Los Angeles • If you’ve ever taken the 405 to the 110 to the 5, you know the problems the Utah football team would be facing this week in Southern California if not for the assistance of a police escort.
“We can’t afford to be stuck in traffic. We need to be in one place, and then the bowl needs you in another event. It’s an orchestra to see them work,” Adam Fry says.
And Fry, Utah’s director of football operations, is the conductor this week.
By the time the University of Utah and Ohio State kick off the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day at 3 p.m. MST, an immense amount of planning will have gone into getting the Utes to that point. As a key member of Utah’s behind-the-scenes logistical machine, Fry will tell you it takes a village.
As the Utah traveling party arrived in Southern California on Sunday evening, Fry spearheaded those travel plans, and will continue leading on logistical matters, of which there are many, through the duration of the Rose Bowl experience.
“I am essentially making the day-to-day operations work,” Fry told The Salt Lake Tribune late on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, at which point he intended to have a quiet evening at home, while also getting some work done, which speaks to the current everyday nature of his position. “Everything from making schedules to making sure the players know what time they’re supposed to be here, when they’re supposed to be there.”
Fry has held the director of football operations position since March. For the 15 years prior, Jeff Rudy held that position, responsible for things such as day-to-day logistics, budget management, and team travel.
With Rudy getting promoted to a senior administration position within the football program back in February, Fry, who has been at Utah since 2013, received his own promotion after spending the previous three seasons as a defensive graduate assistant.
A general football road trip is different from what Fry, Rudy, and other behind-the-scenes folks have dealt with this month ahead of the Rose Bowl.
The following season’s full football schedule is known months in advance. For example, Utah’s 2022 schedule was released on Dec. 16. Planning, at least for hotels for the 2022 season, will begin in the spring, but for all intents and purposes, Fry has eight-and-a-half months before the Utes board a charter bound for the University of Florida for the Sept. 3 opener.
Utah won the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 3, giving Fry and Co. a much shorter window to get everything sorted out. The benefit of playing in the Rose Bowl, though, is that the Rose Bowl, forever viewed as one of the most important, highest-profile bowl games on the calendar, acts as such.
In the days following that Dec. 3 win over Oregon, a 10-person Utah contingent, which included Fry, Rudy, and the athletic department’s CFO, Steve Smith, traveled to Los Angeles to discuss particulars with those in charge of making sure the Rose Bowl goes off without a hitch.
Everyone from Rose Bowl executives, Tournament of Roses executives, and hotel representatives were present, everything from who the police contacts are to who the hotel banquet manager is was discussed. All of it was designed to help ease the burden of doing a mountain of planning in a short period of time.
“Anything you would have felt overwhelmed by, the Tournament of Roses and their staff, everybody a part of the Rose Bowl committee, they made it clear immediately that they’re here to help us,” Fry said. “That was the most calming aspect, that they told us immediately that they were here to help us. From day one, you could tell the Rose Bowl staff is in this to make it the best possible experience for everyone involved from the two schools.
“They want this to be a spectacle, and part of that is making this a first-class operation. They’re all about that, from top to bottom.”
The help provided to Utah included one huge aspect, the team hotel for the week, which was already locked in long ago via contract with the Tournament of Roses. Fry noted the obvious, that to find a hotel in the area, in that short amount of time, that could handle a party the size of Utah’s would be impossible.
There are other things locked in beside the hotel, but those other things ultimately become Fry’s responsibility.
The Rose Bowl provided a contact for the bus company to transport Utah around Los Angeles County for the week, but it was then up to Fry to link up with the bus company and make sure both sides are on the same page schedule-wise.
Same goes for California Highway Patrol. Fry got the contact information, but then had to arrange for police escorts over the course of the week. Utah is staying in Los Angeles, but there was a team event on Monday in Anaheim, practices in Carson on Tuesday and Wednesday another team event near Beverly Hills later Wednesday, and of course, the game itself is in Pasadena on Saturday.
“Anytime we need to move the team, and stay on the team’s schedule, we try to maximize the benefits of what the Highway Patrol can provide. That really helps us stay on schedule. ... To move five, six, seven buses around Downtown LA, it’s quite the challenge,” Fry said.
“The Rose Bowl has been such an excellent group to work with because they have an approach where they include the ADs, include people close to the teams and universities to make sure they’re making the best bowl possible.”