How to Take a Football Team to New Mexico

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If you have ever traveled for a vacation then you know the fun is only had once you get to your destination. The planning, preparing, packing and traveling are far from a vacation. In fact, these stressors are what make vacations so enjoyable.

Ohio’s first Director of Football Operations Jason Grooms has been planning the Bobcats’ first road game to Las Cruces, New Mexico since January, and it isn’t for a fun vacation, it’s part of his job.

“I’m in charge of the logistics and administration side of the football program. Meaning travel, all aspects of travel, hotel, charters, planes, buses, the budget, overseeing all that,” Grooms said. “Scheduling of games, practices, organization within the office, our staff that works in the office as far as student workers, managing and facilitating a work schedule.

“Also community service helping with academics and coordinating class checks, and I’m also very involved with the compliance part. I just keep taking hats off and putting new ones on.”   

Once the 2010 football season wrapped up, Grooms went to work looking for hotels and charter planes. The Cats stayed at a Marriott in El Paso, Texas and flew on a CSI Aviation Services charter plane, which Ohio is familiar with.

“We turn in our flight games and then it goes out to bid,” Grooms added. “Companies nationwide put a quote in for our business. CSI, which is based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, won our bid and we’ve been working with them for five of my seven years, they do a great job.”

The Bobcats flew out of Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base on a 150-person charter plane. The travel party goes beyond the standard wife and kids. It includes a 75-player travel roster, 13 head/position coaches, student coaches, athletic trainers, equipment personnel, a sports information director, the broadcast team, videographers, potential donors and boosters. A lot of people means a lot of hotel rooms; Grooms high-ended his party size and booked 90 hotel rooms.

“Typically I always high end it and go for 85-90 rooms and then we scale back.”

Grooms’ organization is a quasi-art form. He has checklists all over his office and a master to-do list on a whiteboard over his computer. While lists cover his office, emails and phone calls dominate his day.

“I live on my email. I’m constantly doing that,” Grooms said. “With smart phones and things like that you can get a lot more done. I’m at every practice, I attend every practice, I’m on the field.

“I’d like to spend a little more time in here making calls… If we practice at 9 o’clock in the morning I’m here at 7 a.m. checking emails and then after practice I’m here from 11 until five, six, seven o clock at night.”

As you can imagine, organizing a trip for one person takes careful planning. Scheduling a trip for more than 100 people, well that could go haywire if unorganized. Grooms has a travel itinerary for every step of the trip.

Packing the car can sometimes prove to be the most difficult step of a vacation. Matt Morton is the stuff-packer extraordinaire. Morton is the director of equipment and has been getting all of the gear ready to travel for a while.

“In a weird twisted way it’s a been a month long process,” Morton said. “Since camp started we’ve been getting ready for this, trying to make sure everyone has what they need. Everyone asks if you’re ready, we’ll know on Sunday after the game if we were ready or not. You try to build off each week, usually we don’t forget anything, but every now and then you forget a few things.”  

There’s a reason it takes a month to pack everything. Morton and his team are responsible for a list that includes 75 player jerseys, pants, pads, helmets, all of the coaches shoes, hats, and polos. They also pack athletic training supplies, water coolers, Gatorade bottles, rolls and rolls of tape, tools to make equipment repairs, headset communication sets, and much more.

Despite all the planning done by Grooms, there are things that come up that are out of his control.

“The locker room space at New Mexico State is not what was listed in their travel manual, they’ve done some renovations there and we lost about 20 lockers out of our space,” Grooms said. “We found out it’s not air conditioned, so we’ve had to rent portable air conditioners and a tent to attach to the outside of the locker room to be able to adjust our space, so like a party tent has been brought in.

“That got thrown on me about [August 25] and then I found out [August 26th] because of the humidity and altitude levels there’s a good chance we will not be flying out of the same airport we flew in to. We will have to bus back to El Paso and fly out of there after the game.”

The Ohio football team will spend roughly 32 hours in New Mexico; a stay which took eight months to plan.