Ed Higgins Behind the Dores

General Andrew Maraniss

Behind the Dores: Ed Higgins

Kentucky native stars behind the scenes for Commodores

Ed Higgins grew up around educators and athletics. So, after flirting with the idea of becoming a pharmacist and then working in consulting, he went back to school and came back to his first love. Meet Ed Higgins, Vanderbilt's Senior Assistant AD for Facilities & Event Management.
 
I grew up in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and my parents were both public school educators. My dad taught middle school and my mom was always elementary.

My entire youth, my dad was a middle school or high school football coach. I always tagged along, always traveled with them, riding the school bus back and forth.

I grew up a Kentucky fan. I'm one of those weird Kentucky fans where I got more upset with football losses than basketball losses.

I originally went to school at the University of Kentucky to be a pharmacist. After your third year you start pharmacy school. Kentucky had the No. 2- or 3-ranked pharmacy school in the nation, and I didn't get in. I was going to have to transfer, probably to Samford, but I decided I didn't want to leave school for what turned out to be my first senior year. I changed majors to finance and accounting.

I graduated with 170-something hours, because I had so much physics, chemistry, and biology. When I changed majors, I almost had to start over.

One semester I took 24 hours during my first or second senior year.

There were two senior years. My dad had that conversation with me: How much longer is this going to take? I don't know. He said, well, if it goes past one more year, that bill is coming to you. I had to cram a lot of stuff in.

I went to work for Anderson Consulting based out of the Atlanta office. I lived there for three years, but was working all over the U.S. on different projects.

I transferred to the Nashville office and then went to work for Renal Care Group, but around 1999 I decided to get into sports.

One day I woke up and realized consulting was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I went to Ohio University and got a master's in sports administration.

Ohio University was one of the first places to start a sports administration program. We take care of our own. We call it the OU Mafia. We have an alumni directory of people all over the world and you feel like you can call anybody in it and they're going to call or email back within a day.

I moved back to Nashville and started working for the Bell South Senior Classic, a senior PGA tour event at Opryland. I had bugged them every day until they finally brought me on to volunteer. They put me to work calling people to sell tickets. Within a couple of months, the director got promoted and left, so everybody else moved up and I got hired full-time.

We lost our title sponsor and we had to shut the tournament down. But the LPGA tournament came back to Nashville and Vanderbilt Medical Center was going to become the second-largest sponsor of that event. They hired me to run that sponsorship. I worked at the medical center for 10 years.

In 2012, Vanderbilt hosted the NCAA women's golf championship and they suckered me into helping with that. I got to know people over here through that, and when they had an opening for Facilities and Event Management, I applied for it and got it.

We have operational meetings every Monday there's a home football game with every office on campus that helps with games. Everybody pitches in, from Vanderbilt police and the office of community relations to Plant Ops. We have around 40 people every Monday in those meetings.

Every game is different. You may have Homecoming or Reunion weekends that are different because of all the surrounding events. The first game is different with the freshman run. For the Veterans Day game, we talked about the people parachuting into the stadium. We just want to make sure everybody is on the same page.

A guy once told me when you have a stadium, with a bunch of trash cans and dumpsters, you either have cats or you have rats. In my almost five years here, I've never seen a rat or a mouse in the football stadium. We have some feral cats over there that live around the stadium and they are not nice cats. If you were to see them, it's not one you want to make friends with and try to pet.

I'm not a hoarder. I throw everything away. There's always stuff to throw away at the stadium, and it's inevitable there's a cat jumping out at me from behind whatever I'm throwing away. I'll pick up a pallet and there's a cat raising its back and making noises at me.

People assume that I'm a handy person. I have a drawer of extra tools for people in my office because everyone always thinks I should have every tool imaginable. I'm not that handy, but I've learned to be a little bit handy around the house.  

YouTube can get you in trouble. I've fixed our dryer twice just watching YouTube videos. I haven't burned the house down yet, but you have to be really careful because you end up with extra parts that you don't know where they go. I recently did that with our hot water heater. I went out and bought one and got myself in a little plumbing trouble where I ended up with some extra pieces. I called one of the plumbers here at Plant Ops and he walked me through it.

It's always good to know the Plant Ops guys. If you get yourself in a pickle, they'll help you out.

I've probably been to 10 or 12 Kentucky Derbies. In my college years we were infield guys down by the third turn. I probably went to all five years when I was in school. The infield today is not like it was back in the early '90s. As I've gotten older, I've become a grandstand or clubhouse guy.

One year I hit the trifecta. It was a dollar bet, so I won almost $1,400 bucks.

I have three kids: 16- and 14-year old girls and a 9-year-old boy. They all dance or play sports or cheer. They're into everything.

The high point is seeing them grow up and become more independent. I have one driving now. That's good because it gets my wife and I off the hook driving her everywhere, and she can drive the other ones. It's also scary she's driving. And the shock of the car insurance bill was a good one.

When we win big games or championships, I love how this building comes alive. My office is on "Main Street" at McGugin. All day, every day, students and the staff are walking back and forth. If we have a big loss it's a morgue in here for several days, but when we have big wins it's contagious. It doesn't matter whether it's bowling or tennis or football, when any sport does well, I can just feel it.

Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss
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