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Starting from Scratch

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When Old Dominion re-started their football program after a 68-year hiatus, they turned to Rogers Athletic for their practice equipment needs.

The last time Old Dominion University played an intercollegiate football game, Franklin Roosevelt was president. Helmets were made of leather, and they didnít have facemasks. Minnesota went 8-0 and was voted the national champion. The year was 1940. So, when it was announced that the program would be reinstated for the 2009 season, the university started scrambling to put everything in place for what will be, starting this fall, the nationís newest Division I FCS program. Since Head Coach Bobby Wilder planned to begin practices in the fall of 2008, one of the first priorities was obtaining a complete collection of practice and training equipment Ė sleds, chutes, dummies and more.

To supervise the selection of the Monarchís football equipment, the university brought in new head equipment manager Jerry Fife. Named the 2007 District II Equipment Manager of the Year by the Athletic Equipment Managers Association, Fife had spent the last six years as head equipment manager at nearby William & Mary. While he had been a certified equipment manager for 12 years, Fife had never been involved in a new program start-up nor had he faced the unique challenges that come with starting a program from square one.

One of his first calls was to Rogers Athletic. Having worked with Rogers in his previous positions, Fife knew that they could meet all of ODUís practice equipment needs with one order. More importantly, he had the utmost confidence in their product quality and he had experienced their first-rate customer service first-hand.

AFM asked Jerry Fife about his experiences managing Old Dominionís equipment program for football and his choice of Rogers Athletic for the programís practice equipment.

AFM: The 2009 Old Dominion football season will be its first since 1940. Whatís it been like for you being involved with a program that's being reborn after almost 70 years?
Fife: It is very exciting to be part of history. The support on campus and in the community is overwhelming. It has taken many people many years to make football a reality here at ODU.

As equipment manager, what challenges have you faced getting a football program stated virtually from scratch?
I was brought on board in February of last year and hit the ground running. A lot of things were already in place and a lot more were left to be done. There has never been an equipment manager on campus before so there were things that were missing from the equation Ė things that equipment managers deal with on a day-to-day basis that coaches and administrators donít think about. Iím very lucky that I have a boss that has been through the start of a program before and he has let me do my job to make things as good as they can be with the situation we have; a coach that is full of energy and genuinely loves his job. Iíve been able to hire a full-time assistant that brings a lot of experience to the table and a graduate assistant that wants to become a professional equipment manager as well. I have been a certified equipment manager for 12 years and have worked at three places, each place being different from the last. It just takes time to carve out a place where everything and everyone works together.

Youíve worked with Rogers Athletic in previous positions you've held. Can you tell us about your history working with Rogers?
I started my career at Ashland University in Ohio as a Graduate Assistant and then became the Head Equipment Coordinator. Ashland was a small Division II private school with a very limited budget. I was lucky enough to work under a gentleman that received the Glenn Sharp Award from the AEMA, which is the National Equipment Manager of the year. I tried to be a sponge and learn everything I could while I was with him. Two things he taught me in athletic equipment are to get the most for your money and to know what you are buying and why. Rogers is one of those companies that build a great product that will last. Case in point Ė I purchased a 2-man Lev Sled while at Ashland my first year and they are still using it. That was 11 years ago. With Rogers, you get what you pay for Ė a reliable product and a dependable company.

What are the reasons that you prefer to work with Rogers instead of other football practice equipment companies?
The main reason is the salesmen. They are not just salesmen, they are friends. They care about you, your program and how their products can benefit your program. They arenít pushy when it comes to sales. They tell you about their products, what their products do and how they are built, and thatís it. They donít talk about their competition Ė they sell their products for what they are not how they compare to the competition.

As equipment manager, is there an advantage for you working with one company for most, if not all, of your football practice equipment compared to working with multiple companies?
Most definitely. Not only does it get you a better price, it will get you better service and customer support. But I will admit, even when I purchased one item from Rogers in the past it was always the best price and great support. I cannot say the same when ordering small orders from other companies that I have dealt with in the past.

In general, how would you rate Rogers Athletic in terms of product quality, product durability and customer service?
In my opinion, Rogers is second to none.

Are there any particular pieces of equipment that stand out?
Everywhere I have been, I have used the Lev Sled and every time the reaction is the same. The coaches love it and use it everyday. Here at ODU we are dealing with most, if not all, freshman-level college athletes. That means we need to be able to have equipment that will help to educate and improve their techniques and on-field behaviors, from staying low and having a good base to wrapping up and taking them to the ground when tackling.

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