November 10. 2000
Purdue turf experts maintain home field advantage
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University football players and coaches weren't the only ones happy about the open week in the Big 10 schedule Nov. 4. So was Ron Clites, Purdue's sports turf manager.
While Coach Joe Tiller, his players and staff tended to nagging injuries and prepared for the final two games of the season, Clites used the off week to breathe life back into the Ross-Ade Stadium turf.
With two October home game victories over Michigan and Ohio State and the celebrations that followed the field suffered what may be the world's largest case of bed head.
"It was pretty trampled down after both games," says Clites, "especially in the north end zone, under the goal posts."
Clites' crew maintains the field to handle heavy use by 300-pound cleated football players, but not by the 10,000 fans who used the field and goal posts as celebratory mosh pits and jungle gyms following Purdue's dramatic come-from-behind wins. Purdue beat Michigan, 32-31, and Ohio State, 31-27.
"When you put fans on the field, you get some compacting damage and some wear damage," says Clites. "With players, you mostly just get divoting damage."
A scheduling break gave Clites ample time to get the field ready for the final home game, which is the Nov. 18 Old Oaken Bucket matchup against Indiana University.
"We had three weeks between the Michigan and Ohio State games and three more weeks between the Ohio State and Indiana games. The extra time has allowed the field to recover well," Clites says.
The field, a mixture of rye (70 perecent) and bluegrass (30 percent) was reseeded after both October home games. Unseasonably mild weather helped the seed germinate quickly.
"The weather has been fantastic for the turf," says Purdue agronomy Professor Clark Throssell.
"You couldn't ask for a better growing season than we had this fall. October was warm with temperatures in the 70s during the day and somewhat cooler at night. Those conditions are just perfect for growing the kind of grasses we grow around here."
Throssell observed the Ohio State celebration from a distance, choosing not to join the on-field revelry.
"Yes, things looked a little trampled down, particularly underneath the goal posts. But that's about what you would expect following a celebration. As long as the students don't tear up chunks of turf, there really shouldn't be any long-term damage to the field."
Clites says he doesn't mind the extra work brought on by celebrating fans.
Should Purdue secure its first Rose Bowl trip since 1968, Clites and Throssell both hope fans celebrate smart.
"We discourage anything that is going to damage the field or the facility," Clites says. He implores fans to not take any souvenirs from the stadium, unless they are the kind you buy at the concession stands. "I don't think there is anything in this stadium they could take that we wouldn't miss."
That includes taking home chunks of Ross-Ade Stadium turf.
"Taking a chunk of turf causes lots of repair problems," says Throssell. "Besides, in a short time it's going to dry out and turn into powder. It's one of those things where you wake up the next morning and say, 'Great, now what do I do with it?'"
Sources: Ron Clites, (765) 494-3250
Clark Throssell, (765) 494-4785
Writer: Tom Campbell, (765) 494-8084
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org