On the sidelines: the unknown faces of athletics

Sideline photographers capture senior wide receiver Denzel Mims as he scores one of his three touchdowns Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium. Cole Tompkins | Multimedia Editor

By KJ Burkley

At Baylor sporting events it’s easy to point out who the important figures are on the field. Players, coaches, referees and spirit squads are recognizable by their uniforms, headsets and striped shirts.

At football games, most Baylor fans could point out the quarterback, running backs and wide receivers because of the constant ball play that revolves around them.

But the players and coaches are not alone on the sidelines. There are many other critical roles that keep the game flowing, from medical staff to the media. These are the faces spectators may not know.

John Morris, assistant athletics director for broadcasting of Baylor Athletics, who is also famously known as ‘The Voice of the Bears’, has been working with Baylor IMG radio for 33 years. Being a Baylor alum himself, Morris knows a lot about sideline activities and the work they are required to do.

“The Big 12 a few years ago really made a push to clean up the sideline,” Morris said. “They pushed to not have people there unless they had a working capacity. So the people that are there are all definitely working to do their jobs the best they can.”

Morris said that equipment managers, athletic trainers, and athletic performance staff all work as part of the team. Their jobs include making sure uniforms pieces and helmets are functioning correctly, making sure that athletes stay hydrated and refreshed, and even work on the strength and conditioning of football players during the offseason and on game day.

“Team doctors from Southwest Sports Medicine and Orthopedics are present also,” Morris said. “They have a tent they pop up if they need to evaluate someone during a game. They may not need to take an athlete to the locker room or the hospital, they can just do it right there and hopefully fix whatever needs to be fix so they can get back out on the field.”

In addition to medical and athletic staff, media coverage has a good presence on the sideline. Photographers, parabolic microphones for radio broadcasting and field reporters gather media to present before, during and after the game.

The importance of having these different groups present during the game is important for game success, and football is not the only sport that has this luxury. Teams that take the hard-court also need just as much attention to stay healthy and covered. This is what Seattle sophomore Kendall Kauzlarich, who works with the women’s basketball team as an athletic medicine student worker, emphasized.

“We’re there for them when they need water during drills,”Kauzlarich said. “We stand court side for three to four hours depending on what they need us for. We’re there if they need taping, if they have an injury, if we need to wipe off surfaces on the court. We take care of them that way to prevent injury.”

They might not wear jerseys with their names on the back or be dressed in fancy suits, but the awareness and attention to detail these athletic staff and media make elevates the game to a different level. For Morris, the job can be difficult sometimes, but the love of it keeps him coming back for more.

“It’s a challenge every game to watch the field at all times. If you get distracted, you’re going to miss something on the field,” Morris said when asked how he makes a visual football game an enjoyable audible experience. “But you just learn to focus on what you are doing. And that’s my job — to watch the game and relay what’s going on over the airwaves. It’s a great job and it’s challenging, but I love it.”