Alumna plays key role in inaugural College Football Playoff

Trey Miller
January 05, 2015

Laila Brock had no blueprint 17 months ago when she started preparing for the first-ever College Football Playoff national championship game. 

Brock, a proud Penn Stater, knew it would be a time-consuming effort, though, and that has been the case as she works almost around the clock, getting ready for the highly anticipated matchup set for Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. The Washington, Pennsylvania, native hasn’t had a day off since Thanksgiving.

“It snuck up on me, I’ll tell you that,” said Brock. “When we all came on board, we were basically building an organization from the ground up. The College Football Playoff did not exist as an entity until early 2013. They brought on the full staff late last year and we kind of built everything from getting the office furniture to figuring out the policies for a dress code.

“Adding on top of that was just managing the participating institutions at our game, building these events from the ground up. It has been an exciting process. It has been absolutely amazing to work with the people that I work with.“

Brock, who earned her bachelor’s degree in media studies from Penn State in 2000 and her master’s degree in counselor education 2002, is the director of team operations and logistics for the College Football Playoff. She previously spent time in a similar position with Orange Bowl.

For the national championship, she is in charge of building a plan for the student-athletes from the time they arrive in North Texas until the time they leave. She’s in charge of everything from hotel accommodations, transportation and practice sites to hospitality rooms and entertainment.

She also understands that this is a business trip for Ohio State and Oregon -- the teams that advanced from the national semifinals at the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl games, respectively. She said those trips were probably more of a “bowl experience” for the teams.

That doesn’t mean the student-athletes can’t have any fun in Dallas, though. Brock has scheduled a comedian to perform, and they also will have a game room set up in their hotels.

“Really, we just want to make sure that when they get to this site, that they’re at home and they can relax and focus on the game,” said Brock.

Her job also entails logistics. Brock manages transportation for the city (in this case, Dallas), and the décor plan for city and the stadium, including billboards and street pole banners.

“All of the glitz and glamour, they see it, but I did all of the dirty work,” joked Brock.

In addition, she oversees fan events, including the AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! concert series, which includes Lenny Kravitz on Jan. 10 and Sting as the headliner on Jan. 11.

“I was responsible for securing that talent and I’ve got to tell you, that was nerve-racking,” said Brock. “That was probably the toughest thing I have had to do. I can deal with coaches all I need to. I’ve been doing that for years. But dealing with talent, that’s different.

“I’m a big fan of both Lenny Kravitz and Sting. If I didn’t have so much to do during the week, I’d probably be at the concert.”

While getting the talent was the hardest part for Brock, the most exciting part for her is making the experience memorable for the student-athletes. Brock was a two-time captain and a five-time letterwinner as a member of the track and field team at Penn State. She stills ranks in the top 10 on the team’s all-time 400-meter sprint and sprint medley relay lists.

As a sprinter at Penn State, Brock participated in the Big Ten championships, which were the source of some of her her greatest memories.

“I love doing what I do because the student-athletes have a great experience,” said Brock. “I’m excited that they will have a true national championship. I’m excited that they will be able to have their bowl experience at the Rose and Sugar bowls. Then, come here and have a great experience and see something they haven’t seen before in AT&T Stadium in North Texas and just really be able to walk away with this, win or lose, with a great appreciation for what we put into this and what the community has put into it. This is really about the student-athletes.”

Penn State also helped Brock on the professional side of things. While she is not in a communications position, there are things that translate for her on a daily basis, including coordinating with team sports information directors and planning press conferences for coaches.

“Obviously, Penn State is where I got my start and I always want to make sure that I make Penn State proud,” said Brock.

Brock doesn’t have many responsibilities pertaining to the national semifinals, but she and the College Football Playoff staff have to be prepared for a quick turnaround from the semifinals to the national championship game.

On game day, Brock will be with the teams, making sure they get to the stadium, that they have everything they need and that all logistics are pinned down. There are 13 people on the College Football Playoff staff, but Brock said thousands of people, including hundreds of volunteers, make an event like this run smoothly.

While Brock expects a few hiccups along the way, she knows that the learning experience from the first such national championship game will help make the game better in years to come. Brock said the staff is already working with the next two host cities -- Phoenix (2016) and Tampa (2017).

For now, though, Brock is focused on being a part of sports history. 

“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Brock. “Sometimes, when I’m working late or I’ve got a problem or something seems completely out of control, I have to stop myself and say, ‘Wait a minute, this is a part of history.’ It’s great to just be a part of it from the very beginning.”

 
Last Updated February 06, 2015