The promise, or opening, of an indoor practice complex guarantees a college football program nothing beyond an escape from the elements. For example, Duke dedicates its new indoor facility Friday, and few, if any, anticipate the Blue Devils returning to the Orange Bowl anytime soon.
Duke’s building, by the way, is named for Bobby Pascal, the running back who during the 1950s led the Blue Devils to three ACC championships and an Orange Bowl conquest of Nebraska. Think times have changed?
The change is felt in Charlottesville, too, where VirginiaSports.com’s Jeff White reported Thursday morning that Virginia hopes to open a $13-million indoor complex in 2013. An anonymous donor ponied up $5 million to jump-start the fund-raising campaign, and anyone willing to fork over similar reserves is all but assured naming rights, a key to the joint and a reserved parking place next to Mike London.
The Cavaliers have started this project for two reasons: need and image.
First, it just makes sense to have an enclosed field to use when it’s raining sideways and the sky is more electric than Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster. Oh, and the roof needs to be high enough to allow for punts and placements.
Second, when conference rivals, especially the one two hours to the west, have, or are planning, similar facilities, you can’t afford to look like slackers.
Georgia Tech has an enclosed practice field. Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech are on deck, the Hokies with a $25 million project that includes an upgrade of Rector Field House, their track and makeshift football facility.
“We're not trying to enter into an arms race,” executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver told White. “We're going to do what's right for the University of Virginia. But there are some basic things you need to have in place.
“It's not just this facility. We're going to need to upgrade our weight room. We haven't touched that thing in almost 10 years. There's some basic things we're going to need to do just to stay in the game. We're not trying to build a Taj Mahal. We're trying to do what it takes to be competitive on an annual basis.”
Starting with the 2000 expansion of Scott Stadium, the Cavaliers have invested heavily in football. They are paying coach Mike London approximately $1.8 million annually and aren’t skimping on staff either as they attempt to halt a three-year decline.
This is another example of the school's determination to win and gives London another recruiting tool.
On a media conference call Thursday, London said enclosing one of the practice fields behind the McCue Center will “show that we’re committed to providing the best facilities available and possible.”
I asked London how big facilities are in recruiting. He said primary factors are academics, relationships and opportunity to play.
“Then after while,” he added, “(prospects) want to see where they’re playing, where they’re practicing, what they’re wearing, the training facility.”
The indoor complex won’t cure Virginia’s football ills. But it will keep the Cavaliers up with the Joneses and, most important, Hokies.