Delivering The Swag
By Tom Symonds
It’s early June and sitting outside the Hecht Athletic Center equipment room is the envy of every Miami Hurricane student-athlete.
It’s a trailer full of new adidas gear for the upcoming 2017-18 season and although it’s not Christmas, it may as well be for more than 400 student-athletes, coaches and administrators who will eventually wear this gear and represent The U.
For the Miami equipment staff of David Case, Brad Anderson, Daniel Bogenschutz, Kevin Collins and an army of student workers, a truck full of gear means one thing.
It’s go time.
“Everybody looks forward to camp because you start getting the new stuff, new shoes, new clothes and stuff to wear around campus,” Case said.
Case, who serves as the Assistant Athletics Director for Equipment Operations, leads the Hurricanes’ equipment staff. He and his staff are responsible for the distribution of over 1,000 boxes worth of adidas gear that arrives at the beginning of June each year.
It marks the conclusion of a process that began nine months ago when the equipment staff placed its order for the upcoming year.
“Usually with uniforms and apparel, we are about two years ahead of the curve, so we’re already seeing some stuff for the fall of 2019,” Case said. “It’s about a two-year-in-advance process for everything.”
Planning is the name of the game for an equipment staff, and placing orders for apparel nine months in advance of a season is just one example of the many tasks that sit on an equipment staff’s plate on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s a big responsibility, but it’s pretty easy to do, especially when you have a great staff,” Case said. “It is a place that because of the history, you want to do the best job and present everything great, so that everyone is appreciative and enjoys what you are putting out.”
THE CAMP LIFE
It is well-known that student-athletes and coaches in college football get up early, report to the football facility and do not leave until well after the sun goes down.
However, these individuals may not have the longest days as the calendar flips to August and another college football season gets set to kick off. That might belong to the college football equipment managers and their staffs.
“A lot of people just take for granted that the stuff gets there, especially on practice and gamedays where players just show up and play the game, but there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” Case said.
For a typical 8:45 a.m. practice, Case and his crew get to Coral Gables between 5:45 and 6 a.m. to get the field ready and stay until the final jerseys are hung the lockers after many loads of laundry.
“The amount of setup that goes into practice is pretty involved,” Case said. “We have 14 students that help us and they are running drills, spotting balls and pulling chains and doing whatever they need to do for their position coach to make practice run and keep things going so that we stay on schedule. With practice there’s a lot going on with nine different position coaches and doing stuff for them during team periods.”
During a typical week, the equipment staff will log 60-70 hours in and around the Hecht Athletic Center.
PREPPING FOR GAMEDAY
Once the calendar flips to September and the football season begins, the equipment staff begins its preparation for gameday – a process that begins seven days before kickoff on Saturday.
Leading up to kickoff on Saturday, the equipment staff is tasked with getting the helmets and uniforms ready and packing the equipment truck so that everything can be delivered to be set up in the locker room at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Usually on a gameday, we usually get there five hours ahead of the team, getting stuff set up, so basically all the players have to do is get dressed and go play,” Case said. “Gameday is a lot easier than a regular practice day because we’ve spent the whole week preparing for the game, so basically when we get there and get set up, we’re just maintaining during the game.”
As soon as the game is over on Saturday, the staff is already getting ready for the following week by doing laundry and repacking the trunks for the next game.
“Obviously it’s a big job and it’s one that I don’t take lightly,” Case said. “Growing up I really liked college football and you always knew of Miami and I don’t know if I ever expected to be working at a place like this. But now that I am, with the history of this place and the former players and coaches, it gives you a little more sense of urgency when you are doing work here to make it right and make it perfect and keep the current players happy and the former players happy and keep the fans happy.”
TAKING CARE OF THE #PROCANES
If ordering gear for more than 400 student-athletes, coaches and staff, preparing for games and making sure practice goes off without a hitch wasn’t enough, Case and his staff also place a strong emphasis on taking care of former Hurricane football players so that they are outfitted with the freshest gear for the start of their respective NFL training camps.
“We always set aside money in our allotment to get stuff for the former players,” Case said. “It ends up being a good amount of work, but it’s worth it because a lot of the guys when they end up getting the box they’ll send us a text or an e-mail or they’ll send out a tweet that they are happy to have the gear. Most of those guys love having that stuff and they look forward to getting it every year.”
Every year, Case and his staff send Miami #ProCanes a box full of goodies, which include a couple of hoodies, t-shirts, shorts, polos, hats and anything that they can wear around their facility to promote the university.
“This really is one of the schools where it’s kind of different than any other place that you go where all these former guys come back,” Case said. “We’re lucky to have a bunch of really good former players that are playing in the NFL at a high level, so we end up seeing them a pretty good bit throughout the year, so you build a connection with a lot of these guys. The great thing is that we know a lot of the former guys and there’s a few that come in and hang out every couple weeks or so and just stop in and talk with us and hang out in the equipment room, so it makes it a really fun place to work when you got those guys coming through all the time.”
THE THREE STRIPE LIFE
A lot has changed within the collegiate athletics landscape over the years, including the importance an institution places on apparel deals. Over the past couple of years, collegiate athletic departments are signing mega deals with apparel companies so that student-athletes have the best gear to compete at the highest level.
Miami Athletics’ highly-publicized switch from Nike to adidas as the institution’s primary apparel provider is a move which has proven to enhance one of collegiate athletics’ most recognizable brands.
“They (adidas) definitely want to make Miami their premier school,” Anderson said. “We are constantly on the cutting edge of every technological advancement that they have when it comes to clothing, shoes and uniforms, so when you see adidas you think Miami and when you see Miami you think adidas.”