'Seven On Seven' Series with Matt Doyle
Matt Doyle has been director of football operations at Stanford University since 2007. He took some time to speak with FBA Communications to talk about his job, how it has evolved, the different challenges involved and how he and his team operate when the Cardinal accepts a bowl invitation.
Most people who see a title "Director of Football Operations" really have no idea what that means. What does your job entail, and how do you go about accomplishing what needs to be done?
"The director of football operations role varies at every school in the country. For the most part, a DFO manages the day-to-day operations of the football program while providing support for the student-athletes, coaches and the staff. Our job is to make sure they have everything they need to be successful. In my role as DFO, I serve as an office manager, alumni director, fundraiser, camp coordinator, budget manager, facility director or liaison to numerous groups and people on campus and in the community. One day I might be hosting a donor luncheon or speaking at the Rotary club or checking on the stadium field to make sure the right color of paint was used on the midfield logo. Overall the job requires that you do whatever needs to get done to support the program. No one day is the same and everyday is an an exciting adventure."
You graduated UC Davis with a degree in English and later taught at your high school alma mater. How did you transition into what you are doing now?.
"Prior to coming to Stanford, I spent two years as a teacher and coach at St. Francis High School on nearby Mountain View. In June 2000, I had an opportunity to join the Stanford football staff in an administrative recruiting role and I jumped at the opportunity to work at such a great place. I started out as the associate recruiting coordinator and as I gained more experience and became more comfortable in my role within the program, I was fortunate to be promoted a few times. One of the most important steps during this process was that I totally embraced change… we went through three head coaches in five years and with each coaching change there became a greater opportunity to expand my role and prove to the new staff what I was capable of. While some people failed to embrace the changes, I took it as an opportunity and went full speed ahead. About a year ago I was promoted from Associate AD to the role of Senior Associate Athletic Director. During this time I've always maintained the dual role of director of football operations."
You have worked at Stanford for both Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw. As far as your department is concerned, can you compare and contrast these two coaches?
I'd say the biggest difference is that with Jim Harbaugh you could tell that he was a rising star and his plan was to revitalize Stanford football and then move on to something else. I think we all knew that Jim was not necessarily here for the long haul, but he was absolutely the right person for the job at that time in our program’s history. David Shaw on the other hand was part of the program’s success between 2007-2010 when he served as our offensive coordinator. When Jim left to the 49ers, David was a natural fit to take over. He is a Stanford alum who grew up in the area and completely embraced all that is great about Stanford University. When you're truly satisfied with the job you have and the people you work with, your approach on a daily basis is a little bit different. You know you are going to be here for a long time and every move you make is both good for the short term and good for the long term stability of the program. That was probably been the biggest difference that I noticed. I've worked for five head coaches and I'm very close with my colleagues across the country so I know what their head coaches are like and I cannot imagine working alongside or playing for a better coach than David Shaw.
Can you give us an idea of what a typical work week in-season is for you?
"The early part of the week is filled with meetings, meetings and more meetings. I meet with our auxiliary football staff, game operations, spirit groups (band leadership, cheer and Axe Committee), marketing and the Stanford Band script writers on Mondays and Tuesday. In the afternoon we have practice and then afterwards I usually spend a few hours in the office catching up from what I missed while I was out at practice. When it's a home game week, I'm actually a lot busier because I host the luncheon on Fridays. I need to plan the event, line up the guests and write the script before taking the stage on Friday. During a home game weekend, my role in game management is much more extensive at home than it is on the road so things are a little busier for me on home games.
"But when we play a road game there's the team travel element that requires a lot of planning and preparation. I have been doing this a long time so much of it comes pretty naturally but there is still a ton of work that goes into moving 165 people from Palo Alto to our away game location. Buses, hotels, meals, charter planes, police escorts, you name it, there is a lot that goes into every weekend when we play a football game. It is very important that you think everything through to avoid any mistakes. And when challenges arise, you have to have a plan in place to fix it.
