When watching sports, a fan’s focus is almost always on the competition and the score.
Few realize what goes on behind the scenes to make sure a team is properly equipped to perform at its best.
For nearly 15 years, Nebraska-Omaha Head Equipment Manager Billy Sanders has been responsible for clothing and equipping Maverick athletes with everything they need to compete and practice comfortably at the highest level.
Sanders’ interest in athletic equipment management started when he was a young boy. His grandmother, Bev Sanders, was the women’s equipment manager for UNO from 1975-2001.
“I remember just running through the hallways while she was working,” says Sanders. “I was always here.”
After graduating from Creighton Prep in 2001, the Omaha native moved to Greeley, Colo., to attend the University of Northern Colorado where he spent time as a student equipment manager.
In 2005, Sanders moved back to Omaha with his then girlfriend, now wife, Erin.
He then found his way back to UNO, starting off working only with the football team. After getting his feet wet, Sanders was offered the head equipment manager position in 2008 and has been with it ever since.
Not only does Sanders enjoy being around the athletic atmosphere, but getting to know each athlete individually is a part of the job that Sanders cherishes.
“I get the chance to see all 260-plus athletes every day,” said Sanders. “It’s something I really enjoy.”
Maverick basketball player Kyler Erickson refers to Sanders as “instrumental” to the success of UNO athletics.
“He works hard and diligently day in and day out,” Erickson says. “We are all very thankful for him.”
At UNO, Sanders manages equipment for all 15 varsity athletic teams. That includes doing the laundry for each of the 260-plus student athletes. On average, that’s 3,016 loads of laundry a year. In Sept. alone, Sanders washes an average of 16.83 loads of laundry each day.
The wash load doesn’t only consist of Maverick chores. Sanders and the rest of the department also spend time working during the summer with the College World Series participants, ensuring their teams are just as equally equipped and clothed to compete successfully.
“Doing laundry for the CWS teams is a great financial boost for the department,” Sanders says. “It helps us provide that little extra to the student athletes, like a back pack for traveling through airports or an additional travel/warmup suit that the budget couldn’t afford.”
One of Sanders’ main goals is to make sure the student athletes and coaches have everything they need to succeed on a daily basis.
When Sanders isn’t working with college athletics, he brings the same passion to coaching his son’s baseball team, designing the uniforms for the entire Hillside Little league. Sanders received the “Del Popken” award for his volunteer services last season, and also carried a 210 bowling average while participating in the UNO Faculty/ Staff Bowling League, earning the “Bob Ackerman” award, which goes to the “person we most like to bowl with”.
UNO Public Address (PA) Announcer, Mark Wilhelm, believes Sanders embodies everything a Maverick should be.
“In my six years with Omaha Athletic, I’ve seen Billy do everything short of participate in the actual athletic competition,” Wilhelm said.
Whether it is managing equipment, running the scoreboard, stat keeping or playing the music, Billy Sanders is the inaudible beating heart of Maverick athletics.
“UNO is just such a special place to me,” Sanders said. “Now I can bring my kids back and have them run around the same hallways I did.”