Mark Robinson, Florida State’s Assistant Athletics Director for Football, Shares What it’s Like to Plan for a Bowl Game

Florida State won’t take the field in Atlanta for a few more days, but the planning needed to shift their entire operation north was in progress long before Selection Day.

“Bowls have gotten really good at, and our conference is great at, getting you in touch with the bowls where you have a possibility,” Mark told us. “The later it gets in the year, the more you can start focusing on the two to three you have a shot at. Those bowls will then send you a preliminary guide so you can start looking at the events and planning.”

He also likes to keep a running list of who is going so that, no matter where they go for a bowl game, he knows on the day it’s announced how many people they will have on the team plane and how many hotel rooms they will need. He pointed out that one of the big differences between a bowl game and an away game is the sheer number of people involved. Compared to a regular away game, you sometimes need four to five times the number of rooms. You’re also booking them for much longer – most of the time for anywhere between six and nine nights.

Booking rooms is just the start, though. “You’re basically moving your whole facility to the hotel,” he told us. “We set up our locker room at the hotel instead of at the practice site. We have a much bigger training room than we would on the road. You need a meeting room for every position. You need a staff room for the coaches and a work room for the grad assistants and administrative assistants. You also need a big meal room, a hospitality room for the staff, a hospitality room for the players, a kid’s room for the staff kids, and an administrative room for your athletic director and staff.”

When he’s done with the hotel, he shifts his focus to scheduling – a project which he says is a bit like Legos. What goes into scheduling? “You treat it like a normal week of practice,” he says, ”but the difference is that you have media obligations for your head coach, coordinators, players, plus all of the bowl events.” He blocks out time for bowl events first, and then finds the best time for team meetings, position meetings, and practice. He then takes a step back to make sure the schedule has a nice balance – no one feels rushed, the coaches have time to finish their game plan and evaluate practice, and the players get some downtime.

We also asked him about their trip to the CFP last year and how he approached the prospect of two games. “You have to be prepared, if you win that first game, to turn around the next day and basically go to a second bowl game. It was a little difficult, especially because it was the first year to have the playoffs,” he said. “Planning wise, I looked at it as two different bowl games. I had everything set up for the semi-final game, and then everything set up for the championship game. The big thing was to stay organized and keep calendar checklists for everything.”

His advice for anyone doing this for the first time? “Have a plan for anything you anticipate could happen. Even if there’s only a very slight chance – just be prepared. It’s the holidays; this is one of the worst times of the year to travel. Have a plan and be ready to adapt to whatever comes your way.”

About the Author: Mitch Heath, Teamworks’ current Director of Operations, wears many hats here at Teamworks with his responsibilities including influencing the direction of the product, serving as the liaison between clients and developers, and helping craft the strategy and vision of where Teamworks is heading.