What keeps you up at night?
We all have our personal worries but, professionally, what worries you the most? If you’re a head coach, maybe it’s your players getting into trouble. If you coach defensive backs, maybe it’s your players peeking their eyes in the backfield instead of the man they’re covering. If you’re a director of football operations, it’s the oil that your team’s pre-game meal is cooked in.
At the annual DFO Summit in Dallas this week, one director of football operations mentioned that he consulted with his program’s nutrition and strength staffs to find the optimal ingredients for those crucial pre-game loading sessions, and then relays that information to the hotel staff. Seriously, no detail is too small for a good DFO. In fact, as the profession becomes more ingrained in athletics departments across America, many DFOs have added an assistant athletics director to their director of football operations title. But perhaps the most appropriate would be this: assistant head coach for details.
Media wasn’t technically permitted in the closed meetings, so no direct quotes were taken for fear of becoming Edward Snowden’s newest roommate, but here were a few of the hot button discussion items from Monday and Tuesday:
– What clothes does your team wear on road trips? Is it a shirt and tie, or team sweats?
– Do you negotiate a bowl game guarantee into the contract with your charter plane vendor?
– What do you feed visiting pro scouts on Pro Day?
– How do you deal with a hometown hotel that isn’t giving you optimal treatment in a city without many other options?
It’s all stuff far away from the view of the typical college football fan, but nonetheless essential. It’s the nuts and bolts that keeps the college football machine intact.
The difference between a good DFO and a bad one is monumental. No detail is too microscopic for a good DFO. To a good DFO, every molehill is a mountain. He negotiates extra leg room for charter flights. He insists his hotel provide extra towels for games kicking off at 8 p.m. or later because some players like to shower twice for night games. He finds extra money in the budget by taking powered Gatorade on the road instead of bottled.
A good DFO also knows his head coach. Some head coaches have a standing meeting with their operations director twice a week. Others don’t want to know a thing about their road trip plans until they’re already on the bus… and then the questions start flowing. A good DFO makes sure his travel list matches his plane seat assignment list and his room assignment list and can change all of them on the fly, because that redshirt freshman added to the travel roster for the first time on Thursday night wants his name on his hotel room key and not the player he’s replacing. A good DFO identifies the cracks and fills in around them.
Every known detail has to be identified and ironed out as far in advance as possible, because it’s a DFO’s job to respond to the unknown. One FBS school had a flight home diverted to another city and, upon landing, the athletics director announced the DFO would get everyone to McDonald’s for a late night meal. The DFO wasn’t aware of this spontaneous field trip until it exited his boss’s mouth, but it was his job to make it happen. Another school had its hotel experience a power outage just before a pre-game meal, so the DFO had to find a Golden Corral that could feed a small army with zero notice.
This is the life of a director of football operations. You make sure the hotel has red napkins for your Friday night dinner – not green, and definitely not blue – so your head coach can sleep at night.