Earlier this year Rick McReynolds approached a player on the sidelines before one of the football team’s games. The reason: This particular player had a personalized towel tucked into the waistband of his black football pants. McReynolds, the Vikings director of operations and head equipment coordinator, perhaps to his displeasure, informed the player that he needed to remove the towel in order to comply with NCAA standards, Nike sponsorship requirements and, likely, head coach Jerry Glanville’s preference.
Earlier this year Rick McReynolds approached a player on the sidelines before one of the football team’s games.
The reason: This particular player had a personalized towel tucked into the waistband of his black football pants.
McReynolds, the Vikings director of operations and head equipment coordinator, perhaps to his displeasure, informed the player that he needed to remove the towel in order to comply with NCAA standards, Nike sponsorship requirements and, likely, head coach Jerry Glanville’s preference.
For McReynolds, it was just the fulfillment of another of the many tasks for which he is responsible.
Often referred to as the “Nike police” because of his devotion to keeping the student-athletes in compliance with the rules that Nike mandates in order for the athletic teams to receive the thousands of dollars in “swoosh” garb each year, McReynolds has been working in the Portland State Athletic Department for 20 years.
A former wrestler for Portland State, McReynolds oversees a small staff that includes one full-time assistant and six work-study students. They are responsible not only for enforcing uniform regularity among all the athletic teams, but also handling the game day operations, equipment coordination and athlete laundry services.
The game operation duties for the staff include coordinating referee accommodations, ensuring that the teams have adequate practice time and setting up the actual facility on game days.
The small group at Portland State is less than a third of the size of the equipment and operations staff at the University of Oregon.
“They might have just 10 people working equipment for football,” McReynolds said. “We’re dealing with 16 sports here now, and they all overlap. We’re pretty busy.”
Fall term is perhaps McReynolds’ staff’s busiest time of the year. Each day they start early, often showing up more than an hour before the 7 a.m. football practice.
Their early morning hours are filled with last-minute equipment repairs, preparing the practice field with dozens of tackling and blocking dummies and filling players’ last-minute requests for lost or forgotten apparel.
After practice concludes, the staff breaks down the field and begins the lengthy laundry process. All the laundry is done in-house, in the half-dozen washers and dryers in the Stott Center basement.
In addition to football, the volleyball, cross country, men’s and women’s basketball, and wrestling teams each have their own equipment and operational needs right now–and softball just concluded their fall season.
Unseen and often unnoticed, McReynolds and co. are the movers behind the curtain.
“You gotta be crazy to want to do this job. It is just too many long days and too many hours,” McReynolds said. “But you get to see a lot of neat things, and get to know a lot of great athletes, and that makes it worth it.”
The swoosh effect
According to McReynolds, Nike, love them or hate them, is one of the main reasons that Portland State athletics continues to exist.
“It would be nearly impossible for us to operate without them. They take good care of us, and the equipment that they provide is not cheap,” McReynolds said.
In exchange for outfitting each team in game, practice, travel and workout gear, the apparel juggernaut completely limits the other brands that players and teams can wear while training, practicing or playing their sport.
“When a player wears another brand, that jeopardizes our contract with Nike and we could potentially lose some of that gear that helps keep us going,” McReynolds said.
Although Nike outfits the majority of college athletics across the nation, including the more high-profile programs at USC, North Carolina and Florida, they still send representatives to games and practices at Portland State to ensure that players are wearing their Nike gear.
McReynolds also said that the contract and relationship that Portland State has with Nike compares favorably with other Division I-AA schools and particularly well with other Big Sky schools whom may not experience the custom attire that Portland State student-athletes enjoy.
Modifications when necessaryBecause uniforms and other equipment are only replaced after years of use, the equipment staff is sometimes forced to modify existing equipment to make do until the time for fresh garb arrives.
The staff spends hours patching holes in jerseys, replacing equipment on football helmets and pads, and stretching shoes.
The shoe-stretching machine helps athletes between sizes more properly fit into shoes, and can help prevent the toe injuries that are common in basketball, volleyball and football.
While it is the athletes who are expected to wear their team-issued gear nearly all the time, it is McReynolds and his staff who have the grimy, and often smelly, task of doing the laundry.
Each athlete has several “loops” that keep their dirty clothes together while in the laundry. When they are done with a workout they simply loop their clothes together and drop the loop in a convenient laundry shoot. The staff tries to ensure that the clothes are clean the next day.
The laundry process is not without its complications. The staff must take extra precautions to ensure that MRSA, staphylococcus aureus bacteria, a potentially deadly virus that has a history of being present in athletics facilities, is removed.
Uni watchAs part of his encompassing job, McReynolds takes part in helping each team deck out in sharp, new uniforms every few years.
“Right now, teams get new uniforms every three to five years. Next year the football team should be getting a new set, but they will probably keep the current all-black design,” McReynolds said.
In their cramped storage room in the Stott Center basement, McReynolds and his staff keep the uniforms for all the teams on racks, some hung as high as the ceiling and only accessible with a ladder.
When teams are due for a new uniform, McReynolds often collaborates with Nike designers and coaches for a fresh new look.
Awaiting their first use in an exhibition game next week, the men’s basketball team has three new uniforms in white, green and black with stylish nameplates on the back.
The basement office also features a unique system with cubbies that currently contain all of the gameday football and volleyball uniforms.
If you thought that football players had the best uniforms on campus, one glance at the volleyball cubbies may cause you to change your mind. Each game head volleyball coach Michael Seemann chooses from among seven different uniforms for his team to show off.
On the road againFor McReynolds and assistant Brian Weisel, perhaps the most arduous task occurs when the football team hits the road.
The staff loads up McReynolds’ pickup truck and trailer with most of the gear that the team will need for their game. That includes the players’ helmets, pads and jerseys, the coach’s attire, the team’s communication radios to use during the game and every other thing that could be needed while the team is away from the Stott Center.
This week, the duo will leave Portland sometime on Thursday morning following practice in order to make it to Ogden, Utah by the time the team arrives to practice the following day.
Following the game, they load up the gear again and head back to the Rose City, often exhausted by the time they arrive.
“It is real tough to do and takes a lot of time. We pretty much make sure that they have everything they need when they’re gone,” said McReynolds. “It’s usually quite a bit of stuff.”