychology, who is the event operation director for Mizzou Athletics. Ben is also a former MU track-and-field athlete. They discuss some of the unexpected steps to prepare our facilities for game-day, and how our students and staff help ensure student success on and off the field and courts.

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Moderator: [00:00:10] From the classroom to the cornfield, journalism to SEC athletics. The University of Missouri worked 52 weeks a year, every year. This is Inside Mizzou — real stories, real discoveries and real impact of the Mizzou community. Today’s episode is called, “Game Day Preparation.” This weekend is Homecoming. Tiger football is a big part of that tradition. While most fans are focused on the field and the many wonderful traditions that distinguish Mizzou, there’s another team that’s working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly: our staff. For football games to the many other indoor and outdoor athletic events happening throughout the year, what does it take to prepare our campus for a great game-day experience? Joining Chancellor Cartwright to talk more about this are Ben Goodman, a former track-and-field student-athlete and 2018 Mizzou graduate from the parks, recreation and tourism program. Ben is now a master’s student studying educational, school and counseling psychology, with an emphasis on positive coaching, and he works as an event operation director for Mizzou Athletics. And Nick Britton, director of facility operations. Thank you all for being here.

Everyone: [00:01:16] Awesome. Thanks for having us.

Moderator: [00:01:19] So, Ben, you started out as a student-athlete, then became a Mizzou Athletics intern, and you’re still with the program as a graduate student. What about the MU game-day experience keeps you coming back?

Ben Goodman: [00:01:29] I think the big thing that keeps me coming back is just the fans and the atmosphere here. I really, really love Mizzou. My mom was a Mizzou grad, so I’ve enjoyed the experience as an athlete. Obviously, it’s a little bit different when you’re an athlete than when you’re putting the event on, kind of like you had said. As an athlete, I just showed up at the event and everything was where it needed to be. And now working on kind of the other side of it, setting up and doing all that kind of stuff, you kind of really gain an appreciation for all those people that kind of, as the episode’s talking about, are behind the scenes. And you don’t know that all the things that go into that sporting event. You just show up, compete and leave. And there’s hours and hours of things that go into making all the different events happen here at Mizzou.

Moderator: [00:02:17] Right. So you spoke to the experiences being different, from being an athlete to working on the other side. Are your experiences as a student-athlete helpful in your current position?

Ben Goodman: [00:02:27] Yeah, most definitely. As a student-athlete, you kind of learn the — in general — hard work, teamwork, things like that. And those are very translatable skills that go into any workplace, not just working in athletics. I work with five other people. I work with people in Nick’s department, day-in and day-out, just getting things ready. Hard work, dedication. We work weekends a lot. We work long hours. Game days can be anywhere from 12 hours to 18 hours. So you’ve got to have that commitment to what you’re doing, and I think athletics really helped me be able to have that commitment and have that drive to no matter — no matter what it takes you just got to get it done.

Moderator: [00:03:11] Understandable. So Nick, walk us through preparations for a Mizzou home football game. When does the work begin, and what are some specific tasks you have to complete — a month before versus the day before?

Nick Britton: [00:03:21] I think it’s a revolving door, so it’s constant. So once the season ends, we’re starting to figure out what worked last season, what can we make better going into the next season? So it’s a revolving door, and then we throw in the South End Zone Project this year, and it’s been a little bit of an anomaly. But I think really like a month before, you know, we’re making sure we have our checks and balances in place, making sure we have our contractors lined up, making sure everybody’s got boots on the ground ready to go. You know, kind of the administrative things that we need to get done. And then, you know, waking the stadium up. You know, we start in the middle of summer waking it up, making sure the plumbing is back together, making sure, you know, everything. We do a deep clean, so that we can just knock the dust off it going into going into the season. But really it’s testing it all out, making sure. It’s really hard to replicate a game day, right, where you have 65,000 fans coming through your facilities. But, you know, to the week before — where we’re at right now — we’re nine days away from a home football game. You know, we’re going to simulate a power outage. We’re going to simulate, you know, a super flush is what we call it. So we’ll go and actually put as many people in a bathroom as we can and flush toilets and make sure everything works the way it’s supposed to. And then what’s crazy about it is people think: Oh, you walk up to a restroom and it flushes. And it works, right? Or it sits there leaks on you and that creates a little bit of a negative image for our game-day atmosphere. But the goal is to be able to have those positive experiences for everybody to walk through the stadium. And so from power washing, like we were doing the other day, to power washing all the way up to the day of the game, you know, we’ll have people working around the clock to get this place done. This year for sure.

Moderator: [00:05:03] Awesome. So does it feel good knowing all the work you guys have put in before a game day or just in general before any event, and then seeing how that event runs and knowing that it ran smoothly and seeing that people had a great experience? What’s that feeling like after you see that occur?

