Sept. 19, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
To see the full Expanding Our Vision site or to donate, please visit expandingourvision.com
South Carolina Athletics has always been expanding in some capacity. Whether it is expanding expectations for success, expanding the areas from where it recruits talent, or expanding facilities and resources to help student-athletes achieve success academically and athletically, South Carolina is not standing still in living up to the commitments made in the Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise. South Carolina Athletics is taking another step forward with the September launch of its Expanding Our Vision capital initiative.
“At the heart of this initiative are the construction of the Football Operations Center, the Carolina Coliseum Project, and the Golf Practice Facility,” said Athletics Director Ray Tanner. “These projects not only enhance the student-athlete experience by providing state-of-the-art facilities, but also provide coaches and athletics staff the resources to elevate their respective programs."
Each part of this initiative aims to not only help the Gamecocks achieve athletics success for years to come, but also create efficiency within each program through the centralization of resources available to student-athletes, coaches and staff.
I think it's going to be a game-changer for us as far as the student-athletes on our campus presently, but also in the recruiting process.
Football Operations Center
The Football Operations Center will provide the Gamecocks’ program with a recruiting center, locker room, weight room, athletic training room, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms, dining room, equipment room and player lounges; all in one convenient location. It will be adjacent to the new Jerri and Steve Spurrier Indoor Practice Facility and outdoor practice fields. With hefty demands on the student-athletes’ time for athletics as well as academics, the Football Operations Center centralizes all football activities to maximize preparations and allows for a more efficient way for student-athletes and coaches to conduct their daily responsibilities.
“The Football Operations Center puts us at the forefront of facilities in college football,” said South Carolina Head Football Coach Will Muschamp. “We are currently in the bottom half of the SEC in terms of football facilities. The Football Operations Center shows a commitment from the University to future student-athletes, as well as the student-athletes we currently have on campus."
The new center eliminates the current fractured alignment of football facilities within the football stadium and elsewhere.
“For our players, it's a one-stop shop,” Muschamp said. “It's going to be just fabulous for us as a staff. Right now, our practice situation is phenomenal. We've got the nicest (indoor facility) I've ever been around and two grass practice fields with plenty of work space outside of that. To get this facility done, I'm really excited."
More than half of the football programs in the SEC already have a consolidated football facility to base all of their operations, and South Carolina looks to not only keep up, but move ahead of the pack. Not only will the facility enhance the student-athlete’s ability to train and compete at the highest level, but it will also serve as a showcase for recruits and their parents, while continuing to provide piece of mind to donors that their contributions are being reinvested for the good of the student-athletes.
“Our in-state rivals are building a brand-new football operations facility,” Muschamp said. “It all goes back to recruiting. It’s about the bells and whistles that impresses a student-athlete when they come on our campus. To win the battles on the field, you have to win the battles in recruiting.
“I think it's going to be a game-changer for us as far as the student-athletes on our campus presently, but also in the recruiting process. We all like shiny and new. It will be, and we've been able to put our hands on it with the architects and get exactly what we want. We're really excited about that process."
Construction for the Football Operations Center is scheduled to begin in January of 2017 with a completion date slated for 2018.
Carolina Coliseum Project
South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball are back in the national spotlight for what they are achieving on the court. The Carolina Coliseum Project ensures that the efforts on the basketball floor are being matched by necessary facilities off the court to help both programs adequately prepare to compete and also attract future generations of Gamecock student-athletes.
“It’s pretty evident around the country that athletics is the front porch to every university and the Southeastern Conference,” said South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin. “We, just like all of our brothers in the SEC, continue to work to upgrade the facilities that are needed to provide our student-athletes in their respective sports with a first class experience during their college period.”
“Our team will benefit from the new facility by competing with the rest of the SEC,” said South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley. “When we go around to different campuses, what we see is a lot different than what we have on campus. This is state of the art. It has a ‘wow’ factor. It will definitely attract recruits, their parents, and when we have visitors and other coaches here. They want to know what a Final Four program looks like behind the scenes. So we’ll create an environment where people will want to strive to be like South Carolina. We don’t have that right now. We are in a position now where our winning should be both on and off the court.”
Coaches agree that facilities are not only an integral part of helping student-athletes reach their potential, but also a huge factor in attracting the best and the brightest recruits.
“This facility will allows us to win in recruiting,” Staley said. “It will allow us to attract recruits from all over the country.”
“These facilities also become tremendous recruiting advantages for the average student, not just student-athletes,” Martin said. “It’s all part of that campus experience and a first class university.”
