College football’s nonstop arms race was one of the talking points during conference media days last week.
The Bulls confirmed that they met their $20 million July 1 goal and hope to break ground on their USF Football Center next spring. Florida coach Dan Mullen said in his opening statement that the Gators hope to start building their $85 million training center within the next year, and Florida State is still working on its $60 million facility.
While those football-only complexes are all in the works, South Carolina is settling into its $50 million operations center, which opened this winter.
“It’s made a huge difference in our program,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said last week during SEC media days. “From a recruiting standpoint, when a young man and his family come to campus and they see the investment that we’re making to have a championship atmosphere at our place, they see it. It has the wow factor and what every recruit looks for.”
The effects of these facilities on recruiting is debatable, as I wrote last year. South Carolina’s incoming recruiting class finished No. 17 nationally. That’s the program’s best finish since 2012, but it’s only one spot better than in ’18, and it’s in the same ballpark as usual. Six of the Gamecocks’ last seven classes have been ranked somewhere between 17 and 21.
What’s harder to quantify from the outside is what the building has done for the players who are already on campus. That, too, is an area of growth, according to those on the inside.
“What I've also seen is how it changes the culture on our campus with our players,” Muschamp said. “In January, when you walk in the weight room and you have official visits in our town and you have 25, 30 kids walking around the weight room on their own working out, that says a lot about the culture of your football team.”
Quarterback Jake Bentley agreed.
He said the new facility has created a new sense of pride within the organization. Players aren’t leaving towels around the locker room or food on the table “because it’s our building.”
“We’ve got this brand-new building built for us,” Bentley said. “We’ve got to — not necessarily live up to it, but we’re not going to have a new building and work the same. It’s time to crank it up.”