July 2015

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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Page 42 of 51 July 2015 | SportsTurf 43 Category of Submission: College Football Sports Turf Manager: Jason H. Smith Title: Coordinator of Turfgrass Education: Bachelor's of Science in Agronomy - Golf & Sports Turf Management Experience: Graduated from Mississippi State University. I was the assistant at Mississippi State University for 4 years and decided to further my career and pursue becoming a head Sports Turf Manager. My first head Turf position was at USA Baseball Stadium in Millington, TN which then led me to the University of Memphis. I became the Coordinator of Turfgrass at University of Florida in November of 2012 where I oversee all athletic fields, which is approximately 18 acres. Original construction: 1930 Rootzone: 90% sand, 10% organic Turfgrass variety: Celebration Bermudagrass Drainage: Subsoil Pipe Drainage System on 20 foot spacing. Surface drains of 1% slopes with outside perimeter drains. WHY STMA SHOULD CONSIDER YOUR FIELD A WINNER? Two things really surprised me when I took over as the Co- ordinator of Turfgrass at the University of Florida. The first was the only locker room for football is in the stadium. There is not a football complex at the practice fields. This situation encourages the use of Florida Field daily as individual players work out constantly on their own. It is also common to have practices on Florida Field out of the convenience of the loca- tion of the locker room and meeting rooms. The second surprise was that Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is open to the public 7 days a week. Most days the stadium is open by 5 am and closes at 10 pm. We have signs that request the public to stay off Florida Field, but many ignore the signs and use the field as they wish. Often it is used for personal family photos around the Gator head logo on the 50-yard line or a group wanting to play soccer. We never know what we are going to see when we arrive at the stadium every day. With these two issues added to the normal use of Florida Field, it makes it very challenging to produce a quality that is expected on a college football field in the fall. We have to be proactive in all of our cultural practices and take advantage of the limited down time. One of our most helpful tools we have acquired is a set of verticutting units for one of our fairway mowers. This allows us to verticut lightly, but more frequently. Verticutting lightly allows us to maintain our thatch level, but not take the field out of play versus verticutting heavy one to two times a season. I feel that I have taken Florida Field to a whole new level of professionalism that includes creating and adjusting a program to help overcome the many unique obstacles and adversities we deal with daily. My main goal is to provide a top-notch safe playing surface for our student athletes that is also aesthetically pleasing to staff, alumni and family of the Gator Nation. SPORTSTURF: How do you deal with the pressure of having to maintain such a high-visibility playing surface? SMITH: Dealing with the high visibility of caring for Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium begins with having confidence in and trusting our team. After being in this industry for 20 years, I've learned this is definitely a team effort. Whether it's summer time cultivation or finishing painting for a big game, my crew always comes through bringing out the highest potential possible of Florida Field. ST: What are your specific job responsibilities? SMITH: I am the Turf Coordinator and oversee 18 acres of ath- letic fields. I currently have seven full time staff members which help maintain the fields. I am also responsible for creating and staying within the confines of the operating budget. ST: What do find most enjoyable? What task is your least fa- vorite and why? SMITH: The most enjoyable part of my job is when I can get on a mower at daybreak. The views of the fields at this time of day are amazing, but never seen by the public. Being on quiet and dew-drenched fields before the Florida sun comes out and phone calls and emails are my favorite part of the day. My least favorite part of my job is the lack of available time to get in and actually do what is best for the fields. The constant nature of collegiate athletics today is a challenge for all of us in the turf industry and can make it tough to find time to do what the fields really need to be the best they can be. That said, part of the challenge that I enjoy each day and overcoming such obstacles keeps me motivated and inventive. ST: What changes are you planning to make to your football field maintenance plan for 2015, if any? SMITH: Florida Field has not been overseeded in years. It is very challenging to create a quality playing surface for the FIELD OF THE YEAR

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