Hanging Up The Cleats
Long-Time Equipment Manager Mike Gallup Retiring
DENTON - In April of 1994, Mike Gallup was hired as the assistant equipment manager for North Texas football. Two days before fall camp began that year, he was promoted to head equipment manager. Now a few months shy of his 23rd anniversary in that capacity, Gallup is retiring, taking with him the memories of working closely with thousands of Mean Green student-athletes.
We sat down with Gallup during his last few days to discuss the highs, lows and memorable moments of his time on the front line over 23 football seasons.
MGS: How did you get into the equipment business?
Gallup: My dad worked in the UTEP athletics department when I was in high school and I would go up and watch football practice. I knew that I loved being around it, but I didn't really know what went into any of it. When my parents moved to Wyoming, I stayed and enrolled at UTEP as a student. One night at this place called Gasoline Alley the head equipment manager at UTEP came up to me and asked if I wanted to come work for him. Originally I told him that I wasn't interested, but as the night got longer he wore me down and told me he would see me tomorrow at 3 p.m. The next day I went to his office and he offered me a full scholarship so I decided to give it a try. I didn't know anything about it, so I had to learn everything on the fly. Here I am still in the business some 36 years later.
MGS: What has changed most about the business since you started as a student in 1981?
Gallup: I think our business has changed as much or more than any in college athletics. When I started, we traveled three people to away football games, and two of those were students. We did everything. We did the jobs that we have eight, nine, 10 guys doing these days. But also, the equipment is much better and more advanced now. Three people couldn't do the job today with everything that is involved with today's equipment. Then there is all of the different uniform combinations that is the trend today. When I started we had one helmet that we used for practice and games, one road uniform and one home uniform. Now we have helmets for practice only and then three or four different game helmets, and we have about a dozen different uniform combinations. Some places have 30-40 different uniform combinations. The players didn't used to care as much about the uniforms and helmets as they do today. It used to be about just playing football. Now you have to look good while you play football.
MGS: What has been the most difficult part of your job?
Gallup: Probably adjusting to the culture change around college football. For recruiting you have to have all the latest gear and the flashy uniforms and helmets, and all of that stuff costs money. It's a continuous challenge to meet the needs of coaches while also staying within your budget. The budget for equipment has grown like everything else in college athletics, very fast and very large. Also, it has become a 24/7 job year around. It used to be a job that was really busy during the fall and during spring football but you could resume a normal schedule other than that. Now you might get a call on a Sunday night in June saying that there is a recruit in town and you need to go set up the locker room and get a helmet and uniform display ready.
MGS: What would you tell a young person who wanted to get into this profession?
Gallup: It is a lot of work, but if you like sports and want to be involved with it, it is a great experience. There are a lot of examples of people who started as student equipment managers but went on to become coaches or administrators. It can provide an opportunity for someone to get their foot in the door for sure. It is also a great opportunity to travel and see some of the great college football stadiums in the country. I've probably been to 75 percent of the college stadiums in the country for a game and that would have never happened if I wasn't in this business.
MGS: What are some of your best memories at North Texas in the last 23 years?
Gallup: For sure the four straight bowl games in the early 2000s and the dominance that we had in the Sun Belt Conference. There have been a lot of great games. The comeback win at Utah State in the 1990s and the comeback win at New Mexico State during that Sun Belt winning streak. I remember a lot of great times with coach Dickey. He and I became real good friends and we shared a lot of great times together. The 2002 New Orleans Bowl win over Cincinnati was a lot of fun because I was so close to those coaches and those players. The Heart of Dallas Bowl win in 2014 will also be moment that I won't forget anytime soon. We had two wins at Texas Tech when the program was really struggling, I will never forget those games. There are so many great memories that I'm sure I'm forgetting right now, but whenever I see these former players and talk with the coaches that have been through here, they all come back to me.
MGS: What is something that has happened in the Mean Green locker room that most people don't know about?
Gallup: We very rarely let players come from the locker room into the equipment room, but when Lance Dunbar was here we had a special arrangement. We learned that we could trust him to be back here, so he would come in here and take a nap on the couch between practices during two-a-days and even during the season before practices. We would always have candy left over from what we put in the coaches locker room on game day and he would always get into that.
MGS: What is the most misunderstood part of your job?
Gallup: Most people don't realize what goes in to outfitting a player for a game. All of the prep work that goes into getting this equipment ready for players and coaches always goes unnoticed. We arrive at the stadium before anyone gets there and we are always the last to leave. For a 6 p.m. kickoff our day begins at about 7 a.m. and doesn't get over until well after midnight. Most people just see the pageantry of the game for three hours, but they could never kick it off without us.
MGS: How have you made the student-athlete experience better at North Texas?
Gallup: We take a lot of pride in making sure that all of our athletes have the proper equipment to keep them safe and allow them to perform at the highest level, but we are also aware that they like to have the newest uniforms and look good out there. I know it's not about me, but when I hear a player talk about how sweet those helmets are or just say thanks because we were able to fix an equipment issue and get them back in the game sooner, that is proof that we are doing something that they appreciate.
MGS: Who are some of the former players that you will always remember and why?
Gallup: There are so many. Zach Orr comes to mind because he was recent. He is one of the nicest and most appreciative players we have ever had come through here. We get some players who are at the window every day complaining and asking for new gear because they lost something. The only time Zach was at the window was to just talk and laugh about stuff. People like Patrick Cobbs, Cody Spencer and Andy Brewster were also great to have around, and, to this day, they will always come by and say hello when they are in town. Lance Dunbar was always good with us also. It's kind of funny, the best players are always the easiest to deal with. The players that we have the most problems with are the players who hardly ever play.
MGS: If you could change one thing about your time at North Texas, what would it be?
Gallup: I probably would have delegated more stuff from the beginning. For a long time I thought I had to do everything because I knew that if I did it, it would be done the way I wanted it done. Eventually I was able to start letting my assistants and some of the students do more, and that made it easier for me, but looking back, I wish I would have done that a lot sooner.
MGS: What will you miss most about your job?
Gallup: Without question it will be the relationships. The interaction with these student-athletes and the relationships that I have made with a lot of staff members in the athletics department over the years. We have been through a lot together, good times and bad. I have a lot of great memories that will last me a lifetime.