If you look closely during a University of Iowa football game, you might catch a glimpse of Brian Cassady on the sideline. He is part of the headset team that manages the game day coaching communication system. During the work week, he is a lead application developer in Health Care Information Systems and has been at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics for 21 years.
Brian is most known for being the person standing behind head football coach Kirk Ferentz to grab his headset at the end of the game. A great deal goes on behind the scenes throughout the game to ensure the coaching staff can effectively communicate. The game day coaching communication system is a wireless system connected through phone lines to a communication box up in the coaches’ booth. The system allows the coaches to have two-way communication with each other through multiple open and private channels. A defensive coach can use one channel to speak to all defensive coaches at the same time and then flip over to another channel to talk only to specific coaches for the defensive line.
Brian is part of a two-person team that sets up the system before each game, tests all equipment to ensure there is no interference, maintains clear communication, and disassembles the equipment after the game. During the game, one team member is in the booth while the other is on the sideline to monitor system performance and troubleshoot any issues that arise. Occasionally a coach will accidentally break a headset and the on-field person must provide them with new equipment as quickly as possible. On a typical game day, this team arrives four hours prior to the game to setup and does not stop working until the equipment is packed safely away on the Hawkeye trailer. For away games, they travel with the football team whether by bus or plane and stay with the team in the hotel. Brian has traveled to every Big Ten stadium except Rutgers and to several bowl games including the Pinstripe Bowl in New York, Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Outback Bowl in Tampa, and most recently the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Brian first learned about this opportunity through a friend who worked with Jerry Rundel who was part of the headset team. Prior to Jerry’s retirement, Brian attended the home games for a couple of years to learn the entire process since only two are allowed to travel with the team. They are currently training a third member of the headset team to have as back up. When asked about his favorite memory, Brian says it was when the Hawkeyes beat Penn State with a last second field goal. He knew he had to reach Coach Ferentz through the rush of football players. Once he secured the headset and turned around, he faced a wall of fans as they rushed the field. He said there truly was a party in Kinnick that night.