For every coach that has a team playing in a late December bowl game, preparation kicks into high gear for that heightened prep period between bowl selection and the game.
Every detail becomes magnified as coaches wonder: What is our game plan? How well have our players recovered from the regular season? How can we attack the opponent’s scheme?
But for many of these coaches there’s also a secondary plan that kicks into effect the moment their team has been chosen for a bowl game around the Christmas holiday: What is Santa Claus’ game plan? How will the reindeer land on hotel roofs? Do standard hotel rooms fit a 12-foot tree? Will the Elf on the Shelf fit in the carry-on bag?
It’s the responsibility of coaches who have children in the Santa Claus-believing age group to know those facts as well as they know their own game plans.
“It’s important that they get the Christmas experience,” said Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who has two young children. “We do everything with that in mind.”
Last season, when he was the defensive coordinator at Missouri, Grinch and his wife Rebecca put a Christmas tree in their hotel room for the duration of their bowl trip. Grinch said that this year, since the Cougars play on December 26 in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, there will be no tree but there will still be gifts on Christmas morning, as well as before and after the holiday.
Most coaches agree that transporting gifts to and from the bowl site is tough, given the tight constraints for most teams when it comes to luggage. So coaches get creative by celebrating Christmas before or after the 25th, like Grinch.
Santa visited the home of Washington State receiver coach David Yost before the Yost children left for Texas. As he explained to his three kids, the trip from the North Pole to Pullman was more convenient than the trip from the North Pole to El Paso, making the early stop preferable for Saint Nick and his reindeer.
This might also mean that Yost may need to explain to other Cougars coaches’ kids why Santa didn’t make a pit stop at their house while he was in Pullman, but that’s a different story for a different day.
It also means that Santa has to put in extra work for these coaches, because it wasn’t just Pullman that saw an early stop from the sleigh. After stopping by the Palouse, Santa Claus flew east and hit up Blacksburg, Virginia, home of former Virginia Tech associate head coach Shane Beamer.
Beamer’s three children were visited by Santa early Monday morning.
“We wrote a letter to Santa over the weekend telling Santa that we were going to be in Shreveport and would it be possible for him to make a special trip beforehand?” Beamer said. “He did.”
Which was very kind of Santa. But not every coach’s kid is as lucky. For whatever reason, Santa makes some kids wait until after their teams’ bowl games, too.
Gifts will magically appear at Washington co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake’s house before the Huskies return from their December 26 bowl. Lake gave Santa Claus a bit of leeway to arrive before or after the actual holiday as long as the gifts were under the tree when Lake’s three kids get back to Seattle on the 27th.
But most coaches admit that even if their kids are getting gifts before or after the holiday, Christmas morning will also be met with gifts. And that means Santa must be informed that there’s a different chimney (or hotel lobby) that he’ll have to find.
Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf’s two sons made sure that Santa was well aware of their location on Christmas morning.
“We’ve had two letter-writing campaigns,” Langsdorf admitted.
The first came shortly after bowl announcements so that Dawson and Carter Langsdorf could inform Santa that the Huskers had made a bowl (a nice gift already for the 5-7 Cornhuskers) and that they’d be in Santa Clara, California, for the Foster Farms Bowl, not Lincoln, Nebraska.
The second campaign came after the team hotel was booked. The boys informed Santa of the address and room number.
The children also enlisted the help of their Elf on the Shelf, Doo Dah. The Elf, who magically travels to the North Pole every evening while the children are sleeping to update Santa on their behavior, has also been reminding Santa that they won’t be in Lincoln this holiday.
Marshall defensive end coach Sean Cronin, whose Thundering Herd are playing in the Dec. 26 St. Petersburg Bowl, has also found similar uses for the Cronins' Elf on the Shelf, Lady.
“She goes back to the North Pole every day to talk to Santa, you know,” Cronin said. “So Lady is telling Santa that we’re going to be gone and Santa is going to come to our house after Christmas. It works out well for him because he’s very busy that day.”
And it works out well for the coaches because most of them are busy that day, too.