BLS: ..The LATEST College Sports’ Absurdity

    Clemson Bling
    BobLee
    December21/ 2015

    Clemson Bling“It’s a never-ending arms race to build shiny objects that appeal to 17-year-olds, so they’ll pick us instead of someone else.”…. No, I did not write that; but you’ll probably think I did as you read this. ….

    “Dabo’s Wonderful World” wins this week’s Over-The-Top Sports Arms Race ABSURDITY!

    Forget “charging stations and smoothie machines”.   Dabo has done blown that penny ante silliness to smithereens.  For ACC Juggernaut Wannabees and Sleeping Giants…. the price of recruiting bling just ratcheted up another $50,000,000.   All you Fat Cats who gotta have your braggin’ rights better dig down deep to keep up with Clemson.

    I was looking for some blockbuster piece to keep you yahoos entertained during Christmas Week and WHAMMO !!!   Here ’tis. ENJOY!

    ###

     

    Colleges

    The latest extravagances in the college sports arms race? Laser tag and mini golf.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/for-college-athletic-departments-building-the-best-is-never-ending-task/2015/12/21/e8384dd4-a558-11e5-9c4e-be37f66848bb_story.html?tid=ss_mail

    The people in charge of Clemson University’s athletic department have not settled on a design for the miniature golf course they are building for their football team, but they know it will have just nine holes, not 18.

    That will leave room for the sand volleyball courts, laser tag, movie theater, bowling lanes, barber shop and other amenities planned in the $55 million complex that South Carolina’s second-largest public university is building exclusively for its football players.

    “It’ll be their home on campus, when they’re not in class” said Clemson athletics spokesman Joe Galbraith of a building that represents the latest innovation in the athletic facilities arms race that is costing many of America’s largest public universities hundreds of millions of dollars and shows no signs of subsiding.

    Facilities spending is one of the biggest reasons otherwise profitable or self-sufficient athletic departments run deficits, according to a Washington Post review of thousands of pages of financial records from athletic departments at 48 schools in the five wealthiest conferences in college sports.

    In 2014, these 48 schools spent $772 million combined on athletic facilities, an 89-percent increase from $408 million spent in 2004, adjusted for inflation. Those figures include annual debt payments, capital expenses and maintenance costs.

    Big-time college athletic departments are taking in more money than ever — and spending it just as fast.   A decade of rampant athletics construction across the country has redefined what it takes to field a competitive top-tier college sports program. Football stadiums and basketball arenas now must be complemented by practice facilities, professional-quality locker rooms, players’ lounges with high-definition televisions and video game systems, and luxury suites to coax more money from boosters.

    And now Clemson, whose undefeated Tigers are one of four teams in this year’s College Football Playoff, is building a football complex with an aspect school officials tout will be the first of its kind: a “players’ village” entertainment wing with attractions more commonly seen in arcades and theme parks than on college campuses.

    “I am pumped,” Coach William “Dabo” Swinney said in a video the school released promoting the new building. “It is going to be the epitome of Clemson: fun, special, unique. It’s going to be the best in the country, without a doubt.”

    Clemson’s new facility likely will be the best for just a matter of months, critics of college sports said, until the next school decides to transform a corner of its campus into what Drake Group President Gerald Gurney terms “day spas” designed to entice teenagers.

    “This is all about pandering to the fantasies of 18-year-olds. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the mission of a university,” said Gurney, whose organization advocates an overhaul of commercialized college sports in America.

    “What’s probably next down the line is a floating river attraction. . . . Why don’t we have a roller coaster?” said Gurney, who has worked in athletic departments at the University of Maryland and the University of Oklahoma, where he now teaches. “It’s embarrassing that we’re even discussing this.”

    As wealthy donors at Clemson rush to outdo peers at other financially flush athletic departments, those with fewer resources look elsewhere for the cash needed to keep up. At Maryland, a new indoor football facility will be financed, in part, with millions from state government. At the University of Virginia and Rutgers University — whose athletic departments, like Maryland’s, are dependent on mandatory student fees — officials are mulling similar projects.

