Football season at Ole Miss brings with it “Trash Can Fridays,” a sea of red and blue tents, thousands of visitors, the Walk of Champions, and stress on the trees and grounds that make up the Grove.
A team of thirty-three full-time staff members works to ensure that the Grove remains healthy and full all year long, but especially during football season.
“Before football season we make sure we have a healthy Grove,” said Jeff McManus, Director of Landscape Services. “A healthy Grove always recovers faster than an unhealthy Grove.”
The Landscape Services department stays on a perpetual calendar all year long. During each season they have a schedule for what should be done to the grounds to keep the Grove and the rest of the campus beautiful.
With four home games back to back it can put even more stress on the grounds than normal. McManus and his team work to reduce any harm that might come to the Grove during this time.
“We try to be proactive by putting out trash cans and trash bags,” said McManus. “This way we can minimize the time it takes to clean up the Grove afterwards.”
At the end of football season, the Landscape Service Department will clear off the ground in the Grove by raking away anything on or in the ground such as leaves, bottle tops, and cigarette butts. Next, they break up the ground.
“We break up the soil compacted by seven weeks of fans,” said McManus. “This way the roots have room to do what roots do, wiggle around underground and grow. Then we fertilize and get ready for graduation weekend.”
McManus has been with the University for over sixteen years. During his tenure, he has completely changed the way landscaping is viewed. He took the anxiety of football season away from the department and made this a time for his team to shine.
He instills his workers with a sense of ownership so that this is not just a job and everyone on the team shares the vision and the goal of keeping the campus healthy and beautiful.
“Everybody in our department is a leader,” said McManus. “This is not about a paycheck or attention. This is Ole Miss.”
By Amy Goodin, HottyToddy.com contributor. She may be reached at argoodin12