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Nancy Napier: How Boise State Football Satisfies "Hunger"

Two types of hunger prevail when it comes to football games: hunger for information and hunger for food. Boise State’s experts on both surprised me once again on just what goes on “behind the scenes.”

Joe Nickell, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications, and Max Corbet, his predecessor and current Assistant Athletic Director for Administration, estimate that about 30 media outlets want information about Boise State during game weeks. They range from local, regional and national TV and radio stations to websites and newspapers--from ESPN to the Idaho Statesman. So Nickell and his staff start by preparing and updating the 40 page, ½” thick Game Notes, a compilation of statistics about previous games, seasons, and information about the upcoming game. It includes everything from new stats and trends to clippings and comparisons of Boise State with other teams over the season and years to how to pronounce players’ names. One note I love is that Boise State has received, for the last five years, an NCAA award for academic success, along with such powerhouses as Clemson, Duke and Northwestern. Not bad company. The game notes make any media person who takes time to study them much smarter about the games, which means their commentary and questions can be more on target as well.

Then there are the interviews. Nickell estimates that coaches and athletes spend 7-8 hours in front of a microphone in a week, excluding the time it takes to set up and prepare for the interviews. Head Coach Bryan Harsin alone likely spends 5-6 hours, what with his press conferences, weekly TV show, meeting with the national media and those from the opposing team’s region, and the during and immediate post-game interviews. The staff also manages social media interactions, no small feat with 160,000 Twitter impressions per day about the program.

There's also the literal hunger on game day itself. Fans devour about 3500 Double R Ranch hot dogs, 2500 soft pretzels, 5500 bottles of water, and 1200 gallons of popcorn on game day, along with 1000 catered meals (in the Hall of Fame, the Stueckle Sky Center, at the SUB, and for the media). For the upcoming game against Wyoming, look for 1800 pounds of beef in the chili you may eat.

Philippe Didier, Executive Chef for Aramark, who contracts with Boise State, recently received the Pro Chef II certification from the Culinary Institute of America, the gold standard of the cooking world. He plans menus in the spring for fall games. Then, during game week, he orders food on Wednesday, it arrives on Thursday and preparation begins Friday (e.g., thawing, marinades). Twelve hours before a Saturday game kickoff, he and six other chefs are hard at work with “prep, fire, box, and serve” after transferring food from the Student Union to the kitchen underneath the stands in the Sky Center. Along with Aramark’s General Manager for Boise State, Carol Scott, they oversee some 155 people who provide and serve the food and clean up, which can take up to six hours following the game.

And they do all of this with aplomb. The temperature in last year’s San Diego game, 15 November 2014, dipped to 9 degrees, so cold that the concession pipes froze during the game: that meant no sodas, no coffee, no cocoa. So, the staff began racing to the SUB kitchen to make the drinks and warm food they knew people would need. Crisis averted.

That’s “behind the scenes” in action. Fans had a great experience and most never knew what might have gone wrong.