    At other schools where historic fundraising drives bankrolled multimillion-dollar projects, officials fear expensive upgrades soon will be obsolete. At the University of Colorado Boulder, the athletic department is finishing a $156 million project that includes new locker rooms and offices for football and an indoor practice field.

    “By the time we’re done . . . we’ll be right back behind them all again,” said Stephen Ludwig, a member of Colorado’s board of regents. “It’s a never-ending arms race to build shiny objects that appeal to 17-year-olds, so they’ll pick us instead of someone else.”

    What the customer wants

    On April 19, 2013, the University of Tennessee dedicated its new $45 million Anderson Training Center, a 145,000-square-foot home for its football team with a two-story weight room, hydrotherapy room, amphitheater-style team meeting room and a public entrance featuring a waterwall and museum commemorating Volunteers football history.

    At the dedication ceremony, Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart told donors that professional football scouts had offered unanimous praise.

    “They have all told me this is the best facility, college or professional, that they’ve ever seen,” Hart said. “Quite a tribute and quite a legacy to all of you who helped make this possible.”

    Tennessee’s campus was home to the nation’s best football training facility for roughly three and a half months.

    On Aug. 1, 2013, the University of Oregon dedicated the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, the latest massive gift from Nike co-founder Phil Knight to his alma mater.

    Few people actually know how much Knight spent on the building, thanks to a series of financial transactions that obscure details from public records. The university reported the 145,000-square-foot building’s value as $95 million in filings with the federal government, but some media reports have pegged the actual construction cost closer to $138 million.

    In addition to the now-standard accoutrements of a modern college football training facility, Oregon’s new building featured flourishes from overseas. The individually ventilated lockers came from Germany; the wood for the floor in the weight room came from Brazil; and the lounge chairs in the players’ barber shop came from Italy. The building also came with technological innovations such as a 40-yard electronic track that measures speed, power and foot placement.

    “If a building was a super hero, that’s it,” Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich said in a news conference.

    The facilities arms race is not solely benefiting football teams. In the past decade, many athletic departments in the wealthy Power Five conferences — the Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big 12, Big Ten and Pacific-12 — have built baseball stadiums, volleyball courts, soccer fields, golf practice facilities and ice hockey arenas with money largely derived from powerhouse football teams and, to a lesser degree, men’s basketball teams.

    College sports’ fastest-rising expense: Paying coaches not to work

    As the primary revenue-driver, however, the football team is usually the first to get a facilities upgrade. Every improvement is considered a recruiting edge, from the locker room to the scoreboard.

    In July 2014, Texas A&M unveiled a 7,661-square-foot video board, then the largest in college football. School officials insisted it was a coincidence that the screen was slightly bigger than the one at rival Texas, which Longhorns fans boastfully nicknamed “Godzillatron.”

    The College Station campus was home to the largest video board in college football for one year.

    In September, Auburn University debuted a 10,830-square-foot video board in its football stadium. School officials also insisted it was a coincidence their new board was bigger than the one at SEC rival Texas A&M.

    South Dakota-based Daktronics built both boards. In an interview, Daktronics vice president Jay Parker said he has had several conversations with college officials who specifically cite the size of rivals’ boards when placing orders. Parker declined to offer specifics.

    “I’m not so sure I can go on the record with where those conversations came from,” said Parker. “Our desire is to sell products and to sell what the customer wants.”

    Architect Joel Leider also has had those conversations. Leider is vice president of SportsPLAN, a small firm based in Kansas City, Mo., that specializes in designing collegiate athletic facilities.   When he started in this business in the 1980s, Leider said, an indoor football practice facility was a rare job; only colleges in wintry regions needed them.

    In the past 20 years, dozens of schools across the Southeast and Southwest have built indoor football facilities. Leider also finds himself facing more competition. At least 20 other companies have entered the college sports design sector since the 1990s, he said.