"As for the hours I work: Sunday is a full day for me, usually about noon to 10 pm. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I'm in the office by 7:30 am and I leave between 9 and 11 PM. Thursdays, the whole staff leaves to go home right after practice toby with our families and on Friday mornings we have a lighter schedule so it allows most of us to take our kids to school. On Friday afternoon, we either travel to the San Jose Airport to depart for the road or we stay in Palo Alto for home games. And when the team stays at the local hotel I am there with them. Game day, obviously is a full day and when you play a lot of night games like we have done, it could end up being an 18- hour day. Thankfully we've been fortunate to have a few day games which means you get home at a decent hour to spend time with your family. Truly the only downtime we get during the week is a few hours on Thursday night and a few hours on Sunday morning."
When Stanford is selected for a bowl game, it may be in a city and stadium with which you are not familiar. What is the key to getting things done in a relatively short amount of time from Selection Sunday to leaving for the game?
"Fortunately three of the last four years we've played in the Rose Bowl so we are quite familiar with the operation. In the years when we didn't play in the Rose Bowl it was quite a challenge indeed to get up to speed with everything. A few weeks before the end of the regular-season the conference holds a bowl partnership meeting where all of the teams in the conference and all of the bowl game committees get together in a room and talk about their respective bowl games. If the bowl is affiliated with the Pac-12 Conference that makes it a little bit easier because we have an idea of what to expect going in. So once you get selected for the bowl you have a general idea of the schedule and operation between the end of the season and the arrival at the bowl site.
"In 2010 and 2011 we played in the Orange Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. The Orange Bowl was not a conference affiliated bowl and we were chosen as an at-large participant. That particular month prior to the bowl game was an amazing experience from an operations standpoint, and of course, a tremendous experience for the football program. But it required my full attention and it was a very stressful month. The next year we were selected for the Fiesta Bowl, which was one of the bowls that attended the Pac-12 bowl meetings, but when we attended the meetings, we weren't considered a candidate for that bowl.
"Overall, bowl preparations can be quite a challenge, but it's an exciting time as you are preparing your team for what amounts toa reward for what was accomplished during the regular season. The stress is high but the spirits are high as well and that makes everything worth it."
Once there are no more games to be played, what do you do in the winter to be up and running for spring ball, fall practice and the next season?
"People often ask what do you do during the off-season? And what I usually tell them is that the off-season is just as busy as the in-season, but the difference is we have a lot more time to spend with our families. Essentially we spend from January to June preparing for the following season. We also have dozens of events, camps, clinics and other team-affiliated programs that take up a lot of our time. I'm responsible for coordinating all of these of events. Obviously recruiting is a big part of our off-season as well. During the course of the year we will have dozens of prospects visiting campus on one of the seven Junior days that we hold, plus official visits in December and January. Spring ball is a five-week program that takes place during parts of February, March and April. Duringspring football we have regular meetings with players and practice throughout this period. Spring ball concludes with the annualCardinal and White Spring Game. All of these events require planning, organization, and preparation, which falls under my job description."
How many individuals work in the Operations department? When you encounter young people who say they want to go into your field, what do you tell them in terms of preparation?
"Like recruiting, everybody has a role in operations. But currently the football operations staff is made up of myself and my assistant director of football operations, Callie Seidman. Because of my experience in this role and her expertise and competence, we are actually able to operate pretty efficiently with just the two of us. Of course there are others that contribute to the operational elements of our program as well but they also have other roles in our department. Theresa Miraglia is a huge help with operations and events, but she also has other responsibilities that she has to focus on. I know some of my peers at other schools across the country may have an operations staff of 5 to 10 people. We actually take a lot of pride at Stanford with "doing more with less". Not only is it an efficient budget model but it also maximizes the most out of every employee.
"I get dozens of calls and emails every weekfrom people that want to join our program. What it comes down to is: there is only so much office space and only so much capacity to train and develop new people. Sometimes it's harder to bring in a volunteer then to do some of the work yourself. That being said, some of our best employees are the ones who started off with a phone call offering to volunteer. If people are willing to sacrifice to get their foot in the door, especially at Stanford, it ends up working out for them in the end. We have a tremendous track record of hiring from within when it comes to filling open positions. For young people looking to get into the business, you need to volunteer. You need to offer your expertise. You need to do something that's going to be a challenge for you. But that is what separates you from the rest.
"I have a little saying on my office whiteboard:
"5000 – 24 – 1/2”….
"It serves as constant reminder that there are 5000 people who will be here in 24 hours to do my job for half my salary. The more I understand that, and the more others understand that, the more we will value our jobs and work harder to achieve our goals."