Today wraps up my first month with Ohio Northern University. I am still working on finishing up the renovations project and still have two schools left to look over but have been very excited looking back on my first month’s experience. I have learned a lot over the past month. I have learned that at this level where Director of football operations position do not exist that the head football coach has more than just x’s and o’s on his plate. The amount of time he spends booking flights, hotels, and making other accommodations for just recruiting is unreal. Then add on the amount of time it takes to plan a trip such as the upcoming trip to Utica to kick off the season. Every little detail must be accounted for when planning these trips. Much like I did when I had to decide on a hotel. I had to look at a little things like what is the best exit for the buses to get off at, are those exits easy to get back on, and is it a difficult drive to the hotel, how accessible is the parking. All these little things matter and I am so happy that I have been given the opportunity to do this, because doing this kind of work is right up my alley.
I am still working through the schools. It is a long and tedious process. I am looking through the schools website, local newspapers, and alumni magazines. I am basically trying to utilize any information I can find. The most important part of this is to see what the schools are spending on each project that they are completing. What I am finding so far is that schools like John Carroll have spent millions to reconstruct their football stadium, Don Shula Stadium, to bring it up to date with new technology, locker rooms, and weight training facilities.
What I am noticing is that this industry, college athletics, is becoming an arms race to see who can have the top tier facilities to attract the top tier talent. Even at the Division III level were hardly any money is earned, the alumni are wanting to see these sports programs excel and they are wanting help build these facilities for the athletic teams. While so far the school is not the one footing the bill for these renovations it is impressive to the amount of money that the alumni base has been donating in order to meet and exceed these hefty goals.
Today I researched more schools in the Ohio Athletic Conference to see what kind of renovations or projects the athletic departments have accomplished over the past several years and are working to get accomplished now. The goal is to compile a spreadsheet of everything each school has done so that Ohio Northern can compare to what they have done and what they are wanting to do. Like I stated yesterday, I believe that one of the goals is to construct an indoor football facility.
Looking over all of the renovations to this point, and I’m only completely done with about 3 schools, Ohio Northern has fallen behind some of these schools. Ohio Northern did build a new football stadium and constructed a new soccer field as well but it has been over 20+ years since they have done anything with the sports complex they currently have or their basketball arena. By compiling this list and data I am hoping I find enough information to provide the Athletic Director and Coach Paul to encourage the school to start a fund raising goal in order to improve not only the existing buildings but to build new ones as well.
As I went in today to meet with Coach Paul and go over what I will be working on this week, it was clear that school is winding down. The students are starting to filter down and the maintenance crew is working to get things setup for graduation.
However, when meeting with Coach Paul he went over what I will be working this week. This week I am focusing on the schools in the OAC and what facility upgrades they have done in the past few years. While nothing was confirmed, I believe that Ohio Northern is wanting to keep up to date with state of the art facilities in order to keep attracting top tier talent.
I first started looking at what Mount Union and all of the renovations they have done over the past several years. They spent around $17.3 million on one facility and this did not include the upgrades to the football stadium and track. Then I started looking at a couple of other schools, Heidelberg for example. They spent like $5.1 million on a new stadium and upgrades. So this will be what I am working on this week while at Ohio Northern and will hopefully find good information to present to Coach Paul so that he will be able to use that same information to present to the Athletic Director.
Well we have everything accomplished with the hotel and with the proximity to the two colleges done with. I am waiting on the contracts in my email and will hopefully have them by tomorrow to send on to Coach Paul. Today I am spending the day researching two other areas for schools to stop at so that we can possible do another meal swap along the way and while we are at Utica.
While searching the Erie, Pa area I found absolutely now colleges or universities that used the same food service so I decided to expand my search a little to the north and little back to the west. I started in the Buffalo area because it was not that much further from the Erie area. I called around at least 10 different schools to see what food services they used and unfortunately none of them used the same food service. So I decided to go back a little west toward Cleveland. I checked with 5 different schools around the Cleveland area and had zero luck with any of those schools either. So with zero prospects around those areas I decided to focus on the Utica area.