    Some collegiate players now enjoy facilities superior to those offered by some professional teams. Florida State and the University of Florida have indoor football practice facilities. The NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars do not. Asked about this, Leider noted a significant difference between professional and college sports.

    “When you can pay a player, that changes the equation,” Leider said. “Just look at [Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher] Zack Greinke: He just signed for $200 million. I’ll bet the quality of the locker room isn’t that big a deal for him.”

    Asked what new features he predicted would be in the next wave of upgrades, Leider laughed.

    “I wish I had my crystal ball polished,” he said. “Like everybody else, I just wonder about the future of college athletics in general. Obviously, I’m in the business, and when more schools are building facilities, that’s good for us. But it’s hard to even recognize college athletics anymore.”

    Footing the bill

    Not every athletic department has a Phil Knight. For some schools, facilities upgrades mean turning to students, government or lenders to help cover the cost.

    At Georgia Tech, an athletic department that depends on mandatory student fees to help pay its bills has amassed $229 million in debt, records show.

    In 2014, Georgia Tech athletics collected about $5.1 million from students, which covered about 7 percent of the department’s spending. Spread proportionally across the entire athletics budget, that means students covered about $980,000 of Georgia Tech’s $13.3 million annual debt payments on sports facilities including an indoor football practice field, upgrades to the basketball arena, a basketball practice facility and a softball field.

    Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting back

    Virginia and Rutgers, athletic departments both highly dependent on student fees, have new football headquarters on their wish lists. And at Maryland, the university is planning a $155 million project to convert Cole Field House, its former basketball arena, into an indoor football practice facility, new locker rooms and offices for football, a training center for all athletes and an “Academy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship” for students.

    The project is dependent on $25 million from Maryland state government and $25 million from an athletic department that needs to charge one of the highest mandatory athletic fees in the Power Five to cover its expenses ($406 annually for the average full-time undergrad).

    Two months after Maryland officials announced the project, and its state support, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s outgoing budget cut funding for higher education. The university raised tuition five percent last year.

    Supporters of the Cole Field House project point out the $25 million in state money is earmarked for facilities spending, so it couldn’t have been used by the university to prevent tuition hikes. And unlike the football complex at Oregon and the one planned at Clemson, the renovated Cole Field House will be open to all students.

    “This is much more than a football facility,” said Barry Gossett, vice chairman of the university’s board of regents.

    Many students, however, question whether the millions more spent on Maryland football facilities is a worthwhile investment.

    “While the football team is getting something new and nice . . . there’s a sentiment among students that they have to pay more and more every year, but they’re not necessarily getting anything more for their spending,” said Patrick Ronk, student government president at Maryland.

    The renovated Cole Field House is scheduled to open in 2017. Promotional materials promise “an athletic training facility unmatched in Division I sports.”

    An artist’s rendering of the lobby of Clemson University’s $55 million football complex. (Courtesy of Clemson Athletics)
    Every dream starts with a dreamer

    At a groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 6, Swinney, the Clemson football coach, told the crowd the story behind his team’s new headquarters. A few years ago, Athletic Director Dan Radakovich asked Swinney what he needed to “take Clemson football to the next level.” Swinney jotted down a few ideas for a football headquarters.

    “I really thought he would take that piece of paper and just laugh,” Swinney said. “But he didn’t. . . . Every dream starts with a dreamer.”

    In a recent phone interview, Clemson deputy athletic director Graham Neff defended the miniature golf, laser tag and bowling lanes as relatively inexpensive additions that offer a recruiting edge.

    “Our football program is the engine to our athletic train. The ability of that program to be successful, be able to recruit, is important for the whole department, and I’d argue, for the whole university,” Neff said. “For that incremental cost of pouring concrete [for mini golf holes], we feel there’s going to be a big ROI [return on investment] for it being new and unique to Clemson.”

