Athletic directors work behind the scenes to make gamedays go smoothly
Drew Karpen can’t complain about how Friday night football games have gone so far this year.
The first-year Highlands athletic director’s biggest problem has been dealing with the overlap of teams and officials arriving at the school at the same time. That’s a small problem out of all the issues that can arise during a football Friday night.
The athletic director is the coordinator of the entire process that plays out on fields across the Alle-Kiski Valley. Their myriad of responsibilities ranges from tickets, hiring officials, security, field setup and making sure the press box is ready for radio broadcasts and visiting media.
“There’s been no weather issues this year — that’s great,’’ Karpen said. “The first week, I got to the stadium around 2 p.m. It was hectic. I didn’t know the system here.
“The maintenance people had everything set up. The trainers set up the field, and I just checked to make sure everything is good with the press box and everything is ready to go.’’
Karpen had experience at previous jobs at North Allegheny and Ambridge, and he said he trusts those around him. He also has the benefit of having two past athletic directors at Highlands to lean on for advice in Bill Heasley, who handles the PA announcing, and Chuck Debor.
“You just have to find out what works for each school,’’ Karpen said. “From 4 to 6 p.m., it’s hectic. Then it all comes together and kind of runs itself.’’
Ray Davis has been handling Friday nights as athletic director at Springdale High School for 21 years.
He begins his preparations on Monday by confirming officials, ticket sellers and making sure he has people to run the yardage sticks on the sideline.
“It makes Friday night a lot easier,’’ Davis said. “You work (Friday nights) until 10:30 or 11 p.m. Other than our tip-off tournament for basketball season, these are our busiest days.’’
Karpen and Davis are on or around the field during the game to make sure there are no problems.
Karpen is on the sidelines, while Davis has a golf cart to buzz around the complex making sure everything is working well.
“With all the prep all week, you just hope you didn’t miss anything,’’ Davis said. “You want the event to be spick-and-span.’’
Karpen’s biggest non-gameday events come the next two weeks, with homecoming Friday against South Fayette and then Senior Night against New Castle.
“We have had youth football and youth band nights so far this year,’’ Karpen said. “The youth coaches and the band directors handle a lot of that. We met during the week of the event and got everyone on the same page.’’
Springdale’s homecoming was Friday night against Northgate.
Davis said he gets help from Lenny Herrington on homecoming and senior night, and he works to make sure it works within the framework of the rest of the planning.
“When everybody works together, it’s a successful operation,’’ Davis said. “Without them, we couldn’t do it.’’
Friday night was not a hassle for Karpen. Highlands played on the road at Montour.
“Just need to order the buses,’’ Karpen said with a laugh.
Kevin Smith is a contributing writer.