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Managing the Dream Team

Jan 18, 2013, 2:18 PM EDT

Head football equipment manager Ryan Grooms with senior managers Andru Creighton, Sean Hannon and Case Sketch at the Notre Dame Monogram Club's Fall Letter Jacket Ceremony. Head football equipment manager Ryan Grooms with senior managers Andru Creighton, Sean Hannon and Case Sketch at the Notre Dame Monogram Club's Fall Letter Jacket Ceremony.

Football student managing is as competitive as any sport. It’s a time-consuming job, but it has plenty of perks, so lots of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students vie to get into the program.

Approximately 40 students enter the program as freshmen. Depending on which semester they join, they work both fall and spring practices and some games. They have to be up before the sun in spring to go to practices that start at 6 am, and after it’s all done, almost two-thirds of them are cut from the program.

Ryan Grooms (@NDFBEquipment) is the head football equipment manager and is in charge of the student managers. He said the freshman managers who make it to sophomore year are “trustworthy and [loyal]….They have access to a lot of merchandise here in the equipment room and I need to be able to trust them with it. I need them to be loyal to Notre Dame Football and make sure they are doing the things necessary to help the overall mission of winning a national championship.”

The fourteen that remain become sophomore managers. Sophomore managers work fall-training camp, all home football games, some away games, and spring practices. They rank each other at the end of the spring, and the lower-ranking half of them are cut.

The remaining seven junior managers work another fall training-camp, all home games and get to travel to all away games as well. At the end of the season, the seven juniors rank each other, and the top three become senior managers.

The 2012 season is the first in which the new managing system took full effect. Sean Hannon, senior manager for the 2012 season, said, “This is the first year…you choose what sport you want to do—only football or only Olympic sports. My class was the last class that went through the old program. [The last two years were] kind of a transition, and then this year’s the birth of the new program.”

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2012 football managers at the BCS championship in Miami.

Grooms described the old system. “The old system involved Notre Dame and St. Mary’s students, as does the new system, starting their sophomore year. The students would work a variety of sports and help with the painting process on the helmets. They would then vote for each other and rank one another to achieve the top 21. Those top 21 would work the football season their junior year. At the conclusion of the football season, they would then again rank each other. The top three became the senior managers and the other 18 went on to work Olympic Sports.”

He says that the new system is much more competitive because, if cut from the football program, a manager does not have another sport to fall back on. It’s everything or nothing.

Rachel Murphy, a freshman at Saint Mary’s, joined the managing program in August. She worked many practices and four home games. Her grandfather, Thomas (Class of ’53), and father, Terry (Class of ’78), both played football at Notre Dame, and since she can’t play football, she’s doing the next best thing.

“Notre Dame football is in my blood, and I’ve always dreamed of working with a football organization as prestigious as Notre Dame’s. Managing is the best way to carry on the legacy that my grandpa and dad started, and I hope to do it all four years that I’m here.”

Student managers have pretty tight schedules. The three senior managers are never not busy–at least in-season.

Alongside Hannon, Andru Creighton, and Case Sketch were the three senior football managers for the 2012 season. Hannon said he worked an average of 40 hours a week on managing alone.

Each of the three seniors has his speciality. Hannon is the personnel manager, which leaves him in charge of the underclassmen managers. He looks through schedules and decides who will work which practices and games. Creighton is the equipment manager. He’s in charge of every helmet, cleat, jersey, and sweatsuit that the players need. Sketch is the administrative manager. His primary responsibility is checking players in at meetings and practices, and finding out where they are if they don’t show up.

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Senior managers Andru Creighton, Case Sketch and Sean Hannon on the field at the final home game of the season.

The full-time job has its perks. The three senior managers have 24/7 access to things that very few people do, such as Notre Dame Stadium and the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.

Hannon stated, “Being in the Notre Dame locker room and on the field for games and having keys to the stadium to show my family around—those are things that [are] mind-blowing to me….I gave a tour to someone last week and there was a 45 year old guy and he started crying when he saw the ‘Play Like A Champion Today’ sign, and [he said], ‘You don’t know how lucky you are. I’ve dreamt about this.’ And it’s just really neat. [It] is a really humbling experience.”

Another huge perk for the senior managers is the scholarships they receive. With the old system, the top manager would receive 100% scholarship and the other two would receive 85% or 75%. The new system equalizes everyone to 85% scholarship for their tuition, which comes out to be approximately $36,500. Their text books are also paid for in full. Finally, in their third year of work, managers are inducted into the monogram club–an honor that is otherwise reserved for outstanding athletes. They even got to participate in a special Trick Shot Monday held in the equipment room of the Gug.

Over the last few years, these three seniors have experienced the good, the bad, and everything in between. Needless to say, this last season–which took them to Dublin, East Lansing, Chicago, Norman, Boston, Los Angeles, and finally, Miami–was something else. Hannon concluded, “I have been so fortunate this year to just be along for this magical ride, soaking in every moment of this truly unique experience.”

Their work does not go unnoticed. When asked about his relationship with the managers, Grooms expressed, “We have our ups and downs but at the end of the day, I am forever grateful to these…amazing students. Without them, we could not run as smooth of an operation that is necessary.”

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