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CEFMA Monthly Membership Spotlight - Ty Phillips, Graham Nugent

March 5, 2018

In an effort to showcase our members, each month we will be featuring one new CEFMA member and one CEFMA veteran member.  

For March, we will highlight
Ty Phillips, assistant athletics director for facilities and events at James Madison University and Graham Nugent, assistant director for facilities and events at the University of Northern Colorado



Ty Phillips, Assistant Athletics Director, Facilities and Events, James Madison University
Alma Mater
Radford University / James Madison University

How many years have you worked in athletics/what are your previous experiences?
I have worked in various roles of college athletics since 2001. starting as a Marketing and Game Operations Intern at Radford, a graduate assistant (2002-03), part-time facilities and events coordinator (2003) director of facilities and events from October 2003 to June 2012, and since have served as Assistant Athletics Director of Facilities & Events.  At JMU, I am responsible for day-to-day operations of athletics facilities including scheduling, maintenance and usage; oversight of the equipment room operations, Game and Event Management; renovations and facility improvements; assists in planning for capital construction.

What is your favorite part about your job?
I enjoy being a service provider and working behind the scenes.  While I don't always work directly with our student-athletes, I appreciate the opportunity to work closely with our administration, coaches, and support staff and influence the direction of our operations and facilities.

Why did you join CEFMA?
I find that it is the easiest way to hear about hot topics, industry challenges, and what others are doing around the country.  While I would much rather get around and see and talk to people one on one, that is not always practical so CEFMA provides a good way to stay informed. 

As someone working in facilities and event management, how does CEFMA help you?
The discussion threads are great ways of seeing what others are doing and learning how others are problem-solving.  It also can give you justification when making a case for policy changes by demonstrating what best practices are in place relative to a given issue.  I attended one of the Regional Conferences a couple years ago at Ohio State which was facilitated by CEFMA and I found that to be a good investment of time.

What has been your proudest moment or accomplishment since joining the field?
Some of my favorite memories include opening of new facilities and hosting a number of conference and post-season events.  With a lean staff, we've had to overcome some tight schedules to host some high level events.  However, I am proudest of some of the staff who have gone on to lead their own staff and a couple students that I've seen graduate and work their way up to full time roles in college athletics.

What's the best event that you've worked on or participated in thus far in your career?There is something unique about hosting I-AA/FCS Football Playoffs as it extends your football gameday hosting opportunities. In 2008 and this past year (2017), we were fortunate to host three rounds which is very exciting for our program, patrons, and community.  We were also blessed to have College Gameday in 2015 and 2017 that were interesting events to help facilitate on our campus but certainly not done without our campus as a whole. 

In 2016, our Softball team hosted our first ever Softball Super Regional against LSU.  The pressure to transform our facility from 625 seats into 2100 seats with supplemental lighting for national TV was a week I won't forget.  The energy that was created around our little town over that post-season was a top moment for our athletic program.

When you're not spending time on campus or at athletics events, where/how do you like to spend your time?
I love spending time with my wife and kids.  I have a selfless wife who is a home educator to our four children so she deserves some escape.  Finding balance between work and family has been one of the most challenging parts of working in athletics.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know.
I live on a fairly large poultry, beef cattle, and crop farm owned by my in-laws.  This is a great escape for me from my job and provides a great environment for raising a family.

Do you have any advice for administrators that are young in their careers?
We live in a microwave society and too often people give up before they can reap any rewards.  I have found that most of the successes I have experienced have come from perseverance and when least expecting them.  Lastly, I remember someone at Disney saying it's important to "sweat the details" and I've found that to be very true because the little things are what makes the big things all work out.

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Graham Nugent, Assistant Director, Facilities and Events, University of Northern Colorado
Alma Mater
Ashford University / Wichita State University

How many years have you worked in athletics/what (if any) are your previous experiences?
8 years- 5 undergrad as a student worker mostly learning many different trades through the university physical plant in conjunction with setting up for athletic events, external events and commencement ceremonies. 2 years as a graduate assistant for facilities at Wichita State- learning hands on experience working with each sport on a daily basis. Day to day maintenance on all 7 facilities, including renovations, planning and implementation for future sporting events. 1 year and 4 months as an Assistant Director at the University of Northern Colorado handling all facility management aspects to each venue and the event management side of things running a student workforce, hospitality, officials, game day host for visiting teams and assisting with capital projects. Oversee women's basketball, volleyball, wrestling, soccer, baseball and softball.

What is your favorite part about your job?
Being able to put on a great event for each spectator that comes to watch a sporting event inside any of our venues. To assist in projects to help each program out, whether it’s facility renovations, capital projects, etc.

What are your long-term goals in this industry?
Long term goals are to keep climbing up the ladder in the industry each position at a time until I can become an Associate AD for facilities and events at the BCS level.

What is one thing you wish you would've known when starting your career in facilities and event management?
Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone with new situations. I wish I could have told my younger self to be more courageous and join this networking world of facility and event managers at a younger age. Finding the right job was tough but I'm so happy I built up a network after my undergraduate degree.

What has been your proudest moment or accomplishment since joining the field?
Proudest moment was being able to handle a football game by myself after my boss had been away. It was a good sense of accomplishment to be a lead on such a large sporting event.

What's the best event that you've worked on or participated in thus far in your career?
ESPN College Game Day, Wichita State vs. Northern Iowa

Why did you join CEFMA?
To learn more about the industry and network with some great people.

As someone working in facilities and event management, how does CEFMA help you?
CEFMA has helped me a lot by reading about other people's problems and the support other people give to each other through networking on the internet.

When you're not spending time on campus or at athletics events, where/how do you like to spend your time?
Hiking mountains, attending outdoor concerts, traveling to new cities, socializing with friends.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don't know.
I originally came here to play soccer from the Republic of Ireland. Being from a different country, I have had to learn so many new sports and rules that apply to those sports. It's been a very fun experience watching first hand and reading NCAA rule manuals to develop my knowledge about each sport.

About CEFMA: CEFMA is dedicated to the needs of collegiate level event and facility professionals and the challenges that exist within the scope of their responsibilities. CEFMA will seek to promote the growth, leadership, integrity and success of administrators and professional staff in collegiate athletics. For more information about CEFMA, please visit www.cefma.netCEFMA is administered by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), which is in its 53rd year. For more information on NACDA and the 17 professional associations that fall under its umbrella, please visit www.nacda.com.