USF has been talking about upgrading its football facilities for so long that the president, athletic director and head football coach who unveiled the initial plans in 2017 are all gone.
After 39 months of inertia and renderings, the Bulls are done sitting around. They finally, formally announced a concrete timeline Wednesday to spend $25 million in privately raised funds to renovate football meeting spaces and build a much-needed indoor practice facility.
The projects are only the first phase of a long-term plan that includes a stand-alone football operations building and, perhaps eventually, an on-campus stadium. But they represent tangible progress after years of inaction.
“We couldn’t wait any longer,” athletic director Michael Kelly said.
They won’t have to. The first step will begin as soon as next month.
The Bulls will spend $3 million to renovate the football team’s spaces at the 17-year-old Lee Roy Selmon Athletics Center. They’ll overhaul the locker room and meeting rooms while adding a players’ lounge and nutrition center.
Kelly said the work will begin soon after the March 27 spring game. USF aims to have the project completed in time for the start of preseason camp in late July or early August.
Although the Bulls hope the new, branded facilities boost recruiting, second-year coach Jeff Scott expects to see an immediate impact on the current players, too.
“There’s just something different for your current players when they walk into a team room that is really, really nice and put together and very professional,” Scott said. “All of a sudden the guys sit up a little bit straighter. They’re listening a little bit more because there’s a professional environment that they’re learning in.”
The second part of Phase 1 will be even bigger. USF intends to start building the 88,000-square-foot indoor practice facility by the end of the summer. Scott said it will be the best in the state and one of the tops in the nation.
The building, expected to open before the 2022 season on the current site of the athletics turf field, will bring the Bulls in line with the state’s other big programs; Florida, Florida State, UCF and Miami have all opened similar structures in the past 16 years. It will also prevent USF from having to delay or cancel practices because of inevitable Florida showers.
Scott said the two projects provide more than functional upgrades and recruiting ammunition. They show that USF has an institutional commitment to support a football program entering its 25th season.
“I feel like we needed to make a statement to show that hey, we’re committed to excellence in everything we do,” Scott said. “I feel like a project like this is going to create a lot of momentum.”
And, eventually, another phase of new facilities.
The centerpiece of the original plan USF unveiled in November 2017 was a $40 million, standalone football operations center — the type of palace that has dominated college football’s recent arms race. Miami opened its $40 million building in 2018, and the Gators began pouring the cement foundation for their $85 million complex last month.
A separate football facility remains part of the Bulls’ long-term vision, Kelly said. USF is continuing to fundraise and think through potential sites for that project.
But after hundreds of hours of meetings and years of work, the Bulls had enough money to start revamping some facilities. They didn’t want, or need, to wait any longer, especially amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We just knew it was practical now to make the immediate adjustments to the Selmon (center) and then make the indoor performance facility a reality,” Kelly said.
In another year and a half, it finally will be.
Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report.