Of all the headaches, fears and concerns which come with the territory when you are a high school head football coach and athletic director, one at or near the top of the list is field maintenance.
Unlike colleges which have their own staffs to make sure their athletic fields are maintained, a high school athletic director must wear several hats when it comes to prepping their playing surfaces. Everything from weeding the field, cutting the grass and putting down the lines come under the auspices of the AD and members of his coaching staff.
At North Central High School, much of that burden has been eased, thanks to the effort of the school’s vocational agriculture mechanical and technical program headed by George Morrow. That curriculum also includes a class called “Morrow’s Turf 1.”
The work of Morrow and his students was recognized last month when North Central was the recipient of the High School Football Field of the Year Award which was presented by the South Carolina Sports Turf Managers Association. The ceremony was held at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia as part of the SCSTMA’s annual business meeting.
The honor come after judging which included high school football fields throughout the Palmetto State.
“We’re very excited about winning this and it’s quite an honor for our school,” Morrow was quoted as saying in North Central High School’s on-line monthly bulletin in regard to the honor. “Most places have (a) full-time staff that does this work, but we do it with myself and our students. Being able to do what we do with the funding we have and to be able to win is something special.”
No person is more appreciative of the work performed by Morrow and NC students than is Louis Clyburn, the school’s fifth-year head football coach and athletic director. Morrow’s work on the fields allows Clyburn to devote more time to his team while also knowing the baseball and softball fields are in good hands.
“We have a very unique and a very fortunate situation at North Central,” Clyburn said of the turf management program devised by Morrow, a Clemson graduate.
“We have what, in essence, is a vocational agricultural science program. There are a lot of different hands that go into preparing those athletic fields and Mr. Morrow is the mastermind behind it all. He has the knowledge. He is the one who knows which seed and which fertilizer to put out, when it is time to aerate and when it is time to to-dress the fields.
“That knowledge, in and of itself, is a huge advantage for North Central. Most people have to pay someone just to come in and consult you and tell you not only how to do the work, but to just assess the condition of the field.”
Like Clyburn, Morrow is in his fifth year as a teacher at NCHS. Along with students from his classes, the group oversees the school’s football, baseball and softball fields. “It’s a year ‘round undertaking,” Clyburn said. “It’s not like you can just put the grass out, throw some fertilizer out and it’s done. It’s something that you have to nurture and take care of.
“George Morrow has the mindset that he wants to have the best fields in the state of South Carolina. It doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of preparation, planning and execution to get it done. That is what we have at North Central.”
Armed with a lawnmower, shovels and rakes, the group performs maintenance on the fields and, sometimes other services. One on occasion this past fall, Morrow and company took their job to another level as they painted a knights’ sword on the football field for a home game, after having called Clyburn to ask what would amount to being too large an on-field graphic and where the sword should be placed on the field to avoid disturbing the yard lines.
“Orchestrating that type of environment is a challenge in and of itself,” Clyburn said. “Mr. Morrow does a fine job with that. For us, having somebody on campus like Mr. Morrow and having the kids in his class is a blessing. Their ultimate goal is to have that field being perfect and their getting an ‘A’ for their assignment.”
Morrow’s helpers are not limited to students, as Clyburn pointed out. Like most high school programs, members of the NC coaching staff will hop behind the wheel of a lawnmower and cut the practice and game field grass. In North Central’s case, however, they have a man at the top that makes the coaches’ jobs much easier to carry out.
As far as the coaches maintaining the fields, Clyburn said his staff has been diligent in following Morrow’s orders. When football practice starts, the grass is sometimes cut twice a day. “Every time that you cut that Bermuda (grass), it just enhances it. We pride ourselves on how many times we cut that grass,” he said.
In the summer, during the peak growing season, the NC practice field and its game field will get cut four or five times a week.
“It’s like going out to practice and having somebody hand you a practice plan and saying, ‘OK. This is what you have to do today,’” Clyburn said of following Morrow’s advice on field maintenance.
“As coaches,” Clyburn said, “we have to cut the grass, spread fertilizer and do the top dressing on our fields. But it’s unique in that we are the work force for Mr. Morrow. I tell our coaches all the time that if we just do what he asks us to do,ss we’ll have the best field in South Carolina.
“What’s funny is that we’ve said that for four years and when people come to North Central, besides our exaggerated crown which we hope to get fixed here in the next couple years, we have the best field in the state, bar none. You can walk on our field and then walk on the field at the University of South Carolina and the turf itself is very similar.
“We tell our kids all the time that they don’t know how spoiled we are.”