Inside the Annual DFO Meetings: How to Plan a Bowl Trip
Let's jump forward in time a few months, to Dec. 8 to be exact. The college football regular season has just ended the day before and now it's Selection Sunday - the day 70 teams fortunate enough to qualify for bowl games learn where they will close their season. Once the matchup is announced, most on campus nod and then put it out of their mind for the time being. Players study for finals, coaches go recruiting and fans look forward to the next basketball game.
But while everyone else temporarily goes their separate ways, one man hunkers down in his office and devises how exactly to move the small army that is a football program, its accompanying entourage and their equipment to set up shop at a far away location for a week's worth of time and come back in one piece. And does it all well behind the curtain of what the average fan sees on game day.
As TCU's Director of Football Operations (DFO), Mike Sinquefield told a crowd of his peers and one member of the FootballScoop staff on Tuesday morning, he has been just about everywhere by now. In his 13 seasons at the post, TCU has competed in the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mountain West and now the Big 12, which means they've run the gamut of the college football postseason experience. They've been close to home (2003 Fort Worth Bowl) and far away (2011 Poinsettia Bowl). They've been to new bowls (in three trips to Houston, TCU has played in three different bowls with three different names run by three different staffs), and they've been to old bowls (the 2011 Rose Bowl).
From the minds of one of the experts, take step seven levels inside the College Football Machine and see how you move a football team, its coaching staff, equipment staff, video staff, student support staff, administration, band and their families, to a new location for a week's stay and live to tell about it.
Plan ahead: Sinquefield's bowl prep starts in August by gathering full legal names of anyone and everyone who may possibly make the trip. Of course, you can be a little more certain about things when you haven't missed a bowl game since 2004.
Be as thorough as you can be on your site visit: In one of TCU's trip to Houston, the Horned Frogs happened to be their hotel's first guests after being closed for a decade. As commonly happens with new facilities, not all of the kinks were worked out upon TCU's arrival, which meant in this case a member of the TCU traveling party was met with a stream of black water after turning on the shower. They didn't return to that hotel.
You can't stress this one enough: Get everything you can figured out ahead of time. Does your defensive line coach need a white board for position meetings? If your practice site is 45 minutes from the hotel, what's the best way for the video staff to get film cut up for the coaching staff as fast as possible?
The most important meal of the day: If Bowl A offers your coaches, players, administrators and, most importantly, their wives and children a free breakfast every morning, you'd better figure out how to provide that same experience in the following years even if Bowl B and Bowl C don't cover that expense because a $7 per diem won't get you very far in, say, downtown Los Angeles.
You'd rather fly than drive: When your school plays with driving distance of campus, traveling party members get the feeling they can come and go as they please, reservations or not. With farther away bowls, you're either on the airplane or you're not.
It's up to you to fill the free time: The bowl staff will provide events for your coaching staff and events for your players, but most of them don't include the wives, the assistant athletic directors and student trainers. Find out which events will let additional parties attend and which ones will let you buy more tickets because, ultimately, everyone in your party wants to do what your coaches and players are doing.
When at all possible, get creative: Minds were blown across the room as Sinquefield detailed TCU's solution to handling players' per diem cash. Instead of handing each player $400 cash that can't be replaced if lost or spent within two hours' time, the Horned Frogs give each player a debit card that triggers a set amount of money at pre-ordained times.
Once again, don't forget: This year's free perk is next year's expectation among your travel party.
So next bowl season, when the average fan loads up a plate of leftover ham and pumpkin pie and settles into the couch for a night of bowl action, remember the DFO, who moved a small army, laid out its itinerary, balanced its budget and provided them breakfast to boot.