June 29, 2016
This is the first in a series on Nebraska expanding its football event staff.
Randy York N-Sider
Official Blog of the Huskers
Nebraska has built a reputation that’s confidently and accurately reflected in Memorial Stadium’s main entrance. Etched in Gate No. 4’s invitational sign on the stadium’s east side are these revered words that celebrate 347 consecutive sold-out Husker home football games: Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football.
To protect that historic milestone and preserve that lofty status, Nebraska Athletics is hiring 150 to 200 on-call football event staff workers. The increased force in customer service is designed to elevate the overall experience inside and outside Memorial Stadium. The goal is to expand customer service and fan-related treatment to unprecedented standards.
Eichorst: The Goal Is to Ensure the Best Driveway-to-Driveway Experience
The potential 200 additional event staff workers will have an immediate impact in raising the bar and creating unparalleled game-day experiences. “Our goal is to ensure the best driveway-to-driveway experience possible for our loyal and dedicated fans,” Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst said. “We’re excited to expand our staff and think this is a great opportunity for people who want to be part of an operation that stages world-class events.”
With that mission in mind, I asked the Huskers’ top two event staff leaders to answer five questions apiece. Please join our conversation with Butch Hug, Nebraska’s longtime associate athletic director for facilities and events, and Matt Davidson, NU’s director of athletic events:
Butch Hug: Huskers’ Top Goal Remains Providing Fan Safety and Security
Q-1: What’s Nebraska’s overall need in football event staffing, how are you communicating that need and how do you recruit?
“Our needs encompass more than just football. With the growing number of facilities we manage and the overlap of seasons, we need folks that can work multiple events many times on the same day. Much of our recruiting comes from word-of-mouth but this year we’ve gone to the social media. Those who show interest go through a screening process, so they can get a feel, gauge their interest and understand how they would fit into our existing staff.”
Q-2: Why are security and parking management as important as ushers and ticket takers?
“I like to use a football analogy in how our staff interacts with each other. The first person who comes in contact when fans come to our venues is a parking lot attendant, then that fan is handed off to a security staffer, then to a ticket taker, then to an usher, then to a concessionaire.”
Q-3: Fans tend to forget the top goal – providing safety and security in the midst of an exciting environment and an enriching atmosphere. Where’s the balance?
“I’m not sure we can say there is a balance. Safety and security must always be the top of the list, and sometimes we have to do things that might be a slight inconvenience to some, but in the long run it’s for the good of all involved. We can no longer say it won’t happen at Nebraska.”
Q-4: A rabid but respectful fan base is the very core of Nebraska’s athletic culture. What’s the lure for event staffers who want to be part of that storied tradition?
“Nebraska Athletic events are the major events in the state where everything we do is newsworthy. Our event staff understands this culture and relishes the opportunity to become involved and be a part of. They’re part of this fan base themselves because many of them hold tickets to multiple sporting events.”
Q-5: A number of staff members have worked here for 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. What does that say about their loyalty and how does it apply to fan loyalty?
“Our department mission statement of Integrity-Trust-Respect-Teamwork-Loyalty applies to our event staff because of their contact with our fans. They must exhibit these traits and take ownership with our venues. We call that pride and we call what they do ‘The Nebraska Way’ and embrace a “WET” statement – Welcome to our venue. Enjoy the event and Thanks for coming.”
Matt Davidson: NU Attention Focuses on Student-Athletes, Fans, Staff Support
Q-1: What does serving the greatest fans in college football history mean to you?
“It means a great deal and it’s not one to be taken lightly. There’s an over-the-top excitement that pours out of the state on every Husker Football game day. This program’s storied and rich history is right up at the top with great university programs across the country. That excites just about any person who is intrigued with college athletics. While customer service is very important and something that we spend a lot of time on, the safety and security of our fan base, student-athletes, staff and support staff is paramount. We spend a great deal of effort behind the scenes to ensure we roll out a safe and secure environment during all hosted events.”
Q-2: Can you share an example or two of the most touching staff experiences?
“It’s hard to pin it down to an example or two. I’d say as a whole, we have a very special thing going on at Nebraska. We’re unique in the fact that we have an internally operated on-call staff that we use to help manage all of our home events. This group of folks started a core foundation about 30 years ago under the direction of Butch Hug. Some were on staff many years prior to that and are still on staff today. Butch’s direction and vision molded the foundation that enables us to operate today. The rich history of our committed event staff members creates a community feel that you can see and feel. Over the years, staff members have become friends, and they laugh with each “other and cry with each other whenever one departs this world. They are very close-knit as well as seasoned and knowledgeable. I’d say our on-call event staff team is unmatched across this type of platform. There’s just something very special going on here because of our solid foundation, and it will continue for many years to come.”
Q-3: Shawn Eichorst believes in catering to the greatest fans in college athletics. How do your event staffers inject the human element into that lofty goal?
“There is no other better example of customer service than positive face-to-face interactions between fans and event staff. Our event staff have fan touch points from the parking lots to the seats and everywhere in between. Their professional demeanor and consistency with policy and procedure will drive a positive game day experience. Very few elements exceed the face-to-face interactions our on-call event staff have with our fans on game day.”
Q-4: Our top-tier attendance rates are off the charts in college athletics. Can you describe how popular some of those programs are and why?
“The University of Nebraska Athletic Department is the top draw in the state, bar none. We have a deep commitment to our past, present and future both as a staff and as a fan base. We have a full-time staff that care deeply about staging successful events, an administration that is committed to our Events Department and a sound commitment from outside agencies which all give us support during our various events. Because of this continued effort, we are able to create an environment for our fan base that is exciting, safe, secure and family oriented. Our administration’s commitment to our office provides us with the tools necessary to hire, train and retain quality on-call event staff members. With this comes consistency and convenience and fans draw to these things as well as top notch championship facilities. We are conveniently positioned here at Nebraska to be able to provide such world class facilities to our student-athletes, fans and staff.”
Q-5: Nebraska’s rich event staff history was built on teamwork, integrity and accountability. Why has that approach served Nebraska so well?
“This direction would serve any program well if approached with the professional attitude it takes to make sure there is buy-in with those three areas. I believe buy-in begins with accountability and fostering trust among staff. If successful, teamwork and integrity will follow. We continue to make tweaks to our approaches every year to manage the progress it takes to keep up with our ever-changing world of event management and college athletics. In managing an 800-plus on-call event staff database, it’s amazing the amount of changes that we’ve gone through in the last seven years. When you peel back a layer or two, the foundation is still intact because we’ve operated for the last 30 years with teamwork, integrity and accountability.”
Editor’s Note: Those interested in applying for Nebraska football event staff positions can learn more here. If job descriptions for ticket takers, ushers, parking and security interest you, click the red “Apply Here” button in the graphic above.
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