“When I as a recruit, the two top things I was worried about was the gear and the facilities,” said junior A’ja Wilson. “They want the best facilities. As we continue to improve the facilities that we have here, I think we’ll bring in the top players, and that’s what we need to carry on the success and the legacy of South Carolina.”
The Carolina Coliseum Project converts underutilized space in the historic building into a hub for all basketball operations and activities outside of game day. With an anticipated completion date set for spring of 2017, the Carolina Coliseum Project provides a convenient, central location for locker rooms, athletic training room, weight room and coaches’ offices.
“Just having all of this is going to be better for (student-athletes),” said former Gamecock All-American Tiffany Mitchell. “We spend so much time on the court, with weights, and in the film room. So having all of that in one building will definitely be convenient and make the experience as student-athletes that much better.”
“It will allow our players to have a safe environment, where only they would have access to it,” Staley added. “It’s right across the street from the dorms, so it’s a short walk for them to access the facility 24 hours per day. It will create a safe environment where they know that once they enter this building, it’s a safe haven for them.”
As South Carolina’s basketball programs continue to grow on the court, it is paramount that facilities keep pace with those efforts.
“We want to recruit great student-athletes, and we want to create a great student-athlete experience with our current players,” Staley said. “They deserve great facilities for how much they sacrifice for our program.”
Golf Practice Facility
The South Carolina golf teams consistently rank among the nation’s best. Both the men’s and women’s programs are regulars among the NCAA Tournament field, and both teams reached match play of the NCAA Championships in the spring of 2016. The Golf Practice Facility provides the student-athletes something the programs’ have sorely lacked in years past: an on-campus practice facility.
“Having something on campus is pretty much a necessity right now to compete at a high level in our sport,” said South Carolina men’s golf coach Bill McDonald. “A lot of the schools that we are competing against have on-campus practice facilities or golf courses. When high level players come in here to look at what we have, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. This is a heck of a start to level that playing field. It’s needed to compete.”
“It also gives us the ability to tailor our practices to the things we need,” said South Carolina women’s golf coach Kalen Anderson. “It’s going to be a phenomenal facility. If we want to work on our short game, play some holes, or do whatever we need to prepare ourselves for competition; to have something that is just for us where we’re not dealing with outside member play, is going to be such a convenience.
“It also helps us as a recruiting tool with a facility that’s right there. Our men’s and women’s golf teams have been successful. It just shows the commitment that South Carolina Athletics has to all of its athletics programs, and shows how important the golf programs are to the University of South Carolina.”
With coaches’ offices also on site, the close proximity to the main campus will allow student-athletes more efficient use of practice time while also having more time to spend on campus for their academic pursuits.
“The convenience of having something there on campus, readily available, is going to be huge for our student-athletes in terms of their time management,” Anderson said. “They are going to have everything they need to get things done on campus, including their studies and on the athletics field as well. There are a lot of student-athletes who don’t have access to vehicles, so this brings a lot of convenience into play.”
“There’s no denying the fact that it can take 25 or 30 minutes for our student-athletes to get out to one of our (current) main practice facilities at Cobblestone Park or elsewhere,” McDonald said. “You’re asking student-athletes to spend an hour in the car just to practice for a little while. That’s not good time management. When you are asking student-athletes to sacrifice that much, and have high standards, not only with how we’re trying to compete, but with what we’re trying to do in the classroom, a facility like what we are building will help immensely.
“Our team GPA last year was over a 3.5, and a majority of our kids are in the business school. We often have to adjust our playing schedule around their classes, so it’s not fair for me to ask them to drive 30 minutes to practice and then have to come back here and run to class.”
The South Carolina coaches are also excited about the versatility the facility will offer.
“We’ve built a hybrid of a driving range for a really good player,” McDonald said. “They can hit shots, and that’s in conjunction with a practice hole concept with three distinct putting green complexes so you can play from different angles and create a par 3, par 4 or maybe a par 5 scenario. It’s primarily designed so the kids can hit balls or practice specific shots on different greens from different angles.”
“We need to work on different shots, we can use different areas of the practice facility to work on totally different things,” Anderson said. “We can change directions and work on dealing with winds. It’s going to be everything we need it to be to prepare us for our matches. They’ve also hired someone full time to maintain it and make sure it’s always at a tip-top level so we’ll see the same conditions that we would see in a tournament.”
McDonald noted that the purpose of the land around facility, which has a great view of Williams-Brice Stadium as well as the Congaree River, will be to enhance not only athletics, but also the quality of life for student-athletes.
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