Nick Britton: [00:05:19] I think game day is the most highs and lows. I mean, it’s awesome. You know, you get up in the morning and, you know, it’s one of the only days that I’ve never had to use an alarm clock. You know, we’re there. I’m there. You know, I’m there. I would probably be a couple hours before anybody else ever comes, even before our staff comes. So it’s a matter of, you know, we have stages it goes through, and then it comes and you open the gates 90 minutes before kick off, and that’s your high. And then we score a touchdown, you know, that’s even higher. And then at the end of the day, you’re like: “Everybody’s gone. I can relax.” And we’ll sit back, and then we clean up and we’re there cleaning up and getting ready for for the next one. You know, especially this year — we’re going to have five in a row.

Moderator: [00:05:58] I can only imagine the workload for that. So Chancellor Cartwright, Memorial Stadium can hold around 65,000 fans. To give some perspective, that’s over half the population of Columbia. And since this weekend is Mizzou’s Homecoming game, I know that even more preparation goes into the event than usual. Can you give us some insight into the work that it takes to make this successful?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:06:20] You know, when you think about all the things that Nick and Ben were talking about and being prepared and all the logistics that they’re having to deal with, during Homecoming week, let’s add in a few more things, right? We do the day before, you know, we’re gonna be doing a Hall of Fame luncheon. We’re going to be having a parade the day of. And all of this takes incredible planning by all of our staff, bringing together people that make sure that, you know, before the game, one of the things that I typically do is we will have people at a tailgate. And because it’s Homecoming week, we have a significant number of people who really care deeply for this university that are here as part of advisory groups and other activities that are occurring all during that one week. They all want to be part of that, and so how do you make sure they all get where they need to be? And this would never happen without all of the work of so many staff and so many different departments — not only Athletics, right? Across the entire institution. And so it’s remarkable to think about all that happens during that week.

Moderator: [00:07:31] Yeah. I think a lot of you think about that weekend and the game.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:07:36] Yeah.

Moderator: [00:07:37] But the entire week of Homecoming is extremely busy for a lot of different departments on campus. And once you think about it, there’s actually — I don’t know how that runs, actually, every year.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:07:47] Yeah, yeah. You know, when you think about all that’s happening that week, you know, our students do a blood drive, and it’s all organized by students. There’s a remarkable amount of work done there. The Mizzou Alumni Association is working with them. Everybody is trying to make sure that our experience during Homecoming is one that’s memorable, right? We invented homecoming.

Moderator: [00:08:11] We did.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:08:12] Right? We’re the ones who who came up with it, and at Mizzou, you know, it isn’t that Homecoming is one day? It isn’t a week. It’s longer. And we think about it for the whole month. And I think it’s just a tribute to this great institution that we’re so proud of being part of it, that we want to make sure people have every opportunity possible to participate in what we consider to be Homecoming events.

Moderator: [00:08:36] Right. So, Ben and Nick, beyond football, what are some of the responsibilities when it comes to preparing campus for other athletic events, such as softball or track-and-field, and our indoor sports, such as basketball and volleyball?

Nick Britton: [00:08:49] I think the biggest thing is that it’s all scaleable, right. It takes a village to do all of it, especially, you know, when you’re talking about anything related with a game day.

Moderator: [00:08:57] Right.

Nick Britton: [00:08:58] But it’s just on a different scale. We have 65,000+ people that come to the stadium. We throw the biggest parties seven times a year, right? You know, we have, 22-some men’s basketball games — you know give or take on the year — that we’re doing parties for 14,000 thousand people — 15,000 people. So it’s all scalable, right? But it takes the same type of attention to detail and the boots on the ground. And, you know, we’re in there cleaning gum off the seats and off the court, and, you know, anywhere we need to make sure that when people walk through facilities, they’re getting the first-class experience.

Ben Goodman: [00:09:36] Yeah. And it’s very similar to what Nick said on the operation side of things. Football’s obviously very large scale. Every event has the same things that go into it. They’re all just on their own scale. And every coach wants you to provide them everything they want. So you got to look at every detail. You’ve got to look at all the small things. My being on the track team, I interact with my previous coaches and my head coache is a stickler on making sure things are to a ‘T.’ You dot your ‘i’s’, you cross your ‘t’s.’ Just because it’s a track meet that doesn’t make it any less important than a football game that brings in 65,000 people. It’s for the fans. It’s for the athletes. So you’ve got to make sure you’re making it just as important as anything else. So yeah, it’s just different scale, but no less important.

Moderator: [00:10:24] Definitely. So Chancellor Cartwright, thousands of staff members like Nick and Ben perform essential duties every day on this campus — and not just during athletic events. How do Mizzou staff uniquely contribute to the success of the university?

