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Updated 12:15 PM June 6, 2005




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Spotlight: Plan a tournament in one week? No problem

The U-M softball team's most recent Big Ten Conference championship sparked a noisy celebration May 8 on Alumni Field. It also posed another logistics challenge for Assistant Athletic Director Ragine Dvorak.
(Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

While the coaches, players and fans celebrated the team's 10th league championship in 14 years, Dvorak waited—about five minutes—to begin planning for the Wolverines' next game.

With the title, U-M earned the right to host the Big Ten tournament the following weekend. No problem, as the University has hosted numerous Big Ten and NCAA regional tournaments. But, U-M also was in the process of preparing to stage the NCAA women's water polo championship the same weekend at nearby Canham Natatorium.

For Dvorak, the double duty meant double the work, double the games and double the mileage on one of the department's golf carts she uses to shuttle back and forth between tournament venues.

"I thanked the softball team for winning," Dvorak says. If U-M had lost, Northwestern University would have hosted the league tournament. "I told them it would be a lot easier to go between two championships at Alumni Field and Canham Natatorium in a golf cart than to be in Chicago."

Dvorak is in her 13th year with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. She oversees three varsity teams—field hockey, rowing and wrestling—coordinates home event management for 18 sports, and manages all Big Ten Conference and NCAA championship events held at U-M.

A sampling of events hosted by the University in 2004-05 includes: an NCAA field hockey regional and men's soccer tournament game, and the Big Ten men's soccer, women's indoor track and field, men's gymnastics, women's golf and softball championships. Last week, U-M hosted the four-team NCAA softball regional.

Among her duties: arranging hotel rooms for visiting teams, coordinating with the grounds crews and arena operators, establishing concessions and hospitality, troubleshooting, and managing game-day events. Assuring good weather isn't in the job description.

The 2004 NCAA softball regional hosted by U-M was an exercise in patience for those involved. Rain and winds extended the tournament to four days and featured one contest that started at 11:59 p.m. and ended just after 2 a.m. U-M was forced to host six games in one day and the title tilt was decided during parts of two days.

"The weather was the worst in 11 years; we had water knee-deep in center field at both baseball and softball—that was crazy," Dvorak recalls. "We had something like three inches of rain in an hour. I had sump pumps going. I can control everything but the weather."

In November, the University hosted the field hockey regional and Big Ten men's soccer tourney on the same dates—and on playing fields right next to each other—while some 110,000 football fans packed Michigan Stadium across the parking lot.

"We have a reputation that Michigan can get it done—and we do," she says.

U-M will serve as a co-host of the 2007 NCAA wrestling championships at the Palace of Auburn Hills. The department also has submitted a bid to bring the 2008-11 NCAA hockey regional back to Yost Arena, and it hopes to lure the 2009 NCAA women's gymnastics championship to Crisler Arena.

"The biggest thing when you host is to make sure the coaches and the athletes have a great experience," Dvorak says. "I enjoy coming to the office; not many people can say that. I'm lucky."

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