ESPN

How to Crown a Champion

The second the game clock hits zero a stage is constructed, T-shirts and hats are distributed, and 8.4 million pieces of confetti fall, all in seven minutes.

ATLANTA -- While Alabama players and staff were celebrating with each other in the minutes after a dramatic, overtime win over Georgia that again crowned them national champions, the fans in the stadium and watching on TV probably barely noticed the transformation that was happening in front of their eyes.

The second the Tide sealed their victory, Michael Fiur and his FIUR Productions team went about producing a celebration you'd never forget. The job took local volunteers and vendors from all across the country to execute -- from the construction of the trophy presentation stage to the T-shirts and hats distributed to each player and coach to the pyrotechnics and, of course, the 8.4 million pieces of confetti that fall faster than snowflakes -- all in just seven minutes.

Oh, and somebody had to clean it all up.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how the postgame program was prepared and unfolded.

Around 11 a.m. the day before the national championship, Michael Fiur was handed what he called a "voice of God mic," which echoed his instructions throughout all of Mercedes-Benz Stadium during a rehearsal for the postgame celebration.

He and about 150 others were there for more than two hours to ensure a celebration that spans seven minutes is remembered forever.

Fiur has been the man behind the curtain of the College Football National Playoff Championship game theatrics for the past three seasons.

Crimson Tide players celebrate on the smaller stage, which is meant to hold about a dozen people. But at the first CFP title game it got, well, a little crowded.

"The first year, a bunch of players who shouldn't be on the main stage jumped up from the front," Fiur said, "so we've kind of built a little barrier."

In 1996, at halftime of the Super Bowl, a helicopter landed on the field at Sun Devil Stadium and Diana Ross made one of the most daring, dramatic exits ever seen at a football game. She put each wrist through a simple loop on each side of the helicopter door, and literally held on for dear life as she was whisked up and out of the stadium with her legs swinging in the air.

Fiur was the architect of that one, too

"I don't know that anything will ever be harder than having gotten approval from about 100 lawyers and risk managers, the governor of Arizona had to weigh in, and we were actually able to land a helicopter in the stadium, during the halftime show and have Diana Ross leave the stadium riding on the edge of the helicopter singing," he said on Sunday at the postgame celebration rehearsal. "It's still to this day hard to top that, but being in a brand new stadium here in Atlanta is exciting and challenging at the same time."

Inside the CFP office in the stadium, stacks of boxes filled with 228 hats and 228 shirts -- for both Alabama and Georgia -- were kept safe and away from any curious eyes. The championship design is kept secret until the game ends, and historically, the ones made for the losing team have been donated.

The shirts are made large enough to go over the players' pads, so the majority are made at the 3X and 4X sizes, according to Olin Arnold, the director of NCAA & Bowl properties for IMG College Licensing. (He also happens to be a Georgia grad).

"We've handed them extra-larges before, and they're like, 'What am I supposed to do with this? It won't even fit me without pads," Arnold said.

Part of the reason nobody notices everyone scrambling behind the scenes to set up the trophy presentation is because they're blinded by the confetti, which is blasted onto the field by 14 "Big Blaster Confetti Blowers" from 14 sideline posts. They shoot it up to 80 feet high. It's not just confetti, though. There also are die cut metallic gold PVC footballs in the confetti mix "to add a little sparkle."

And then there are the streamers -- 7,776 to be exact -- each 35 inches long.

One of the highlights customized for this year's playoff was a 360-degree pyrotechnic waterfall effect that made sparks rain down from Mercedes-Benz Stadium's halo video board.

Andrew Hancock for ESPN

Crimson and white confetti litters the Georgia Bulldogs sideline. FUIR Productions had 350 pounds of red confetti standing by if Georgia had won, but instead it went unused.

The stage is driven in on 32 special pneumatic airplane tires that are controlled with steering wheels on both ends that look like they belong on the Titanic, pushed by a team of 16 people.

During the rehearsal on Sunday, there were several people who were picked randomly to act as stand-ins for the people who will honored on Monday night, including the winning head coach, the players of the game, the coach's wife and the athletic director.

"We just try to pick people who won't act like idiots when they get on the microphone," Fuir said.

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took his rightful place as offensive player of the game, right where the stand-in had been on Sunday.

There was no substitute, though, for CFP executive director Bill Hancock, who presented the 23-pound trophy to Nick Saban on Monday.

"I've been lifting weights," Hancock said with a laugh, "been pumping up to get ready. It's heavy."

Andrew Hancock for ESPN

If you think your kids make a mess, try cleaning up after a national title.

Jackie Poulakos, the housekeeping manager at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, said a total of 2,300 garbage bags were on hand to clean the entire stadium.

Scott Jenkins, the general manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, said the 600-member postgame clean-up crew would be working until about 5 a.m. Only between 20-25 were assigned to the field level, and they can usually clear the confetti off the playing surface within 30 minutes.

"They won't arrive until after the crowd leaves," he said. "And we'll have over 1,000 people here for tours on Tuesday, so the building will be buzzing. We'll do the best we can to get it cleaned up."

If you happen to go on one of the stadium tours on Tuesday, be sure to ask for one thing: confetti. Jenkins they'll save some of it for souvenirs.

There's no question they will have a few hundred pounds to share.

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