College football coaches won't be the only ones calling the shots at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
Dozens of Tournament of Roses Assn. workers are now planning every game detail, including the timing of the traditional B-2 flyover and the toss of a specially minted silver coin to determine who will receive the kickoff. The busiest invisible hands belong to Tournament of Roses Senior Game Manager Edward Corey and Game Manager Ted Tompkins.
Corey, prepping for his 35th Rose Bowl, coordinates each moment from the sidelines. When the college bands start to play, it's because Corey said go.
Tompkins must have everyone and everything in place for Corey. Praised by Rose Bowl Game Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Ash as the organization's top playmaker on the fly, Tompkins stands ready with spare coins in pocket for the toss and contingency plans in mind for potential miscues. This will be his 40th Rose Bowl Game.
“Our goal is not to be seen,” said Corey, 51. “Our jobs are done best if no one knows we're here.”
The Rose Bowl Game is traditionally played between the champions of what are now the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences, based on an agreement brokered for the 1948 matchup.
Planning starts in August, when Tournament leaders meet with conference officials. Efforts kick into high gear after the participating teams are announced in early December. Only then can workers design stadium banners, create and distribute tickets, order merchandise, coordinate team itineraries and get stencils and paint for field decals.
Even the Rose Bowl grass is grown anew. The playing field the UCLA Bruins used for their last game of the season on Nov. 24 has been replaced as the Wisconsin Badgers and Stanford Cardinal prepare for their showdown.
“The first time this turf's played on is Jan. 1. The Tournament wants the first impression to be ‘Wow,'” said Corey, a South Pasadena resident.
Workers began painting end zones and marking lines on Wednesday. Artwork gets two coats of paint and a final touchup a few days before the game, said Field Assistant Miguel Yepez.
Tompkins, 59 and a La Crescenta resident, is responsible for herding players and coaches to press conferences and driving the Rose Queen, the grand marshal and Tournament president from a Rose Parade tailgate tent to the stadium.
All the while, Corey is marking the time until the 2:04 p.m. flyover and 2:10 p.m. kickoff.
“I'm on a headset with [announcer Chuck White], and if I see we have more time, he'll read slower or put a video on the board. We're basically playing with the script the entire time,” Corey said.
Corey, Ash and Tompkins began working the Rose Bowl Game as staff for the USC Athletic Department. UCLA and USC traded control of game operations from the 1940s until the 1970s, and then USC took over for two decades.
The Tournament of Roses' reign started in 1999, with the launch of the Bowl Championship Series.
Under Trojan rule, Ash headed up ticketing, Corey was liaison for the Big Ten team, and Tompkins handled what was then the Pac-10.
There have been a few bumps in the road: One year staffers forgot to return the Rose Queen's tiara from a stadium display, requiring a police escort to get the queen her crown moments before the Rose Parade. In 2005, Tournament officials had to arrange for an oversized coin, as Grand Marshal Mickey Mouse couldn't get a grip on the regular one.
From start to finish, the team does its best to expect the unexpected.
“We prepare two cards: one congratulating Wisconsin, one congratulating Stanford,” Tompkins said. “We just give [post-game speakers] the card they need — and put an extra copy under the trophy just in case.”
Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.