According to U.S. Census figures, the average American moves nearly a dozen times in a lifetime. Any time a college football team like the University of Texas plays a road game, it’s like a family making a move.
The moving man for the Longhorns is equipment manager Chip Robertson. He and his staff make sure that everything the UT football team needs is there whether the game is in Stillwater or Seattle, Lubbock or Los Angeles.
Texas plays at Nebraska Saturday. The team’s tractor-trailer rig (the trailer is 53-feet long) headed to Lincoln Wednesday. And with a mid-October game in the Midwest, Robertson has to make sure the team is prepared for Indian summer temperatures in the 80s or early winter chill and precipitation.
"Knock on wood, we’ve never gone somewhere and forgot something," said Robertson, who has been on the job in Austin for 18 years. "We couldn’t pack everything without a check list. That list gets updated as we go through the season – some trips we need more of one thing and less of another.
"It’s pretty cut and dried. Road games, the same things get put on each week."
The trailer gets packed with trunks and bags, each of which has its own check list of items. Then there’s a check list to make sure all the trunks and bags make the trip. With the uncertainty of the weather in Nebraska (and, on Nov. 6, when UT plays at Kansas State) items like sideline capes, thermal underwear, gloves, hand warmers, heated benches also makes the trip.
On road trips, the 70 players who can travel are responsible to pack everything but their uniforms. The day before the team leaves, the players pack their helmets, shoulder, thigh and knee pads plus any special braces they need. The player bags go on the team plane.
The team’s training staff makes sure all the medical supplies are packed (they have their own check lists) and are on the trailer. The trailer also carries the team’s video equipment that is used to tape the game.
Surprisingly, Robertson says that for most regular-season road trips, the trailer isn’t fully loaded because he and his staff are only packing for 70 players. But for a bowl game, when the full squad travels, the trailer leaves Austin fully packed.
After a road game, the student managers and Robertson’s crew oversee reloading the trailer. The main difference is that the dirty laundry is separated, packed and put on the plane home. Sunday is laundry day; actually, early Sunday morning with the laundry machines starting to churn at about 3 a.m.
"On Sunday, we check the uniforms, making any repairs necessary, get the trunks and bags ready for the next game," Robertson said. "We’ve got pretty much the same kind of routine that the players and the coaches have during the season."
In addition to overseeing football, Robertson is in charge of equipment for all of UT’s men’s sports. His four assistant equipment managers are assigned to various sports and many help out during football season. Also, 13 student-managers work with football.
During games, Robertson is on the Texas sideline but his focus isn’t on the action as much as the Longhorns.
"I look at the game in a different way," he said. "I’m looking for our players having trouble with their equipment, a player tugging on his helmet after every play. We rely on the players telling us that something doesn’t feel right.
"Our goal is to make sure they’re concentrating on playing and not worrying if their chin strap is tight enough."
That’s not the sort of thing that makes it on Chip Robertson’s road game check list, but as the man in charge of UT’s equipment, it’s part of a long list of responsibilities.