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:10:38] You know, first I want to compliment Ben and Nick and the whole entire team of people that make game day possible at Mizzou, because it’s easy for people to notice when things go wrong. And when they have a remarkable day, you know, at the game, they don’t realize how much work went in to making that great of an experience. So thank you for paying attention to all those details. I know you don’t often get the compliments when all the things — everything’s going right. Because it’s expected. And that says a lot about your entire team, is that people have an expectation for what game day is going to be. We know you put in all the work, and thank you for doing all of that. The same thing can be said of so many other staff members across this entire institution. Is that we would not be the institution we are if it wasn’t for so many people committed to student success, to education, to research, to the things we’re doing in extension and engagement. All of our staff members who are committed to providing the right advising, the financial assistance and help that they can provide. Student life, food, room and board, housing — all of those things are provided and our staff are there and always making sure that they run as smoothly as we can. Keeping this incredible campus looking the way that it does, right? Just like we want to make sure when people come to the stadium that they see a stadium that they’re proud of, and I was really impressed to hear Nick talking about taking the gum off the seats, because that’s important. But it’s true. And that’s the same thing with the entire campus, is that our our staff are so proud of this campus. So proud of the work that they’re doing. And it shows every day that someone comes on the campus. You walk onto this campus, and you see the Mizzou Botanic Gardens, you see the buildings, you see what makes Mizzou special. And it’s enabled by our staff. And so I think, you know, we need to always remember that to run a university just — and actually, I love the phrases that both Nick and Ben use of scaling, right. Running an athletic event — now let’s scale it up to running an entire university. And it’s just a bigger group of people. It’s a great team. And when they work well as a team is when Mizzou looks the best. And so we’re really happy to have so many great staff members here.

Moderator: [00:13:21] So one last question I want to ask Nick and Ben before we go: Do you guys have a favorite either process or a favorite part of a game-day routine. Like just something that is just oddly something you enjoy doing before every game for any particular sport?

Ben Goodman: [00:13:42] I can go first on this one. So I do parking in tailgating for football, obviously. And as Nick said, I’m probably second person behind him who gets in on game day. I’m usually there around 4:30-ish in the morning. For some odd reason, I really, really enjoy parking. Most people really don’t enjoy it, but I really just enjoy the interaction that I get with people out at the tailgates. Obviously, working you don’t get to tailgate, but it kind of gives you that feeling. You get to interact with people. Obviously, there’s positive interactions, there’s negative interactions. But most people are very welcoming and happy. It’s one of the things that I really enjoy about game day, is just getting to see everyone come into one place and all there to support the team, support the school and they really are fired up about what’s about to happen. And they really do have a love for the university. And it’s just fun to see all those people out there having the same idea and the same motivation of why they’re in one place. So that’s kind of — it’s not so much a ritual, but it’s just oddly something that I really enjoy that most people probably wouldn’t.

Moderator: [00:14:52] Nick, do you have one?

Nick Britton: [00:14:54] The biggest thing that for me as my career is that it’s always been great to have that sense of peace when I get there in the morning. Nobody’s around. I’ll go just walk the facility. You know, I’ll make sure, you know, develop a checklist of what needs to be done, and then seeing that being executed. You know, that’s huge. And then afterwards, after it, when we’re going to shut the stadium down and nobody else is around except for the cleaning crew and me and I’m helping pick up whatever it might be to get ready for the next day, you know that’s when it’s that sense of feeling of pride. When you’re going on and you’re moving on to the next thing. We always say that if — you plan for the worst and hope for the best. You know, so that’s what game day is: We plan for the worst and hope for the best. And if my phone doesn’t ring, then we’re doing really good.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:15:44] Yeah.

Ben Goodman: [00:15:48] Your phone will always ring on game day.

Everyone: [00:15:49] (Laughing)

Nick Britton: [00:15:50] But you know, interacting with the fans coming through the stands, and it’s making memories for us too. That’s what it’s about.

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:16:00] I’m in agreement with Nick and Ben. I mean the things that I always look forward to — and every time it happens, I always am amazed at what’s happening here — is that feeling as soon as I get to the stadium and I step out of my car to walk into the stadium and I see all of the people that are there. And how excited they are to be Tigers and to really want to be part of this. Whatever sport it is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. You just see that you’re part of the same family, and people are happy to be there and they’re cheering. And that’s a feeling that it’s hard to put into words because it makes you feel at home, makes you feel that you have a great group of people around you who just want the best for this institution. So, I’m happy to be part of that for sure.

Moderator: [00:16:59] Most definitely. Well, thank you all for being with us today. Now, there’s just one more thing to do before we leave. Why did the golfer wear two pair of pants?

Everyone: [00:17:10] (Silence)

Moderator: [00:17:10] In case she gets a hole in one.

Everyone: [00:17:15] Oh…

Chancellor Cartwright: [00:17:15] Oh ok.

Everyone: [00:17:15] (Laughing)

Moderator: [00:17:24] Our audio engineer is Aaron Hay. Our featured music is composed by MU master’s student Niko D. Schroeder and performed by the Donald Sinta Quartet. You can find more information about Niko, the Quartet and their piece on the Inside Mizzou webpage. Make sure to join us next time to stay on top of what’s happening at Mizzou. Thanks for joining us on this episode. See you around the Columns!