From talking with the offensive coordinator the previous day I had found out that Utica College actually uses the same food service as Ohio Northern. I thought to myself that this is great but what if they would not let us use the dining hall because of privacy reasons since we are getting ready to play them in football. So I decided to look around the area and found another community college that used the same food service so now at least we have a backup plan in place in case Utica would say no.
This concluded my week at Ohio Northern and I will be back in next week looking for something new and exciting to do. While others around me say what I am doing sounds boring, I laugh and tell them that this is actually very exciting because I am getting to setup the travel plans for the team and save the University money at the same time by negotiating great deals for them.
Today I had the contract from the Hotel emailed to me to finalize everything and close the books on this part of the trip. However, there was a change of plans. Coach Paul informed me that the team will be practicing at the University of Rochester and then wanted to know what schools used the same meal service as Ohio Northern.
Unfortunately for me this led to my first mistake. I had found a school that used the same service and relayed the information. However, upon further investigation this particular school only used the service for grounds keeping and not food service. My first lesson on doing my work thoroughly before answering questions. Thankfully, I quickly redeemed myself and found a school that was only 2 miles away from the University of Rochester.
The new problem was that our hotel was about 20 minutes away from both schools. This is a problem because of the time it would take having to travel back and forth. With a contract in hand from the hotel we had decided on, it was time to trash that and get back to looking for a hotel closer to both locations. Thankfully I had kept all of my information during the hotel search and all of my contacts as well. It only took about 10 minutes to realize that my first suggestion for a hotel, even though it was more expensive, was right beside the two colleges in which we would be using.
I quickly met with Coach Paul to show him what I found and gave him a quick refresher on the rates they had offered. The rates were $119 with breakfast and $104 without. A quick reminder, I had to call this hotel yesterday and tell them that we had decided to go with another hotel in the area. Well, I was quickly back on the phone and had told them that our plans had changed and needed to be closer to the University of Rochester and wanted to know the best rate that they could give us without breakfast. Within an half an hour I had a response of $94 a night and an offer from the business manager to go shopping with me to get bagels if necessary for the team.
I met with Coach Paul again to go over the new rate for the hotel and the proximity of the two college to the hotel. He quickly pulled up the hotel on the internet and looked over the rooms and property and then looked over how close both colleges would be to the hotel. The last thing he wanted to know was if we would be able to have a meeting room if needed and to have the contract sent over. I was back on the phone and confirmed that we would be able to use a meeting room in needed and asked to have the contracts e-mailed to me.
Coach Paul and I had narrowed down our options last week to a couple of different hotels and today is the day we decided on a hotel. We had decided on a particular hotel that would provide the team breakfast and only charge $95 a night for the stay. While the breakfast situation was not the ideal situation we were looking for this was the best deal that we were offered.
My job for the day was to contact the hotel, finalize any details, and confirm the number of rooms, rates, and insure that enough staff would be available for breakfast so that we were not wasting time waiting around for food to be made. I contacted the hotel and confirmed everything that we needed for the arrival of the team on September 8th and that the breakfast needs would be met along with the conference room being opened up for the players to eat in as well.
Once done with that I needed to look around the area of Erie, PA, Rochester, NY, and Utica, NY for any colleges or universities that used the same food service company as Ohio Northern University. I was doing this in hopes that we could do a meal swap with another university so that it would save the athletic department extra costs for food.
What I am quickly finding out is that at the Division III level that every dollar spent must be spent well and that you need to look for savings where ever you can in order to keep stay within the budget. At small schools the money for athletics is scarce and you often have to be very creative in finding ways to save money and to raise money.
