Posts tagged ‘Sports’

Laila Brock Makes the Biggest College Football Game of the Year Even Bigger

via College Football Playoff

via College Football Playoff

Tonight’s College Football Playoff Championship isn’t just one big football game. There are additional elements—things like concerts and fan events—that turn it into one of the year’s biggest sporting events

That’s where Laila Brock ’00, ’02 comes in. Brock is the Director of Operations and Logistics for the College Football Playoff, and it’s her job to turn the sport’s biggest game into something that everyone enjoys.

A former All-Big Ten selection as a member of Penn State’s track team, Brock’s primary job is overseeing the student-athlete experience. This year, she’s making sure that athletes, bands, and cheerleaders from Clemson and Alabama have a great time while they’re in Phoenix by managing things like transportation, hotels, hospitality, and whatever would pop up on game day.

Brock also manages all of the Playoff’s public events, namely its two marquee functions: AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! and the Playoff Fan Central. The latter is an interactive festival with entertainment ranging from pep rallies to appearances by celebrities, while the former is a multi-day concert. Last year, Brock brought in Lenny Kravitz and Sting, while this year’s concert will include John Mellancamp, Ciara, The Band Perry, and Walk The Moon.

Lastly, Brock handles some of the logistical elements of the game. She deals with decorum around the city and at the game, and makes sure that the transportation can accommodate all of the people who come to the city.

“Even if a fan is not going to the game, they have an excuse to come to the national championship just to experience the whole atmosphere,” Brock said.

Brock’s no stranger to working in and around college football’s bowl games: Prior to joining the Playoff, she worked for seven years for the Orange Bowl. After the 2013 national championship game, the Chief Operating Officer of the College Football Playoff offered her a position with the organization.

Now, she is an important part of one of the most complex operations in college sports. Her job requires an astounding amount of advanced planning; Brock said that planning for this year’s game kicked into gear last February, while the planning for the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 games is already underway.

“Most folks think that it’s August through January,” Brock said. “But the planning process is so intricate and so detailed that if we were to start in August, there’s no way that we would be able to pull this thing off.”

It’s an arduous process, and Brock puts in a ton of work to make sure everything runs smoothly. Over the past few weeks, she has been in eight different states doing prep work for Monday’s game, and her first trip to the site of next year’s contest is set for the end of January.

Despite all the hard work, Brock’s passion for her job is apparent. She especially loves working with the student-athletes, saying that the most fun part of her job comes when she sees the reactions when players see things like hospitality suites or special buses with team logos and players’ faces on them.

With all the work Brock puts into planning for the game, you’d think she would have a good sense of whether Clemson or Alabama will win tonight. Well, not quite…

“If I were able to make that prediction, I would not need this job.”

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

January 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

Redemption Song: Penn State Women’s Soccer Wins a National Title


In 2012, when I was a junior, the Penn State women’s soccer team made it to the NCAA title match. And got trounced.

Going up against the closest thing women’s college soccer has to a dynasty in North Carolina, the Nittany Lions lost in the College Cup final, 4-1. Honestly, I remembered the scoreline indicating a bigger blowout, as Penn State was thoroughly outclassed by the Tar Heels that afternoon.

That match came to mind after coach Erica Walsh and Co. won the program’s first national championship on Sunday afternoon against, ironically, UNC’s bitter rival—the Duke Blue Devils. It was the exact opposite of a dominating performance by one team over another. Instead, it was 90 minutes of back-and-forth soccer that culminated in Penn State winning the NCAA title (meaning at least one Nittany Lion team has won a national championship for the ninth consecutive year).

It was things coming full-circle. Three years ago, Penn State got run off of the pitch by a team from the Research Triangle. Sunday was the chance for redemption for Walsh and the handful of seniors who participated in that match against UNC. And because sports can sometimes be the best, that’s exactly what happened. The Nittany Lions’ goal was set up by a brilliant run and pass from senior Mallory Weber and finished by classmate Raquel Rodriguez, the only players in the starting XI for both matches.

The team was dominant for the duration of the tournament. Its attack was potent, as it netted 20 goals in six matches. Its defense was stout, as it didn’t allow a single goal during its entire postseason run. It was the type of all-around performance that you don’t even expect out of teams at the highest levels of soccer, let alone a group of college kids.

And as a fan, man, was it fun to watch. Everyone knew that this matchup was going to be about as even as it came, mostly because the two sides played a thrilling scoreless draw in Happy Valley earlier this year. But this match exceeded expectations. Both sides had opportunities to convert chances, both had long spells of possession, and both perpetually seemed like they were on the cusp of breaking the match wide open.

In the end, Penn State came out on top. Watching Walsh finally getting a national title after years of coming so close was spectacular. Watching the veterans who lost to North Carolina celebrate a championship was spectacular. And watching a team that will bring back eight starters in 2016 can only leave fans with one question: what’s going to happen next year?

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

December 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm 2 comments

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