http://host.madison.com/content/tncms/assets/editorial/6/c4/a60/6c4a6040-af1e-11de-915b-001cc4c002e0.image.jpg" alt="MIKE LUCAS" width="108" height="103" align="left" />The job title is all-encompassing: director of football operations.
The job is all-consuming: time-consuming.
“I handle team logistics, anything unrelated to the X’s and O’s,” said Mark Taurisani, the new coordinator of “Ops” for the University of Wisconsin football program.
“The operations staff exists to allow the coaches to coach. We try and take some of the stress, pressure and headaches off the staff, so they’re allowed to concentrate on football.”
Taurisani, who will be entering his fifth year in football operations, is obviously no stranger to how things are done at Camp Randall Stadium — especially under coach Bret Bielema.
At that, there has been a step-by-step process and a line of succession.
Taurisani is replacing Brad Pendergrass, who spent the 2010 season as UW’s director of football operations before taking the same job at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee.
Pendergrass had succeeded Bill Nayes, who left Wisconsin after the ’09 season for the San Francisco 49ers, where he’s serving as a special assistant to head coach Mike Singletary.
When Bielema took over as UW’s head coach in 2006, he brought in Nayes, who had been an administrative assistant to Mike Holmgren with the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers.
Nayes, a UW grad and former student manager for football, got his training at Wisconsin in the mid-’90s under John Chadima, now an associate athletic director for capital projects and sports administration.
Taurisani had a summer internship with the Seahawks in 2005, and subsequently accompanied Nayes to Madison in ’06.
Over the last four years, Taurisani has been both an assistant and a coordinator under Nayes and Pendergrass. Thus, he’s expected to make a seamless transition to the job.
In addition, he will be assisted by Matt Lipman, who worked in operations for the Cleveland Browns for the last five seasons.
Citing the influences of Chadima, Nayes and Pendergrass, Taurisani said, “Each had a different way of doing things, a different personality. I tried to take bits and pieces from them.
“By no means do I have all the answers. But I was around three pretty good guys, and they helped me grow in the business. I’m still learning every day, but I feel like I have a really good foundation thanks to them.”
Chadima continues to be one of his greatest resources. “John has lived it and he’s just a stone’s throw away,” Taurisani said. “There’s probably not a question that you could come up with that he couldn’t answer.”
Taurisani had more questions than answers about his future after graduating from the State University of New York at Fredonia.
“I didn’t have the big picture mapped out,” said Taurisani, a sociology major and the captain of the baseball team. “I was just a student-athlete who was trying to enjoy college.”
So he returned to his hometown (Utica, N.Y.) and toiled as a social worker for a year. “It was a job you took home with you on weekends and you were thinking about it all the time,” he said. “Six months into it, I knew I wanted to go back to school.”
That led Taurisani to the University of Louisville, where he earned his master’s in sports administration.
“I went there to be a high school athletic director,” he said. “That was my thinking. But it’s not like I lost the dream, or even considered it a dream; it was something I thought I’d enjoy.”
After working as an intern with the Seahawks, he was hooked. Taurisani had accepted a job at Churchill Downs in sponsorship sales when Nayes called and offered him an opportunity to join him at the UW.
It was a no-brainer, even though football operations is generally considered to be one of the more challenging or “Dirty Jobs.”
That was the theme of a Sporting News series just two years ago.
Wrote Tom Dienhart of Nayes, then the UW director of football ops, “Basically, if it doesn’t involve blocking, tackling or sweating, he is involved.”
Dienhart went on to note that Nayes “regularly pulls 80-hour weeks during the season” and he knocks on wood for luck “because he knows his job relies on others doing theirs.”
Suggested Nayes, “We don’t want any surprises. The players and staff have enough to worry about without dealing with any distractions.”
Taurisani subscribes to the same school of thought regarding his accountability and responsibilities with the Badgers. It also helps to be flexible when things don’t fall into place. “You have to stay on your game,” he said.
Monday, for example, Taurisani had to tweak the schedule for the Badger football camp because of rain. “And when the sun came out,” he said, “we adjusted the plan again. It’s an ever-changing thing.”
There’s a lot of planning that goes into pulling off a successful summer camp. Unlike some programs, all of the UW football coaches take an active role, including Bielema, who’s present for every session.
Taurisani enjoys that personal touch with the campers and the high school coaches who round out the summer staff. “When you break from a session, it’s not about running back to the dorms,” he said. “It’s about hanging around, eating together and talkin’ ball.”
And it’s not only about evaluation, but it’s also about development. “You see the kids making great strides during their three-day window,” he said. “Typically, it’s about reaching out to the Wisconsin kids and making football better in the state.”
That’s a 24/7 pursuit, like almost everything else about his job description.