Turf managers work hard behind the scenes to set the stage for gameday

Published 2:07 pm Thursday, September 15, 2022

BATON ROUGE, La. — As the LSU Tigers take the field against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in their SEC home opener, it’s important to remember that football, or any game played on turf, would not be possible without turfgrass managers diligently working behind the scenes.

Plant and soil systems major Jack Simmons spent the summer working with LSU Athletics’ facilities and grounds teams, learning how to care for the athletic fields on campus.

“I help out with anything they need for the athletic fields on campus, including Tiger Stadium,” Simmons said. “This includes painting, making paint, mowing and fertilizing.”

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Simmons’ concentration is in turf and landscape management. He is learning about plant and turfgrass selection, installation and maintenance in the classroom.

Pursuing a career in turfgrass management allows Simmons to stay in proximity to one of his passions — athletics.

“I played baseball and football in high school,” he said. “For baseball, we had to take care of the field ourselves, and I was really involved in it and enjoyed it, so I decided to pursue something related to that.”

He has escalated from caring for his high school athletic fields to the nationally renowned field in Tiger Stadium.

“We mow typically every other day, and once a month we fertilize the field,” Simmons said. “During the summer, they do more intensive work to add nutrients back to the grass.”

A top-dressing of sand is spread across the field in summer to add nutrients to the soil. This year, Simmons helped pull soil cores to check soil quality.

As LSU faces its first conference opponent of the season, Simmons is helping to maintain and prep the field for home football games.

Painting Tiger Stadium for a home game is a three-day process. The grounds team will meticulously apply between 60 to 80 five-gallon buckets of paint to the field ahead of time. The morning after the game, the field will be mowed and repaired.

“Mowing the fields is the easiest way to get ruts out of the field,” Simmons said. “We’ll let it rest for a couple of days and come back to see if anything needs patching. We can put in new inserts on sod if it needs it.”

Simmons says he wants to continue with a career in turfgrass management. Most universities have turfgrass management teams along with professional teams. There are also opportunities to work with golf courses and commercial landscapes.

To learn more about the turf and landscape management program, visit the LSU College of Agriculture website, lsu.edu/agriculture/programs/undergraduate/plant-soil.php.