Leavitt to kiss his trailer goodbye

For most people, finding out their office is going to be moved from a small trailer into a $15 million, 110,000-square-foot building would cause feelings of joy and elation.

But if USF football coach Jim Leavitt felt elation at the announcement that construction will begin on a new athletic facility, he didn’t show it, giving his reaction in one word.”Happy,” Leavitt said with a straight face.

Despite Leavitt’s simple reaction, the new facility will greatly benefit the program as it heads into Conference USA in 2003. Operating out of trailers and asking players to use undersized Sun Dome weight and locker rooms has been a recruiting drawback for a team that otherwise has a lot going for it. Namely, going 8-3 last season while playing in a state-of-the-art stadium and practicing on NFL-installed turf.

But Leavitt said he does not see the current facilities as a liability.

“I never look at it like that,” he said. “I take whatever we have and just think about the positive things. The thing I do know is we’re in a beautiful state, and the people in the community are great. We play in Raymond James Stadium, and we have a tremendous academic university.”

Leavitt said while he doesn’t see the current situation as a disappointment, the new facility will benefit the program by simply having all areas of football under one roof.

“Just the fact you have your meeting rooms, your weight rooms, your coaches’ offices and your locker rooms all in one place (is beneficial),” he said. “You don’t have to drive all different places to go to those things.”

With football being the largest athletic program on campus, it stands to benefit the most from the new facility. Other sports, however, will benefit as coaches move into the building from aging offices and athletes are given use of new training equipment.Track and field, softball, soccer and tennis will have new homes in the building.

Men’s tennis coach Don Barr said he is excited that construction will begin soon.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the school,” Barr said. “It’s going to be a big addition.”

Barr said the benefit for his team will be the increased size of the training area.

“That’s going to make it a lot easier on our kids to get the proper workout,” he said. “(Our current facility) is too small to handle enough teams, and we’ve kind of had to do our own thing in the Sun Dome weight rooms.”

Barr said good facilities will allow the athletes to be in good shape, which should translate into stronger game-time performances.

“I think it’s going to let us have a little better conditioning program, which is important to us,” he said. “(Better training) alone will give us a little better strength and conditioning.”

But even with the increased benefits the new facility will bring to his and other sports, Barr said having a strong football program is important for the university.

“We really need it to get our program, especially football, to get that recognition,” he said.

Barr said in large part the new facility will be a beneficial recruiting tool. Strength in football recruiting is especially important in a state with several strong football programs.

“We need it to go against Florida and Florida State in recruiting,” he said.

“(A large facility) is what they all have, and when we bring kids in, they are looking forward to that.”

Barr said he is excited about the growth possibilities the new facility will bring to the football program.

“Having a first rate football program on campus is really neat,” he said.

Contact Rob Brannon at oraclerob@yahoo.com