User ID: Password:

October 8, 2008

The First Ladies of Football - Behind the scenes with Tech's right-hand (wo)men

By: Matt Kovatch

With 10 football coaches, a handful of graduate assistants and over a hundred players, you can imagine that there are a lot of logistical needs to be taken care of around the Virginia Tech football offices. Well, most of those needs are handled seamlessly by a group of three women. Lisa Marie (left) works primarily with Tech’s nine assistant coaches, Diana Clark (center) facilitates the majority of Frank Beamer’s schedule and commitments, and Kristie Verniel (right) is responsible for much of the goings-on with the Hokies’ recruiting effort. Here’s a little bit more about what it’s like to be one of Tech football’s administrative assistants:

Clark has seen it all.
As the executive secretary to Beamer, Clark does everything from helping him prepare for his speaking engagements to telling fibs to the dentist when he is late for an appointment. But nothing beats the requests she gets. “The strangest request Coach Beamer has gotten has been to record an automated voice message for someone’s personal answering machine,” Clark said. “He gets wedding invitations and invites to rehearsal dinners all the time, and tons of autograph requests. People have sent jerseys, footballs, helmets, purses, little race cars, and even the fender of a motorcycle.”

Verniel has the inside scoop on recruits.
Think those recruiting publications know what they’re talking about? It’s all old news to Verniel. “I maintain the database of all the targeted football recruits (right now it’s ’09 and ’10 graduates),” she said. “All correspondence (mailings, offer letters, scholarships, NLIs, admissions applications, etc.) from the time we start recruiting a kid until the time he enrolls in school pretty much comes through me. I’m normally dealing with over 200 prospective student-athletes at a time.”

Need a play call? Ask Marie.
Ever wonder who produces all of the scouting reports, playbooks, or even the quarterback’s wristbands? It’s Marie. “I do a lot of the assistant coaches’ game-week work, which includes typing everything up to hand out to the players,” she said. “They have offensive, defensive and special teams playbooks, and I do all the drawings for those.” She’s the one who deciphers the coaches’ chicken scratch and makes it readable on the computer, but don’t think she’ll share any secrets with you. “Everything is kept locked up, and I won’t walk away from my desk if I’m working on a game plan. We account for all the wristbands, and if there’s a mistake on one, I’ll shred it.”

They’re the first line of defense.
The football coaches can get a lot of heat from impatient fans when the team isn’t performing up to expectations. But take it easy – these fine ladies have to hear it, too, and their voice mailboxes and e-mail accounts are often flooded on Monday mornings. “We kind of buffer everything from the coaches,” Clark said. “If Tech loses, fans like to vent or voice their opinion, and a lot of that comes to us first. But there are a lot of positive e-mails, too – they usually outweigh the negative.”

They know which players are in the doghouse.

Because of its location, Verniel’s office serves as a default hang-out spot for the players – unless they’re in trouble. “If things are bad for them personally on the practice field or in the classroom, or if they’re trying to avoid any of our coaches, I won’t see them,” Verniel said. “Brandon Flowers was famous for that. When things were going well, he was in my office all the time. But when he felt like he was in the doghouse, he stayed away because he didn’t want to see Coach Beamer or Coach Gray so they couldn’t get on him about things.”

They’re like another special teams unit.
While there might be missed blocking assignments on the field, nothing slips by the ladies in the office. “We’re so routine – we know what to have ready and when,” Clark said. “The three of us know what our duties are, and we know what the coaches expect of us. We’ve worked with them for so long that we know – we’re like Radar on M*A*S*H – we have it ready for them before they ask for it. They’re not standing over our shoulder waiting for us to get things done, and that makes for a good working relationship.”