Vicki Sullivan uses her management and logistical skills every day. She even admits to using some psychoanalysis when she interviews someone. A graduate of Cal State Long Beach with a degree in psychology, the mother of two boys has managed a wholesale art company, worked for the Idaho Legislature's House State Affairs and Health and Welfare committees and served as office manger for Idaho State University's Boise office.
But a phone call from then-Boise State football coach Dan Hawkins in the spring of 2002 changed everything. This week, as the Boise State Broncos kick off their 2011 football schedule, Sullivan begins her 10th season as management assistant to one of the most successful football programs in the United States. BW sat down with Sullivan in the football team meeting room, a mini-indoor amphitheater where the players review game film and strategize key formations for upcoming games.
As we speak, the team is just several feet away out on the field in closed practice, and we're now days away from a huge game. The energy here is tangible.
And as the game gets closer, it's electric.
And how about through the season?
Once we get to the season opener, we sort of keep going at that level.
Boise State fans are a bit spoiled because they don't experience too many losses. But I'm wondering what it's like here on a Monday following a loss.
You could get on a team bus or plane after the game and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
But fans are thrilled and devastated on Mondays following a game.
Believe me, the energy stays the same. When we won the Fiesta Bowl and everybody got on the team plane, they were the same as always. They went straight to sleep.
Do you travel with the team?
Up until a few years ago, I went to all the games. There was a time when our plane would land and there would be no team bus. Or we would get to a hotel and the rooms weren't ready. There were a lot of issues. So in July and August, I started calling hotels, going through the details of our requirements. The hotel's food personnel needed to know that they were feeding athletes. When you run out of milk, you have a big problem. Athletes have to consume a lot of calories the day before a game. When you tell somebody that they have to feed each person 10,000 calories, they quickly realize that this isn't the ladies club.
What's it like traveling with a large group of men and boys?
It's very, very structured. We have an itinerary for every trip.
How specific is that?
We're talking about two- to three-minute increments. And if you're not somewhere five minutes before the event begins, you're late. It's clockwork. It is a pleasure to travel with the team.
Let's talk about the season opener against Georgia on Saturday, Sept. 3. When will the team leave?
It's mandated by the NCAA that the visiting team cannot leave its hometown until 48 hours before the kickoff.
Talk to us about Coach Pete.
What you see is what he is.
He's a bit of an enigma.
He's obviously a great coach, but he's a great, great individual.
What kind of a boss is he?
He hires very good people and he gives the people that work for him the latitude to be very good. He's a perfectionist.
But isn't it pretty amazing how he turns these young men, year after year, into what is undoubtedly one of the best teams in the United States?
They really go out of their way to recruit good kids from good families.
Is there any reason not to believe that this team is as good as any other?
Years ago you would hear a lot about fear of success. That's a real fear. There are people who get too close to success and they panic. Boise State knows how to win. It's not that they expect to win. They know that if you work hard, stay focused, do the same thing day in and day out you're supposed to do, you're going to win. It's nothing to be afraid of. It's something to be excited about.