    A cost breakdown for the players’ village amenities was not available, Neff said. The $55 million building will be paid for by $35.5 million in donations and $19.5 million from the sale of athletic revenue bonds. Clemson athletics does not charge a student fee, but officials considered creating one last year before student government objected.

    As Swinney spoke at the groundbreaking, he was standing in a $10 million indoor practice facility that opened in 2012. A couple hundred yards off in the distance stood Memorial Stadium, with gameday locker rooms and football offices built in 2007 (as part of a $60 million project) that were renovated last year as part of more than $100 million in ongoing Clemson athletics facilities projects.

    Swinney knows donors get frustrated sometimes, he told the crowd, because they give money to facilities that are soon replaced. He had a message for those donors.

    “Let me tell you, this will be the forever home of the Tigers,” Swinney said.

    A few seconds later, Swinney added: “Not to say that we won’t ever tear a wall down . . . or add another wing.”

    ###

    BobLee
    • Wes in RIC Reply
      4 years ago

      Merry Christmas BL!

      I’m wondering why no one in BTCFB is paying attention to NFL teams like the Cowboys or MLB teams like the Yankees? They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars (if not $1 billion plus) on stadiums, etc. without championships. Yes, they’re good year in and year out (at least the Yankees are…), but the “lightning in a bottle” teams like the Royals or the Panthers still can win without the so-called “best” players.

      Oh well. I have lost so much interest over the years that college sports are enjoyable again. No raised blood pressure when we lose, a little excitement when we win, but the next morning, no matter what the result is, I simply just don’t care that much. CFB is only one entertainment option in the wide array of options that we all have these days.

      Now, sorry, but I have to cut this short because I have to go to a watch party for the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl!!! I hear they’re giving an extra 0.25% interest on CDs to anyone who watches the game… 🙂

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        I think there are cases of Lightning In A Bottle with college FB / MBB. UNC may have been an example this year. WFU in 2006. In March Madness we see it often with the Butlers. A group of players (usually upperclassmen “come together”) manage to avoid injuries to key players and get a few lucky bounces / lucky ref calls, no calls and have a “special season”. In college, the coach quickly moves on. …. In the pros, those small market teams (like Royals) quickly break-up thru free agency. They can only build thru good players having special seasons.
        .
        I think Juggernaut wannabees like to think a special coach can “work magic with over-achieving kids” and that does happen now and then…. but the odds favor assembling the best athletes either thru recruiting, free agentcy, etc. We fans always like it when “a David” does beat Goliath… unless “our team” is Goliath of course. 🙂

    • Wildatheart Reply
      4 years ago

      So how do they get around the NCAA rule about things like the golf course, laser tag, and etc. being an impermissible benefit if it is not provided for the student body at large. Will everyone get to use them?

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        Excellent Point !! I’ll ask Dabo next time I see him.

        • Wolfdon Reply
          4 years ago

          And to pursue the impermissible ben. further , if this is legal, why can’t prprivate funds be used to provide loaner cars for the players use during non laser and non golfing times?

          • BobLee Reply
            4 years ago

            You’re assuming that is not already being done at for-real Juggernaut programs? Cars and “jobs for parents” are pretty much a staple in most Power Five schools. The ones not doing it are the ones traditionally “in the lower tier” of those conferences. To “do that” and still be “in the lower tier” is when the HC gets fired.

            • Wolfdon
              4 years ago

              Full speed ahead!

    • Doug Reply
      4 years ago

      You Tube video of the facility. Done with straight faces too.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXjpUSOxIBw

    • Michael in Balmer Reply
      4 years ago

      Amazing! Where will it end? You would think that students and faculty will eventually revolt
      Due to tuition and salaries. Maybe all this makes up for not paying student athletes.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        “paying the athletes” will have zero effect on the recruiting bling. There will always be jackass “boosters” doling out under-the-table $$$ in addition to the “legal dollars”.
        .
        Trying to stop “this” is like trying to stop porn. It is a human character flaw that defies logic or legislation.

