NORMAN — Oklahoma’s 2014 football season officially kicks off against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, a hugely important day for the likes of Bob Stoops, Trevor Knight and the rest of a Sooners team that appears to be a legitimate national championship contender.
But Saturday is also a big day for Jeff Salmond and his groundkeeping crew, who have spent this week — and, really, the past several months — getting Owen Field’s grass ready both practically and aesthetically for the season.
“You're on display for national audiences,” said Salmond, OU’s director of athletic fields. “You're on display for recruits. You're on display for fans that come and walk through the stadium. The joy is at the end of the game, seeing how the field has performed.”
Salmond and his eight-man staff manage all of the University of Oklahoma’s athletic fields and much of the grounds surrounding them, but nothing they do is more visible and important than their work inside Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, which houses one of the Big 12 Conference’s three remaining natural grass football fields.
Oklahoma switched back from artificial turf in 1994, and while many high school and college football stadiums are going the other direction, OU seems committed to sticking with natural grass.
Salmond, who studied agriculture at Missouri for his undergraduate degree and then Iowa State for his master’s, said natural grass fields can handle lots more action than people think — as long as they are properly maintained.
“I think grass is always the safest,” Stoops said. “We've got a great field. It ranks there with any field in the country.”
Among the most important things Salmond’s crew monitors is the field’s hardness, which is measured in a numerical value called “Gmax.”
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