MSU Athletic Turf manager shares behind-the-scenes work at Spartan Stadium

Head assistant athletic turf manager Andy Flynn talks about the work he does at Spartan Stadium. Flynn also manages the school’s other two football fields, the varsity soccer, baseball and softball fields, and the varsity golf headquarters. Photo / Ava Brewer

Andy Flynn never really thought about grass. That is, until it became all he thought about. When it came to choosing a major at Michigan State, Flynn said he couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do, but he had always enjoyed mowing his lawn, so he enrolled in the Turfgrass management program. More than a decade later, Flynn is now the Head Assistant Athletic Turf manager at his alma mater.

Flynn’s job includes keeping the grass on the Spartan Stadium football field in good condition; painting the lines, endzones, Spartan head and Big 10 logo on the field before the games; and making sure the media has access to all areas they need and that they don’t cut across the field during the days leading up to the games.

“If you let one person walk across [the field], the next thing you know everyone’s walking across,” Flynn said,  “and there might be wet paint going on or someone might drop something on the field that could become hazardous during the game. That’s one of my jobs that I’m not a big fan of because I have to yell all the way across the field.”

Flynn’s job revolves around the Michigan State football team, but he wasn’t always a fan. He grew up in a small town in southern Michigan where most people rooted for Notre Dame. For his part, Flynn liked the Michigan Wolverines. However, when he came to Michigan State, he said his allegiance changed.

“My first year, we won the National Championship for basketball, so I was pretty much sold on Michigan State,” Flynn said.

Flynn said one of the most prominent and important parts of his job is maintaining the grass at the field in order to make it playable for the upcoming season or weekend. The grass is originally grown in the Turfgrass Research Center in 4-by-4-foot plastic trays. After games, the team of groundskeepers will fill in all divots made in the grass, and if a part is extremely damaged after a game, they can replace that area with a new block of grass from the research center. Flynn said the grass doesn’t require much repair work in the early months of the season because the grass is still growing, but after a few months the grass really starts to wear down from all the playing on it and requires more work.

Painting lines on the field—which happens on Wednesdays and Thursdays before games—is a long process, but a crucial one. Without the paint, there would be no football game. Flynn said the paint also helps make the repair on the field easier because a lot of imperfections on the field get covered up when the lines go down.

Fortunately, according to Flynn, the team doesn’t practice every day on the stadium field, but instead on its practice field, allowing the grass to fully recover by the next game.

“There’s a good understanding between the coaching staff and the administration and the athletics that this field means a lot,” Flynn said, “and a lot of people see it on Saturdays, so they don’t want to come over here and just shred the place practicing all the time so [the field] looks good on Saturdays.”

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