After a brief meeting with Coach Paul, we have really narrowed down our options of hotels and are looking to see what other options we can play with. Today I was to see if it was beneficial for us to take the team to a Golden Corral for breakfast instead of risking a bad breakfast at one hotel compared to the cost of the other hotel. The first thing I did was contact the DoubleTree to see if we could get rid of the $16 per plate. What they did was just add it to the room rate for the breakfast and would seat all of us in their Bistro. That rate was $129 though and still more than what we want to spend on a one day stay and breakfast. Next I decided to call the Golden Corral to see what it would cost to feed the 100 people that would be on this trip. They offered to comp 5 of our meals and only charge for 95 of us at $11.75 a head. Adding this to the $95 rate it was still a little high.
I decided to call the DoubleTree back to see if they could do better than the $129. My contact at the hotel came back with an offer of $119. While this is a lot better it is still higher than what we want to pay even though it is everything we want. So putting all the numbers together if we decided to stay at the Holiday Inn and eat there this would be our cheapest option. However, if at the last second decide that this is not going to be a good situation for the breakfast and have to go down the road to the Golden Corral we just added an additional cost of $1200 to the trip. By going to the DoubleTree, there is no inherent risk because they have everything we want, it is just a higher cost than the Holiday Inn but cheaper if you add the Holiday Inn and Golden Corral combo together. So this is the current dilemma that we are facing and hoping that I hear back from another sales manager from another hotel with better news in the next couple of day because it is time to get this done and to move on to other pressing matters. I will be off for the next few days and will return next week and look forward to finalizing this trip.
It’s Tuesday April 12, 2016 and I am back in my luxurious office. I say that because my office is the VIP lounge and conference room but I get to overlook the swimming pool or basketball court. Well I am back to calling these hotels hoping to getting to talk to the sales managers. While I continuously called I still either got voicemail's or sorry they are out of the office responses. So I worked with what I had in front of me and focused mainly on the breakfast that these hotels offered and if they could set up the same breakfast in a conference/banquet room so that they team could eat together in an orderly fashion. The response I received were neither encouraging nor expected. Having worked in the Hotel industry I knew what could be done in order to contribute to an easier time for the team but I was unable to get any cooperation from any of the hotels.
I had a brief meeting with Coach Paul and explained to him what we were facing as far as the breakfast plans from the hotels I had spoken with. He was as disappointed as I was about it and showed me what they had done when they went to Wisconsin for the playoffs. They stayed at a Holiday Inn where they setup the entire breakfast in a conference room and then only charged them a setup fee since the breakfast was included with the room rates. This is mainly what he is looking for with our trip to Utica. So I decided to expand my search to a few miles off of I-90 and found a few more hotels that I could call and get some rates. I spoke with the DoubleTree by Hilton who offered me a comparable rate but here came the biggest obstacle, breakfast. Since we want the team separated they offered us the banquet room to eat in but would charge a setup fee and a $16 dollar plate fee per person. This obviously is not going to work. What I soon found out is that the breakfast is operated by another company and is not complimentary so we would have to pay for each player. So tomorrow my focus is going to be on negotiating a better price if I can and looking at other options for breakfast.
Today was a very busy day calling a getting rates from many different hotels around the Rochester, New York area. Ohio Northern is traveling to Utica at the beginning of September but are leaving on the Thursday before. I am in charge of finding a hotel for the team to stay at and to insure that they have a suitable breakfast for the team and coaches to eat along with enough available seating as well. Today I talked with a Holiday Inn Express right off of I-90 and received a rate of $95 a night which is great! The only thing suspect about here is that the buffet that they offer is going to be a tight fit for all 100 of team to get through the line and find a place to sit.
I continued to work on calling and getting different rates from other hotels during my time and to find out if the team could be served in a conference/banquet room as well. I called around 10 different places but to my surprise only got to talk to 4 sales managers of these hotels. While I am thoroughly enjoying this mentorship, this has been very challenging just trying to get sales managers to call you back. I will keep working hard at this because I want to ensure that Ohio Northern gets the best place available at a fair price.