Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Is A Moving Experience

Dec. 23, 2000

By Kip Carlson

Oregon State sports information

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Packing all the equipment to outfit a 108-player football team for a 13-day trip all boils down to one very simple rule for Steve McCoy, Oregon State's equipment manager.

'The bottom line is, when you're ready to leave and you're going to turn the lights out, look behind you,' McCoy said. 'If there's anything left, take it with you.'

Moving the gear necessary for eight practices, a light walkthrough workout and the fifth-ranked Beavers' Tostitos Fiesta Bowl game against 10th-ranked Notre Dame doesn't quite approach the logistical complexity of D-Day, but it means significantly more preparation than your normal Pacific-10 road game for McCoy and Barney Graff, OSU's head football trainer.

'We tried to take everything we have in the Valley Football Center and set it up in the hotel so we have a training room in there, so we can take care of anything that comes up from a medical standpoint just as if we were in Corvallis,' Graff said.

McCoy and assistant Art Carll have a staff of seven student managers. They are also assisted by Ron Dilks, the equipment manager for Scottsdale Community College, where OSU is practicing.

Graff is one of OSU's four certified athletic trainers on the trip, the Beavers also have team physician Dr. Craig Graham and two senior student trainers plus two student trainers who made the trip on their own.

Graff, in his fourth season at OSU, prepared for several bowl trips while working at Syracuse and Kansas State. McCoy, also in his fourth season with the Beavers, got is first taste of packing for a bowl trip when Oregon State played in the O'ahu Bowl in 1999.

'I've been involved in the Canadian Football League,' McCoy said while sitting among doznes of boxes and trunks in the SCC equipment room Saturday afternoon. 'I've had a five- or six-day trip with a pro team, which amounts to about 55 players and much less stuff than what we have here. But to this magnitude - no, this is a big, big operation. You're talking about 108 players, 60 staff members just related to football, not to mention everybody else involved that I help with in different ways.

'This is the biggest undertaking I've had.'

McCoy and Graff begin with the list of materials needed for a normal road game.

'Basically, your weight doubles and your supplies double,' McCoy said. 'You look at your whole picture and say, `What do you use the most of? Where are you going to be? What's the climate going to be? What kind of surface are you practicing on? How much of it are you going to need?' Not to mention that you're not dealing with 60 players like you would on a regular road trip, you're dealing with 108.

'You've got the checklist, it's a matter of more of everything. It's a matter of really thinking it through. To be honest with you, I don't think I really slept the seven days before we left because what you do is, you just sit there at night pondering `Have I got everything?' You're talking about a lot of detail, everything from soup to nuts - shoelaces, chinstraps, buckles, helmet screws, do you have the right kind of socks for the coach? What happens if we change our minds and want to wear this uniform as opposed to that uniform? Are the orange pants coming out? Well, we don't know, so we'd better pack them. You take a look at all those situations, and say, `If it's possible, it's packed.' And that's what we do.

'What that leads to is just standing over a trunk, looking at it and saying `Do I have it all? And if I have it, do I have enough of it?''

For a regular-season road trip, the Beavers usually ship about 5,800 pounds of gear, including video and training equipment. For the Fiesta Bowl, McCoy and his staff loaded almost 9,000 pounds into a pair of tractor-trailer rigs that left Corvallis two days before the team's Dec. 21 departure.

The trip to Hawaii last season made this year's journey to Arizona easier.

'We learned a lot,' McCoy said. 'We learned how to plan our practice schedule better. We learned what to expect. We have a much better grip on overall supplies - what you're going to need and how much. We also learned how to pack better - how to pack from the reverse out. If you're going to be practicing, you want to pack everything you need for the game first and then move it backward. That's not as easy as it looks, because there are certain things you're going to need. But if you pack it properly and you pull the stuff off the top and out of the truck first that you're going to need, it makes things much better.'

In addition to the on-field equipment needs, McCoy's department is also involved in obtaining the bowl-related souvenirs for players, staff and others. The job is fun, McCoy said, but he's not sure people realize just how much it involves on a day-in, day-out basis.

'`Oh, glad you guys are here, that's great, are you all done? We're by the pool if you want to come join us.',' McCoy said of road-trip hotel greetings he might receive. 'Well, it doesn't work like that ... I'm not just talking about the hard labor but about the thought process and dealing with a lot of different people. Everybody has a very important role, and all those different roles require different things from me. How many phone calls coming in a day, how many fires you're putting out, and having the thing run efficiently.

'It's not so much unloading the truck. You want everything in a particular place, everything there that they need. Because the people doing the job and making this thing work don't have time to putter around. They want it there and ready to rock.'

For Graff, the experience of relocating the training room for a bowl game has gotten somewhat routine.

'The first time is hard,' Graff said. 'The second time is easier, the third time is easier - and it's an enjoyable chore.'

This year, Graff began getting ready for the trip on Dec. 4, the day after the Beavers found they'd be playing in the Fiesta Bowl. He took about a week making out a list of items to pack, then he double-checked that against the lists he'd kept from prior bowl trips.

Graff talked with Oregon State's coaching staff about what type of practices they had planned for each day and considered how much tape, prewrap and padding a similar practice in Corvallis would require. He also double-checked his math due to the length of OSU's stay in Arizona and the increased material it would require.

'Then it didn't take us that long to start pulling stuff off shelves and out of the storeroom and putting it all up, labeling where it needs to go, and then getting it to the equipment truck on the day that it was at the football center,' Graff said.

The goal of the training staff is to prepare for almost any possible medical situation. OSU has equipment for treating injuries, over-the-counter drugs and other medications on hand.

'Dr. Graham has some pharmaceuticals in case a guy comes down with strept throat or some upper-respiratory illness or earache or pinkeye or something like that,' Graff said. 'Our director of pharmacy on campus has worked it out with Dr. Graham so we can dispense that, it's already packaged by the pharmacy and all we have to do is have Dr. Graham put his name, the patient name and the date and then we log it into our book. It just saves us a little bit of time ... we hope nobody gets ill or anything like that, but if it does come up, if you have it on hand then you're ahead of the game and you save everybody a little bit of time and you get the kid treated quick.'

NOTES: Oregon State practiced in full pads for about two hours on Saturday in warm, sunny conditions. Perhaps 200 fans were on hand for the session, several had Beaver wide receiver Chad Johnson autograph his photo on Sports Illustrated covers from the magazine's issue detailing the Civil War win over Oregon.

Erickson was pleased with the Beavers' first two workouts in Arizona.

'Not bad - a lot better than I expected,' Erickson said. 'We were a little rusty. We had a little bit of a layoff, but I'm happy with where we are right now. We've got a lot of them left before we play. We'll practice Sunday and then have Christmas Day off. Things are going pretty well right now, and it's nice to have this weather to practice in.'

Erickson also commented on OSU athletic director Mitch Barnhart's Friday announcement that he plans to remain at Oregon State, ending speculation that Barnhart might take the same position at Louisiana State.

'It's important for us that Mitch stay,' Erickson said. 'Mitch is one of the big reasons this thing is getting turned around, so to have him stay around is a tremendous thing for us.'

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