07:15 AM

Controlled chaos helps Buckeyes get packed for Fiesta Bowl

A flurry of packages, boxes opened and repacked, gifts sorted with care. It might sound like Santa’s workshop this time of year, but it’s the support team from The Ohio State University Athletics Department getting the football team ready for the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

Kevin Ries is the assistant athletic equipment manager for the football team. He and a crew of about a dozen staff and students are at the center of the action. Ries has been with the team for five years and he talks with the rapid-fire pace of a man on an important mission.

“It’s pretty much controlled chaos,” Ries said just hours before the team truck was packed and headed to Arizona.

Think about packing your family for vacation. It doesn’t come close. Between the team, coaches, staff, student staff and some family, the equipment management team is packing for about 350 people for bowl week.

“That’s anywhere from eight to 10 pieces of clothing, including hats and shoes,” Ries said.

Moving the football team and staff doesn’t happen overnight. The equipment management team has been working on this effort since the Buckeyes were selected to go to the Fiesta Bowl earlier this month.

Since the announcement that the Buckeyes secured a spot in the College Football Playoff, new gear with the Fiesta Bowl logo has arrived at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

“As it gets in we get it unboxed, get it inventoried and have a plan of action to get it out,” Ries said – all loaded onto a truck bound for the bowl game.

So what gets packed?

“The bowl game is kind of a different beast. You’re packing for a week, not just a regular bowl game where you’re there for a Friday or a Saturday,” Ries said.

And the equipment room is not alone. The coaches want the team set up just like they are in Columbus. That means the front office staff is packing up needed office supplies and video staff ships the equipment needed to help the team function seamlessly nearly 2,000 miles from home.

“A normal road trip is a Friday walk through and a Saturday game. Here we’re packing a week-long of practice stuff so we’ve got all the helmets, shoulder pads, practice clothes and obviously the game uniforms,” he said.

Ries says nothing gets left to chance. Before it leaves the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility for the team truck, every list of items is checked three times.

And getting out of Columbus is only half the story. Ries and his co-workers will be in Glendale on Dec. 25 to set up at the team hotel so when the Buckeyes arrive on Dec. 26, they are ready to go.“Hopefully you catch anything missing before you get out there,” he said.

Nick Jenkins, a fourth-year sport industry major, has spent four years with the team. He’ll help unpack when they get to Glendale.

“The practice facility is always nice to do because there are less people so we can lay it out before the chaos happens,” Jenkins said.

And if the Buckeyes beat Clemson, it starts all over again. Ries says they will have about a day from the time the team gets back to Columbus from Arizona to load up for the title game in Tampa on Jan. 9.