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March 9, 2009

Guarding the Cassell

By: Matt Kovatch

Kent Sheets

If you’ve ever wandered around Cassell Coliseum early in the morning or late at night, chances are you’ve seen Kent Sheets patrolling the premises. As the facilities manager for Cassell, as well as the adjoining Jamerson Athletic Center and Merryman Center, Sheets is responsible for overseeing everything that happens in those buildings on a daily basis.

What all do you have to keep track of?
“On a game day, I make sure the clocks and microphones are set up and that everything is ready to go when the game starts. When the game is over, I break everything down, and I try to see that the Coliseum looks as good after the game as it did before the game. Then I take care of any trash and turn the lights out when everybody’s done. Then I’m back in the morning to get things ready for the next day. I’m just making sure that the gyms (main floor and the two back gyms) are in good shape for teams to use. Volleyball’s been practicing in the back gym at 8:30 a.m., so I need to make sure that’s ready to go since the cheerleaders use it to warm up on game nights.

“Away from game stuff, I put together the practice schedules for all the sports so that they don’t conflict with each other. People will call me if there are lights out or if there is a plumbing issue. I’ll either fix it or call the physical plant and arrange for it to be fixed. There are a number of things in the three buildings that could go wrong. There’s always a door that needs to be fixed, or it could be too hot in a certain area of the building. It could even be as simple as replacing the flags outside or putting them at half-mast.”

What if a dunk shattered the backboard?
“Nooooo – don’t say that. My biggest worry is that something like that would happen, but it’s all planned out if it does. For example, not too long ago, the south shot clock went out for no apparent reason. It turned out to just be a bad wiring connection somewhere and it’s working now, but now we’re prepared to reroute another line back up there if it happens again. We’ve got backup shot clocks and backboards and controllers for the scorer’s table. We have electricians who work here for televised games in case there are systems that get overloaded. It’s mainly just anticipating a worst-case scenario and being ready to go. What if somebody throws up on the floor? That actually happened in a game last year that was on TV, and it took them like 10 minutes to get it cleaned up! I got a call the next morning about what we would do the next time it happened, so now we have a mop, bucket and sanitizer waiting right there just in case.”

What happens when a TV crew from ESPN comes to visit?

“Well, they don’t clean up after themselves very well – all their tape is lying around everywhere. Once the game is over, they’re just like a whirlwind getting out of here. But they do realize that they’ll be back a handful of times per year, so they want to make sure they’re on your good side. They’re actually very easy to work with.”

How did you get the job?

“It’s kind of a funny story how I got hired. I once was a carpenter building the upper part of the east side of Lane Stadium in 1979, so I’d been in town before. Then I lived in Alaska for 21 years and I worked for a summer league baseball team called the Mat-Su Miners. We had to have our field worked on and we called up a guy who just so happened to be from Blacksburg. He came up to help redo the field and I got to know him. He was a ticket taker at Lane Stadium and said he could get me a job as an usher, so when I moved down in 2005, I also asked if there were any construction jobs. I ended up working on the stadium crew and I also helped at volleyball and basketball games, so that’s how I was tied in here until this job came open. If I never had volunteered with that baseball team in Alaska, I would never be right here in Cassell Coliseum.”

What makes your job unique and/or rewarding?
“When people think of athletic teams, they normally think of the players and who is scoring the points, but I work very closely with all of the coaches and they are great to work with. I’m just so impressed with how eager they are to help you. I wouldn’t have expected that coming into the job cold, but that’s really stuck out in my mind. They want to make sure that what they are doing is OK, and they’re very appreciative and grateful of everything I do for them.”