Nov. 18, 2006
A look at the people behind the scenes who are pertinent to Virginia football's success
by Cathy Bongiovi
Assistant Director, UVa Athletics Media Relations
Title: Sports Turf Manager
Years at UVa: Second Season
Education: Tennessee (B.S. in horticulture `01)
Family: wife Amy, dog Maggie
I take care of all of the varsity athletic fields as well as the athletic grounds. We have about 15 acres of natural grass fields that we take care of. We also have about nine acres of artificial turf that we maintain as well. This includes football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, track, and field hockey. We have some hand in all of the outdoor sports.
Favorite part of the job:
Game day. Seeing the field dressed up, seeing 60,000-plus fans in the stands, that's what it's all about.
Least favorite part of the job: Shoveling eight inches of snow off of Davenport field in early February to play a baseball game in freezing temperatures.
What did you do prior to coming to UVa:
I worked for a contractor in Atlanta that did sports field construction. I worked all over the Southeast.
How has your job changed through the years:
We're much more technology based now. A lot of our mowers and equipment are much more technical than they were in the past. It's more of any agricultural job. In the last 10 years, the equipment and the science has behind growing grass have gotten much more sophisticated.
How many people are on your crew:
Not enough, but they do an outstanding job. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them. We have three full-time guys and an additional full-time employee during the season. It's a labor-intensive job. These guys are great. We'll work 50-60 hours a week during football season and even longer hours during baseball and softball season. You've got to be very committed to this job.
What's a typical work week for you prior to a home game:
Sunday is typically an off day for the field. Monday morning, I'll apply a liquid fertilizer and some micronutrients and then mow the field. Tuesday we will lie out our stencils and mark them all out. The weather plays a big role in our schedule for the week. If it's going to rain on Wednesday, we'll push our painting back until Thursday. If it's a nice week, we'll typically try to do all of our painting on Wednesday and Thursday, then mow the field on Friday.
Do you water the field at all:
We water it as needed, but not after Wednesday. Once we start painting, our water's cut off until Sunday or Monday.
What do you do to the field immediately after Saturday games:
Seven days is not enough time to regenerate grass. So we do everything that we can to replace the divots, get the debris off of the field, mow the field, and re-seed the field as soon as possible. It takes so many days to get seed to germinate, and we need to use every spare minute.
What unique challenges did you face following the Rolling Stones' concert at the stadium:
That was tough. After they took the last piece of equipment off the field, we had Florida State seven days later. There was a significant amount of dead grass in the north endzone. The playability and integrity of the field itself were intact. We made the decision not to re-sod and keep it as it was and to use the tools of the trade- like pre-germinated rye grass and green dye. We did everything we could to make the field look like this had been football venue for the prior two weeks instead of a concert venue. That was a very big challenge and we passed; it looked beautiful.
Favorite UVa highlight:
The victory over Florida State is the biggest one yet.
Favorite gameday tradition:
I like to walk around the field before the players get out here. I like to see the finished product. That's something that I enjoy.
You're named the head coach for one season. What's the first thing you'd do:
Turn the football practice fields back into natural grass, because I'm a grass guy. I don't feel that artificial turf gives the same sense that natural grass does. Football is a game that goes back 100 years here at UVa, and we're a school of tradition. I don't think that plastic grass is very traditional.
Isn't artificial turf more durable:
Sure. You can get on it when it's rainy or wet. It's a tool, no doubt. Being a grass man like I am, I am partial to natural grass.
Do you mow your own lawn at home:
I bet you have the best looking lawn on your street:
I don't. I wish I did. I rent right now, so I don't put much effort into it. I'm the chef that eats Ramon noodles at home.
What's the best part of working with Al Groh and the team:
That it's a big-time Division I program. Everybody is held to a certain level in that we're going to be on television a couple of times a year, and I know that I have to bring my A-game every week. I have to bring it for the fans, just like Coach Groh and the players do.
Favorite pro team:
I like college football, baseball, and basketball. That's why I'm here and not in the pros.
Describe your ideal day:
My ideal workday is the day that we cut the rye grass on the football field for the first time. We come out, and the grass is two or three inches tall. We mow it for the first time, and it looks like Augusta. It looks fantastic. That's my ideal day.
I fly fish, and play ultimate Frisbee and Frisbee golf.