Chris Meyer has been in and around Kyle Field during Texas A&M home football games for a number of years, but Saturday gave him a perspective he will become accustomed to in the future – sitting in the stands as a fan.
Meyer has served as A&M’s Associate Vice President for Safety and Security since 2005 and is responsible for the coordination and management of the university’s safety issues. During A&M home football games, and other large, important university events, Meyer helps man an event command center, which is located underneath the first level of Kyle Field. He is set to retire in February 2022 and has been gradually moving out of his role this fall.
“I’ve done the command center every home game for 20 years and as part of my transition out, I’m sort of assigning that to some of the folks who are going to take over and sit in my chair after this season,” Meyer said. “I’m transitioning away so it’s not a new experience for everyone next year.”
Over 20 years ago, Meyer, A&M Class of 1980, helped create an event command center for large events at A&M, such as home football games, while previously serving as director of the Environmental Health and Safety Department.
The command center has representatives from a number of agencies, including all local police departments, federal partners, EMS, the College Station Fire Department, event security, dispatchers and transportation services. The command center also stays in contact with A&M athletics’ gameday management team.
“We had tens of thousands of football fans coming to campus and it was always a big event,” Meyer said. “We began working hand-in-hand with them to better manage and be prepared for when things might not go well with a big event on campus. And, obviously, the biggest events have typically been football games.”
The last game Meyer worked in the command center was A&M’s upset win over Alabama on Oct. 9. He left with smiles, but not before having a degree of stress with fans storming the field.
“It was a big one to go out on,” Meyer said. “We’re all fans, in the end, as well as public servants. It certainly is nice when you get to work hard, but also appreciate the outcome.”
Monica Martinez, A&M’s Emergency Management Coordinator who has directly reported to Meyer for the last 14 years, said Meyer’s role is critical and serves as a liaison between operations and administration to guide responses.
“Chris is a high-level administrator, but anytime his people, whether it’s the police department, environmental health and safety department, we had to be activated on a weekend for some reason, if we had to be there early or stay there late, he’s always there with us. He’s in the trenches with us, which I’ve always appreciated. If the command post is open, then he’s going to be there and if we’re having to give up time with our families to work some type of emergency or special event, then he’s right there along with us,” Martinez said.
Event command also has been used for visits from sitting presidents and former presidents, the funerals of George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and protests and controversial events on A&M’s campus.
“Fortunately for all of the things we’ve had the command center open for, we’ve never had a terrible incident,” Meyer said. “Everything has, over the 20 years, gone well and we’ve been able to manage our way through small problems that might’ve arisen through any of these events.”
Meyer played a key role in the implementation and development of A&M’s Code Maroon system. He noted how Code Maroon came about in urgent fashion after a mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 and that he and his office have worked over the years to revamp and update the system.
“It was something I and my office was intimately involved with selecting our vendors, getting it set up and deciding how we could best get messages in emergency situations in a reliable fashion out to our campus community,” Meyer said of Code Maroon.
As Jerry Stawser, who served as Meyer’s supervisor for the last seven years, put it, Meyer as A&M’s first line of defense was adaptable to the different issues.
“There’s so many things I could tell you about Chris, but the one thing they had in common is he always stepped up to the plate,” Stawser said. “First and foremost, his concern was the safety of all our people on our campus.”
Meyer went to half of A&M’s home game this season as a fan, but he’s looking forward to sitting in the stands even more in the coming years.
“I have season tickets, my wife has faithfully attended many games without me over the years,” Meyer said, “and I look forward being able to sit in the stands as a fan and know there are an army of dedicated people trying to make sure that we are all able to enjoy the game and do so safely.”