Penn football’s season is set to lift off this weekend in Jacksonville, and while all the attention will be on whether new starting quarterback Alek Torgersen can lead a bounce-back campaign for the Quakers, the tireless efforts of the program’s operational staff to make the trip a possibility will go more or less unrecognized.
While their goal is to go unnoticed through arranging and executing flawless plans, the people that make Penn football run behind the scenes should not go uncredited.
Heading up the travel coordination efforts for the highly anticipated trip to Jacksonville is Jake Silverman, Penn’s director of football operations .
The trip down south represents the biggest endeavor Silverman has been a part of in his six-plus years at Penn.
“It’s a new challenge,” Silverman said. “We’ve never had this type of trip just in terms of the wide scope.”
While boarding a plane for a football game is no doubt an exciting concept for the team, having to charter flights to and from a far away and unfamiliar destination adds new dimensions to the challenge of facilitating a smooth trip from the operational end.
Because Penn more or less plays the same teams from year to year, Silverman and his staff are usually able to coordinate travel based on what the team did in previous years.
As that was not the case for Jacksonville, Silverman had to go much further than usual to arrange the Red and Blue’s visit to the Sunshine State.
“It’s been a longer process for this trip. We started contacting charter companies in January,” Silverman said. “I had the opportunity to go down to Jacksonville in March and take a look around, visit with some hotels to make sure they were what we needed for the team as far as meeting space and banquet space. It was also important just to get the lay of the land.”
The Jacksonville trip also has a larger-than-usual budget impact, which was another significant element of the preparation process.
“We had to put some extra planning into [the cost analysis],” Silverman said. “To define the scope, this trip is probably as much as our usual travel budget for a year, which isn’t all that unexpected when you bring 150 people on a plane down to Florida. We had to crunch our numbers and make sure we were doing things the right way.”
Given that the Red and Blue’s travel roster is capped at 62, the large number of people traveling with the program represents the game’s event-like status.
“This game is different,” Silverman said. “There are more people interested in this game because it’s part of an exciting trip — you get to go to Florida in September and play a new opponent.”
Coordinating travel arrangements for a healthy number of staff members, administrators and alumni in addition to the team has also been on Silverman’s plate in the recent months.
The phrase “there is no offseason” rings just as true for Silverman as it does for Penn’s players.
The level of preparation put in on the operational end this spring is justified by what games — like Saturday’s contest in Jacksonville — can provide Penn’s football program.
“It’s great to get into a different area of the country,” Silverman said. “Anytime we get added exposure in a different market, it’s nice for the program. It also breaks us out of our routine and creates additional excitement.”
Despite all the novelty and excitement for this Saturday’s game, Silverman is focused on the simple priority of the trip: Come home 1-0.
“We want to make it meaningful, but we don’t want it to distract and take away from what we’re trying to do which is just go down there and win a game.”Comments powered by Disqus
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