Around the Program: Jeff Merk

When people turn on the television or go to the Orange Bowl to watch their beloved Miami Hurricanes do battle on the gridiron, they see the players and the coaches, but what the fans fail to see are the people in the background, the people who work their tails off behind the scenes to make sure that the ‘Canes are actually on that field.

In our second installment of 'Around the Program', we took the time to talk to the main guy who makes sure everything is running place for the Hurricanes football team Director of Football Operations, Jeff Merk, who is responsible for basically everything that doesn't involve the actual coaching and playing.

Enjoy our Question and Answer period with Jeff Merk as we continue to introduce you to the inner workings of the Miami Hurricanes football program.

CanesTime - What is the title of your job?

Jeff Merk - My title is Director of Football Operations, Academic Advisor for the football program.

CT - What are your duties as Director of Football Operations?

JM - My duties revolve around everything administrative regarding the football program. I handle our summer camp, our high school coaches clinic, am responsible for overseeing the academic paperwork and the overall progress of our recruiting process. I am responsible for maintaining the relationships between the football staff and the administrative departments on campus. I do everything from team travel where I work with David Scott who oversees it, and I help fill in all the pieces for him, seating charts, rooming lists, things of that nature, to working with our compliance office if there are any issues. It's an umbrella job that covers just about anything that has to do with the football program.

CT - Which particular duty takes up the most time for you on a daily basis?

JM - The things that fill up my time the most are the day-to-day operations of the football department. I maintain the contact with the academic support team to keep tabs on all of our players, making sure they are making adequate academic progress. I keep track of the administrative functions involving recruiting, making sure that coaches know where they are going, that they have directions, making sure that we have transcripts on all of our recruits.

CT - What is your relationship with Coach Larry Coker and how often are you in contact with Coach Coker?

JM - It's usually an hourly thing. We handle a number of tasks where I have to stay in constant contact with him so we can cover everything from, ‘Coach, there is a hurricane coming on looks like Tuesday' and we are meeting on Sunday with how I can come up with a game plan so we can practice on Monday and take Tuesday off to ensure we have the adequate number of practices yet stay within the rules of the NCAA.

CT - How difficult is it make sure that coaches stay within the requirements of the NCAA in terms of practicing because football is their blood and if they could practice all the time, they would?

JM - The best thing about that situation when speaking of the rules and the time constraints of the players overall is that our coaching staff has a very clear understanding as to why we are all here. We are all here to win football games, but we are also here to help the kids that we bring here succeed on the football field and in the classroom. We cannot take all their time with football and not allow them the adequate time they need to succeed in the classroom. I think this staff overall and a lot of credit goes to our leader, Coach Coker, makes sure that these are our priorities. It's one pie, carved up into certain pieces, so that we make sure our guys do what they have to do to get their degrees.

CT - What brought you to Miami?

JM - Strangely enough, it's just a love for the sport of football. One of my former high school classmates said that I picked the right career. This is something I was destined to do, something I was meant to do. I am a guy that loves to organize things, keep things right, keep things together. I am more of a hands on operations type guy and I love college football, love the environment. I was fortunate enough to get an internship right out of college down here at UM football program in the Spring of 1993 and just take off from there.

I am a graduate of South Dakota. My wife is from here and I was fortunate enough, and I was also willing to work for next to nothing for more than a year in hopes that I could land a full time position with the football program.

CT - What do you do during the game? Are you allowed to cheer and enjoy the game?

JM - Fortunately and unfortunately, I am actually working throughout the game in the coach's booth itself helping chart and script plays that are called during the game. I do basic administrative functions also and I sometimes miss plays cause I am writing things down. It's very exciting. I love my opportunity that I've been given here at the University of Miami. I look back on it and I wouldn't choose any other way.

CT - How long have you been in this position?

JM - I left for three years to work for the Orange Bowl Committee. I was Operations Manager and then Director of Events. I oversaw the operations of the FedEx Orange Bowl for three years, and also the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic. My last year I oversaw all the events from the parade to the coach's luncheon to the team events, helped secure the hotel contracts for the FedEx Orange Bowl.

I came back here in the Spring of 2000 as the Facilities Director because Pete Garcia (former Director of Football Operations) called me and said there's a great opportunity for you to come back here as the Facilities Coordinator. I love UM and was hoping for an opportunity to come back. I didn't know if the facilities job would come open, but it didn't become available and I was more than happy to have the opportunity to come back. Then seven months later, Coach (Butch) Davis and Pete left for Cleveland, Coach Coker was hired as head football coach and approached me about being the Director of Football Operations.

CT - Was there any doubt in your mind when Coach Coker offered you the position?

JM - None. It was a slam dunk. No doubt about.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat is a Staff Writer with CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com

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