A behind-the-scenes look at football’s Homecoming game

It was a marvelous sight. Alumni back on campus, a full tailgating lot and 2,801 people in attendance to watch the Little Giants’ Homecoming game on Saturday, September 24. The result may not have gone our way, but the atmosphere was electric. For most people, gameday is simple. Turn up, tailgate, watch the game and go home. Just the way it should be. But behind the scenes, there is a whole army of staff and volunteers who work relentlessly to make all of this happen. Gameday is simple only because of their hard work. The primary concern of any Wabash football game is the health and safety of student athletes.

Through a rigorous program of injury prevention plans, warmup routines and post-game check-ups, the Little Giants staff work hard to ensure injuries are kept to an absolute minimum. “We’re here two hours before the game to get the guys all taped up and ready to go,” said Head Athletic Trainer Mark Elizondo. “As they warmup, we’re out there watching them. During the game, we’re basically their emergency services. If guys need treatment or need to go to hospital, we’re ready for that. And then there’s post-game treatment. A number of guys come down to get their ankles in buckets of ice, but mostly we use that time to evaluate injuries and make a plan for the week.” Despite a recent shortage in available athletics trainers nationwide, Elizondo works closely with community partners in order most effectively to treat injuries when they do occur. “Nurse Amidon, the College nurse, is amazing,” said Elizondo. “She has to work with both non-athletes and athletes, but we use her services all the time. However, most of the time she cannot be with us during games or at practice, so we also have our physicians and some orthopedic physicians on the sidelines.”

But on gameday, concerns for safety and security extend well beyond the treatment room. Especially on days like Homecoming, where several thousand fans descend on Little Giant Stadium, Wabash’s team of athletic event coordinators play a crucial yet largely unseen role in managing the influx of people on campus. These preparations begin weeks in advance. “On a Monday of game week, I’m typically looking at how many people we’re going to have in the W Club to make sure that we have enough staff up there,” said Assistant Athletics Director for Internal Operations Allison Manwell. “Throughout the week, I’m printing tickets for different groups across campus and making sure that we’ll be ready for Saturday. And then on gameday, I usually get the ticket office set up several hours before we open, hang up signage and make sure we have plenty of tickets printed.”

Making sure people know where they are going is key to getting people in and around the stadium with ease. In this regard, keeping things moving is aim of the game. “I get here an hour or so before the lot opens to set up tailgating,” said Assistant Director of Athletics and Campus Wellness Tori Gregory. “We make sure all the signs you see hanging around places are all put up, setup the pylons for football, unlock gates and other things like that. We then also coordinate with any WISE workers to get them set up at parking lots, tailgates, and at the W Club.” Student workers are vitally important to every gameday operation. Wabash students take on an array of jobs, from ball boys to student managers; broadcast truck operators to parking attendants. Each student has his own position, whether it be safety and security or simply enhancing the gameday experience. “Their job is to monitor who’s coming in and out all the time,” said Gregory. “It’s pretty important, especially for the person working in the elevator lounge. He could play an important role if we had an emergency and could act as a kind of a point person.”

Up in the press box, another team of Wabash staff play their part in the gameday operation. The NCAA requires teams to submit statistics for each game, a task headed up by Athletics Communications Director Brent Harris. “My primary role on gameday is handling statistics, working with our students stats crew to use NCAA software to score the game,” said Harris. “The stats go to coaches, a live feed that the NCAA can distribute and to our online live stats. They also go to the NCAA database to update career numbers and national rankings.” As well as going to the NCAA, the stats Wabash collect are also used for in-house live broadcasts and for use by opposition teams. “You’re really working for a myriad of people on gameday,” said Harris. “I’m working for Wabash. I’m working for the NCAA. And, in some ways, I’m working for the visiting team as well to make certain that they’re getting accurate information so they can do the same things on their campus.” All these members of the Wabash staff work to ensure that gameday stays simple and safe for everyone. They are the unsung heroes, but Wabash football wouldn’t be able to run without them.