Six mugshots of women involved in BGSU football

Trailblazing women of BGSU football play an integral role in the program's success

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BGSU is at the forefront of programs in the nation with women in the top roles of Division I football

Damaris Linker

As Damaris Linker gets an early start on another day working with the Falcons football team, she is aware that her role extends well beyond the Bowling Green State University campus. 

There might be a female junior high student back in her native Illinois impacted by the example Linker sets. And there could be a young woman attending classes on the BGSU campus who has defined her career aspirations based on the very job Linker holds.

She is the director of football operations for a program in the highest level of the NCAA, making Linker one of just a half dozen or so women among the 130 teams in the Bowl Subdivision to carry that title -- and its extensive folder of responsibilities.

At BGSU, Linker oversees the daily business of the football program, which includes coordinating all team travel arrangements and serving as the academic and compliance liaison. She also is called on to manage a hundred other tasks and chores that keep the Falcons' football house in order.

Her commitment to the players, the coaching staff, and the administration is as unwavering as Linker’s awareness of being a role model for other women considering entry into the previously all-male bastion of college and professional football.

“I want to show young women that they can do whatever they want to do, if they put in the work, have the skills, and can be tough and strong while keeping your values at the forefront,” Linker said. “I’ve always been passionate about being a leader and a role model, for my younger sister and all of the other young women out there.”

Falcons at the forefront

Linker is part of a contingent of six women filling vital roles with Falcons football – a number that likely puts BGSU at the forefront nationally in terms of the prominence of women in its football program.

Dani Coppes
Jovannah East
Kathleen Westfall
Stacy Kosciak

Dani Coppes is the head trainer with the Falcons football team, while Jovannah East serves as the assistant director of football operations. Chrissy Steffen and Kathleen Westfall assist the football program on the academic side, while Deputy Athletics Director Stacy Kosciak is responsible for administrative oversight of football, among other duties.

BGSU Head Coach Scot Loeffler praised the contributions these women make to the football program, and credits them with a share of the recent success the Falcons have enjoyed, which included a winning season in 2023 and two straight bowl-game appearances.

“They have moved the needle in terms of how we do business, and they keep our program moving in the right direction. They are excellent at what they do,” said Loeffler, whose previous director of football operations at BGSU, Olivia Passy, is now working in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins.

Standout credentials

The women of BGSU football come with impressive pedigrees. 

Linker was a standout collegiate volleyball player who served as the director of operations for Texas Tech's volleyball program before coming to Bowling Green. She filled the same role with the volleyball team at the University of Mississippi before that, and at Ohio University after spending a year coaching volleyball at Rockford University.

East, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BGSU, was on the Falcons gymnastics team from 2016-2020 and also was a BGSU cheerleader for three years.

During her time on campus as a student-athlete, she was an intern with the football program, and she was hired in early 2023 in her current full-time role working with Linker.

Coppes is in her ninth year at BGSU, and her seventh working primarily with the Falcons football team. She received a master’s in education with a specialization in sport administration from BGSU in 2016. As an undergrad at Ohio State, Coppes had worked with the football, men’s lacrosse, and track and field programs, and also completed an internship with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Kosciak joined the BGSU athletics team early in 2020 after spending 20 years in coaching and administration at UNC Greensboro, where most recently she was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the athletics department.

“I think Coach Loeffler truly sees the benefit of having women in these roles and involved in the program,” Linker said. “We bring a different perspective to things, and we are encouraged to share that perspective.”

Coppes, who worked with the BGSU women’s basketball team and the men’s and women’s golf programs before joining the football staff, said she always wanted to pursue some role in the medical field, but never expected to end up as the lead trainer for more than 100 football players.

“When the opportunity came up, I thought I’d probably do this for a couple of years and then go back to women’s hoops, but the transition went very well and I have never felt intimidated by the patient population,” she said. “I don’t think it took the players long to get comfortable with having a woman in this role – they were just looking for someone who they knew would take good care of them. Once they know you care, then you gain their trust and everything works.”

Establishing trust

Besides utilizing her substantial skill set for treating injuries, Loeffler said Coppes excels at keeping the coaching staff, the players, and the families of the players up to date on the care and treatments the Falcons are receiving.

“She is by far a huge asset in the way she communicates with the families and how she interacts with our athletes, and she’s also great with our staff,” Loeffler said. “She has really grown into the position and has done a great job.”

East said she enjoys the brisk pace of the day-to-day functions inside the football program, and the role she can play meeting the needs of the large staff and roster of players.

“My favorite part of working with the football program is that my day will never be the same – I really enjoy that,” she said. “I’m not someone who would enjoy sitting behind a desk every day, so I am on the go, doing whatever we can to help out the coaches and players.”

Leading the way

While the women of Falcons football have never slipped on the shoulder pads, hit the blocking sled or stared down an opposing middle linebacker, they clearly are an integral part of the football program. Linker said she is proud of the roles they fill, and the fact that BGSU is a leader in involving women in its football operation.

“Everyone knows what to do and what the expectations are,” she said. “We communicate, we stick with a clean routine and everything works out pretty well. And I think we are providing other young women with an example that they can follow if they are interested in careers working in football.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | | 419-372-6349

Updated: 03/27/2024 12:12PM