Gators > Playing Catch-up in the Facilities Arms Race

| June 5, 2015

Florida Football

GAINESVILLE — One of the weirder aspects of modern-day college football is the constant, unending competition to build bigger and better things with which to surround the players, coaches and administration. New and/or renovated complexes are everywhere … well, almost everywhere. The chasm between the haves and have-nots is massive.

Florida is certainly among the haves in terms of revenue, but for various reasons, the athletic department has been slow to upgrade the football facilities at the rate most other schools have enjoyed (thanks in large part to the financial windfall from the SEC’s TV contracts).

As pointed out by ESPN’s Edward Aschoff, Florida is one of the few teams in the conference without a separate football administration building — the football offices are deep inside The Swamp — and the school is only just now wrapping up construction on an indoor practice facility, something that’s standard among most major programs.

Prior to the $15 million indoor facility, Florida hadn’t pushed through a major project for the football program since 2009, an eternity in the current landscape.

But after a few years of struggles on the field and the hiring of new coach Jim McElwain, it appears that infrastructure-related investments are being made a priority. McElwain recognized the issues almost immediately upon his arrival.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” McElwain said to ESPN regarding the facilities. “We’ve got some great things going on with our housing situation, our office of student life, obviously our indoor (facility). We have a lot of great things to offer at the University of Florida. Now, are we at the top with the Taj Mahals with what’s going out there? No, but at the same time, we’re making movements.”

Athletic director Jeremy Foley also chimed in, telling ESPN that while there is money available for some upgrades, it’s not unlimited, so it’s a matter of priorities.

“Facilities are always important to us,” he said to ESPN. “I think there’s an impression out there that the University of Florida doesn’t pay attention to its facilities. Right now, we’ve got about $100 million worth of projects on the drawing board, significantly on the drawing board.”

But …

“We’re not Fort Knox. You’ve got to try to utilize your resources the best you can.”

Exactly how Florida utilizes those resources will be an interesting subplot to the early part of the McElwain era. The former Alabama offensive coordinator under Nick Saban, McElwain understands the entire package of what’s required to develop a national-title-caliber program.

As does Steve Spurrier, who had more than his fair share of success in Gainesville. Spurrier effectively summarized the situation with the following quote to ESPN:

“Florida obviously had a lot of success the last 20 years or so without the best facilities in the country, that’s for sure. Now they’re having to keep up with everybody else, sort of, like we all do.”

ESPN

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