Aaron Green / Lantern reporter
Football game, tennis match, track meet – it doesn’t matter, a Redcoat will be there.
Present at all games and events of Ohio State’s 36 varsity sports, a Redcoat is often the first person fans see when entering an OSU sporting event and likely the last person they see when they leave.
A Redcoat’s responsibilities can include collecting tickets at gates, helping fans with questions or patrolling the stadium or arena, but his or her main objective is to make fans’ experiences safe and enjoyable.
“You welcome (people) in and try to make them feel comfortable,” said Ann Baca, a 10-year Redcoat. “OSU fans, visiting fans, whoever it is that comes through those gates, you want to make them feel welcome.”
Becky Rich, a 15-year Redcoat veteran, agreed.
“We are an extension of the eyes and ears of the university,” Rich said. “We protect the guests and try to make them happy at the same time.”
As ambassadors of OSU’s athletic program, Redcoats are hourly-paid university employees. The position is considered part-time and the hours vary per week.
“It all depends on the season and the sport,” said Jon Yake, a supervisor for the Redcoats. “If it’s just football you might only work about eight hours a week, but if you work multiple sports at a time or the sport has a busy week, it’s more.”
Yake, a 37-year Redcoat, said he worked about 30 hours per week during the OSU baseball team’s recent 10-game homestand.
Redcoats make minimum wage while 25 supervisors make up to $10 per hour. A yearly Redcoat staff usually consists of about 400 employees, and students can also apply for the positions.
Rich and Yake said Redcoats are expected to work at least two sports – football and something else.
“That’s the big one,” Yake said in regards to football. “Of the 450 or so Redcoats we have, the majority of them work during football games.”
Other events aren’t as big in numbers, he said – the OSU baseball game Tuesday had 17 Redcoats in attendance – but because every gate in the stadium must be manned before, during and after the game, the number of Redcoats at football games is far greater than other sports.
Many Redcoats work more than the required two sports. Yake said he works football, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball and football and lacrosse summer camps.
“We’re kind of expected to work when called upon,” he said.
Rich also works more than two sports. She works baseball, football and wrestling, in addition to being a full-time medical bill review nurse.
She said she loves being a Redcoat too much to quit.
At one point, she said she was offered a nursing position at the Wexner Medical Center at OSU but turned it down because of her Redcoat position. Because she was already an hourly-paid employee of the university, she was not able to accept the salary-paid nursing position without turning in her red blazer.
“I loved my Redcoat job too much,” she said. “I couldn’t give it up.”
Rich, 59, said that if she were younger, she is not sure she would be able to hold a full-time position and be a Redcoat.
“Young people don’t necessarily have the time,” she said.
The time issue is also why she said she believes most Redcoats are generally older and considers herself one of the younger Redcoats.
“Most other Redcoats I know are older than me,” she said. “If I were to guess the average age of a Redcoat, I’d say it were in the mid 50s, maybe higher.”
Yake, 73, agreed with her about the average age of a Redcoat.
“If they were to set an age limit, they would have a big turnover, that’s for sure,” he said with a smile.
One of the job perks for the Redcoats is attending and watching OSU games when they’re not busy with assigned duties, Baca said.
“We cheer and get into it like the fans do,” said 16-year Redcoat Rich Rinker. “We just have to watch what we say.”
Yake said the fans like to see the Redcoats enjoy the action.
“When we get into the games, I think it gets the fans excited seeing us like that,” Yake said.
The opportunity to be in the stadium and have a fan presence while working was the main reason Yake said he became a Redcoat. He said he used to acquire football tickets through his boss at work, but when he left the company, he wanted a way to continue going to Ohio Stadium on Saturdays.
“I still wanted to be a part of it and come and see the games,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to give that up.”
Learning about the Redcoat position from his wife’s hairdresser, he said the application process was simpler in 1975, his first year as a Redcoat.
“Way back then, all you had to do was show up at the year’s first meeting and put your name in a hat,” he said. “They’d draw names and if you got your name drawn, you were a Redcoat.”
Yake said he has enjoyed the past 37 years with no regrets and will continue to be an ambassador for the university and its athletic program.
“I’ll continue to (be a Redcoat) as long as I’m enjoying it and having fun,” he said. “When the day comes that I’m not – whatever the reason may be – I’m done.”
While the games might have enticed them to become a Redcoat, Yake and Rich said they get more out of being a Redcoat than free entries into football or basketball games.
“It’s not only about going to the games,” Yake said. “You get to talk to a whole lot of people. They get to know you and you get to know them. You create friendships.”
Rich said she too has benefitted from the experience of being a Redcoat.
“Watching the game is secondary,” Rich said. “If I get time that’s great, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here for the people. (Being a Redcoat) has allowed me to be more personable and come out of my shell a little bit. I’m thankful for that.”