The lifeblood of college athletics is recruiting. Unlike the NFL or the NBA, colleges can’t draft players out of high school and not everyone gets an equal shot at all prospective athletes.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon coaches and administrators to get the best talent available because it’s talent that fills stadiums and sells jerseys.
Now, suppose two schools are competing for the same player. Both universities play in Division I major conferences. Both went to the postseason and had winning records the year before. But one school has a brand new athletic facility that caters to the whims of its athletes and the other forces its scholarship athletes to share locker rooms with students at the school recreation center. Which school is more likely to get the player?
USF hopes that once it gets its brand new athletics facility, it will no longer have to play on an uneven field.
“We’re dealing with sharing our facility with intramurals,” USF softball coach Ken Eriksen said. “When we bring recruits down to our locker room and we’re sharing down there with recreational sports, it’s not a big league scenario. When we get the facility, there’s no question anymore that we’re on par, we’re playing on the same level field with everyone else.”
Eriksen emphasized that in today’s college landscape great facilities can outweigh other factors.
“You would think that 18-year-old kids and their parents would say we want to be in a stable position – good academics, good coaching staff,” Eriksen said. “You would think that’s a priority, but it’s not.”
Instead, the awe-inspiring view of a new multi-million dollar building can blind quality athletes to a program like Eriksen’s, where the athletics and academics may be first rate, but the conditions are less than ideal. Still, Eriksen and men’s soccer coach John Hackworth have managed to produce superior teams without the aid of their own locker rooms.
Eriksen led the Bulls within one game of the College World Series last year, while Hackworth took his team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where the Bulls fell to Penn State in triple overtime.
With similar results on the field, it’s no wonder Hackworth shares Eriksen’s views on the facility.
“You want to have continuity, the perception out there that you’re doing things at the highest level,” Hackworth said. “I think it’s going to be great to have a facility that represents that. This is going to enhance our ability to bring in top recruits and show them that we have facilities to match our performance on the field.”With a first-class facility in tow Hackworth said it will be another tool to assist him in luring top athletes.
“It’s another asset,” Hackworth said. “An asset that right now is a negative for our university and our athletic program.”However, a facility is just one tool to seducing top prep products into becoming future Bulls.
“(A facility)’s important, but when it comes down to it, no player’s going to be like ‘I’m not going to South Florida because their lockers aren’t close to the field.’ Someone’s not going to judge them on that,” sophomore goalkeeper Troy Perkins said.Perkins entertained offers from other prestigious schools with better facilities, Stanford for instance, but the quality package of academics, playing time and commitment that Hackworth pitched sold Perkins and other quality recruits even though USF lacked top shelf facilities.
It couldn’t hurt to have it though.
Contact Anthony Gagliano at firstname.lastname@example.org