NORMAL — Whether he's at Redbird Arena, Hancock Stadium or Duffy Bass Field, there's a good chance Keith Smith will miss seeing an important play. 

As much as Smith is pulling for the home team, his eyes are always darting around the facility, making sure nothing is out of place. He just considers it part of his typical day.

As operations manager for Illinois State's athletic department, Smith's job is to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. He supervises a staff of seven full-time and 40 student workers who prepare venues for various athletic events, contests or other facilities-related concerns (such as the Hancock Stadium Club for meetings or wedding receptions).

"I want to make sure fans have a great experience and make sure our student-athletes have a competitive edge when it comes to home-court advantage and make sure they feel this is the place to play and they want to defend their home court," he said.

A typical basketball game finds Smith arriving eight hours beforehand. If the game is televised, he will be there when the TV trucks pull up. He will talk about camera locations and other specific needs of those crews. 

Part of Smith's day then will be spent outside Redbird Arena making sure sidewalks are cleared or anything else that needs his attention. Back inside, he'll check to make sure everything is clean and, among other things, tables are set up in the Redbird and Legend rooms.

When the game begins, Smith takes a seat near the southwest tunnel where Redbird players enter the court. His eyes might be looking at "at glitch on the scoreboard or a piece of pom-pom laying on the court" instead of a dunk.

"I feel like I'm always in motion," he said. "If I don't get out of my chair it's been a really good night because nothing has happened."

Smith grew up in Sheffield, a small town about 50 miles north of Peoria, and came to ISU as a student in 1985. He started as an industrial technology major and worked at the concession stands during games.

Along the way, Smith switched majors to criminal justice while also meeting his future wife, Julie. He joined the Athletics Department and began working full-time in 1990 as a facilities attendant and was promoted to his current position in 2006. 

Smith, who had taken a break from classes, finished his degree work in 1997.

November and February aren't the best months for Smith and his crew. He said they develop a routine with football and volleyball at the start of the school year before November arrives. Then comes an overlap with men's and women's basketball and long days and nights.

The same thing happens in February when baseball, softball, track and field and gymnastics begin while basketball season is winding down. More long days and nights.

However, Smith will not be heard complaining.

"We're all family here in the campus community and within our own department," said Smith, who often brings his 10-year-old son Elijah to games. "It feels good to come to work every day."

​Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @pg_benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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