Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium

Sunset skies cast over East Carolina University's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium

Remember life before COVID-19? No worries about wearing masks or social distancing, being able to hangout with as many people as you wanted without consequences. Being able to go to your job and just get to work, having it be a similar process day after day. Well with the fall season beginning it is the time of year when the most popular sport in the United States comes back and fans all over the country will be pouring into stadiums and gathering around their TVs every Saturday for college football. Or at least that is what would be happening any other year.

While many colleges are still holding football seasons, for most there won’t be any fans in the stands and with new COVID-19 regulations the game day preparations are going to look very different as well.

COVID-19 regulations have drastically changed how those who work behind the scenes set up college game days. However even without COVID-19, things were a lot crazier than many people realize. That was the case for Houston McCoullough, the content manager for ECU Athletics.

“I have a team of 10ish student workers that I oversee on gameday,” McCoullough said. “All of them have different roles that they do. So usually if it is a home game I will get to my office four to five hours before the game starts.”

The amount of preparation that goes into each home game takes hours of work from a lot of people. There are people who set up the concession stands, clean the seats in the stands, prepare the TV cameras and photography stations. Even with a team of people all working together it is a lot to manage.

For McCoullough and the marketing department, gameday isn’t just about setting up gear, each week is different. Different promotions for each game (homecoming, senior night, gold out, etc.) different opponents will lead to different stories going into the game.

“For my photography students I put together a (photography) shot list for them,” McCoullough stated, “Whatever promotion is going on like if it’s (a) military game or something we will have a different list of things that need to be photographed versus a regular game. So I will work with our marketing team to see what's happening that game and will put together a shot list for them and then it is some simple things like making sure the cameras are charged.”

However what goes into making gameday happen isn’t just marketing teams and video crews. The teams personal trainers and medical staff all have a lot of preparation and setup to make sure things run smoothly.

Jacob Moore, the head athletic trainer of the football team and his staff have their own share of work to do to make sure everything is in place to help deal with any injuries that may occur during the game.

“We are in charge of the sports medicine aspect of the team. Making sure these guys stay healthy and safe,” Moore said, “My staff is usually at the facility before I get there setting up the field. They are putting up the sideline tent that we use for evaluations, setting up the coolers, getting the sidelines ready for hydration, and getting the training room ready for taping.”

Before he can even get to the field to help set everything up, Moore’s day begins with check ins with the players, making sure any injuries or ailments are dealt with and any other concerns get addressed. His day doesn’t end until about two hours after the game, he helps take down all the equipment and checks in with the players about any bumps and bruises sustained during the game that weren’t serious enough to warrant being taken out for, after he writes up an injury report and sends that to the coaches, he prepares to start up again the next day.

Moore’s staff consists of 14 students, four certified athletic trainers, a team physician and two orthopedic surgeons. There are other allied health professionals who they work with, a team chiropractor, personal trainer and a physical therapist as well. Together each gameday this staff begins setting up six hours before kickoff to make sure everything is where it needs to be.

“At a home game they get there probably about six hours before, it is quite some time,” Moore said with a chuckle. “They get pretty efficient at it, probably the first couple of games, the students haven't done it before so it takes them the full six hours but as we get moving along in the season and stuff they get pretty efficient. On road games there are less of them but they also help the equipment staff set up the locker room and doing whatever they may need help with.”

The amount of action that goes on behind the scenes of game day is a lot more than many people realize with so many moving parts. With the season coming up the people that make game day happen will be dealing with all of their regular responsibilities on top of dealing with COVID-19 regulations.

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