In SEC Country, we know that there’s a bit of an arms race in building new facilities. SEC programs that have world class facilities accomplish a number of things. First, it obviously improves football operations (though you could debate the cost/benefit of various facilities). Second, it demonstrates to all stakeholders that the school is committed to winning in football. This latter point is arguably the most important, because it initiates a domino effect of bringing the right talent to the program whether it is coaches or players.
It’s been reported that a major selling point that Arkansas AD Jeff Long used to get Bret Bielema to jump ship from Wisconsin and come to Fayetteville was the facilities at Arkansas.
Arkansas’ 80,000-SF football operations center is the closest to becoming a reality, and naturally was the project Long spent the bulk of his time detailing. It is scheduled to open for team use by mid- to late summer of 2013, and the practice field/parking lot component of the $40.31 million project is already in use.
Coach Bret Bielema came away impressed by what he saw of the facility. What the Razorbacks could offer to high school players who were considering Arkansas was a big selling point for his leaving Wisconsin, a place where Bielema had a great deal of success.
Besides upgrading his salary to $3.2 million and getting additional money to build a staff, Bielema will inherit a brand new office, complete with locker, film and athletic training rooms for the Razorbacks. UA officials are also studying the feasibility of an expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium that will cost between $75 million and $98 million.
“We’re building a new facility here at Arkansas that is off the charts,” Bielema said during a recent radio appearance. “That is just going to open so many doors in recruiting.”
One can argue that having the right guy at the helm of a football program outweighs facilities when it comes to bringing in recruits and building a winning program. That doesn’t mean recruits don’t love facilities. They do. But, a recruit can often choose between a number of programs with quality facilities. The difference is in the coaching staff and leadership.
If this is true, then the most important aspect of building great facilities is to bring in top talent at the head coach position. Having an athletic department fully committed to football makes the head coach job much easier. Arkansas indeed used this to land what many consider the top hire in the SEC this season in Bret Bielema.
Stadium upgrades and expansion are common (LSU, Mizzou) right now, but even more important are the training facilities, operations facilities and more. You can get a good look in the below videos at the facilities of Florida and Tennessee (both very impressive):