    • Doug Reply
      4 years ago

      Some engineering guru is gonna have either figure out how to make a bigger parking lot at the Carter or add 18 holes at the Hunt Library. I’d go for a go-cart track and a 4-wheeler course. Really though, a dozen or so nappy-headed hos stationed in a trailer park 5 miles out of town would be more effective and much cheaper. Whatever happens, the kids can’t be blamed on this one. Adult affuenza is an epidemic.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        BINGO! The mind reels at what will be the “we GOTTA Have a …..” five years from now. Fat Cats’ lust for Bragging Rights is insatiable that’s for sure. Lots more $$$$ than brains….

        • Doug Reply
          4 years ago

          I don’t know how the oft-told rumor started that Kinston could have had either Caswell Center or NC State 90 or so years ago but Eunice’s Court, The Cadillac Motel, Sugar Hill, and Happersville would have been high value assets for the university. ?

          • BobLee Reply
            4 years ago

            Not NC state… That choice was Caswell or “a teachers’ college to supply school teachers to Eastern NC”. Kinston chose the mental retardation hospital… and Greenville got the “teachers’ college”. I’ve never heard that refuted so assume it’s true.

    • NCKen Reply
      4 years ago

      Yet, half these pampered morons won’t be able to name the countries that flank the US, or be able to cobble together a coherent paragraph in the English language upon ‘graduating’.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        Who are the real “morons” in this silly scenarios. The Fat Cats putting up multi-millions of $$$ to attract the semi-literate kids, or the kids. I would argue it is the adults (??) who should rethink their priorities.

        • NCKen Reply
          4 years ago

          Agree. The whole system has been corrupted by too much money and a failed concept of education. It is up to the alumni to put it right by withholding donations as a block. Even college presidents understand that kind of language.

          • BobLee Reply
            4 years ago

            On one hand, it is a Fat Cat’s “right” to spend his $$$ as he sees fit. If writing a check for $100,000 to his school of choice for the sole purpose of “attracting semi-literate 18 y/o jocks” so he (Fat Cat) can claim bragging rights on the putting green of his country club, why is it anyone else’s business? NOW when it gets into increasing tuition/fees to regular students for this abject foolishness THAT is when “adults” need to step in and say WHOA!

            • NCKen
              4 years ago

              When the Fat Cat sizzle wears off, who is left holding the bag to sustain these facilities and staffs …? The tax-payer and tuition-payers.

            • BobLee
              4 years ago

              Well, yeah …. sure…. but the Fat Cats got to brag to their buddies “at the club”.

        • Brent Reply
          4 years ago

          I am not sure the adults need to rethink their priorities. This is a free country after all, a sports-loving free country. If Fat Cats want to give money for these boondoggles instead of giving money directly to the accounting department, then great, so be it. After all, BL, we would not be able to enjoy your columns like we do if you didn’t have these topics to pontificate on.

          • BobLee Reply
            4 years ago

            I totally agree. I am a Free Market guy 100%. It IS “their money” to spend as they choose whether for “recruiting bling”…. lap dances…. Rolexes… or to The Jimmy V Foundation. …. and I am forever grateful that we have such individuals running rampant among us. 🙂

    • Ron Reply
      4 years ago

      I love athletic events as much as the next guy, but this is getting sick!

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        Once a school declares it intends to be a Juggernaut, it better understand what that involves.

    • 58 wolf kennel Reply
      4 years ago

      No wonder D. Lawrence chose Clemson. He wanted to improve his handicap :+))
      Seriously, though, good read, and such baubles will fade as recruiting matures. Parents can’t be too impressed.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        The college sports arms race has been going helter-skelter for at least 20 years if we use The Kenan Center and Mack’s Big Fish Tank as a benchmark… or go back to Alabama in the late 70s with Bryant Hall. No evidence of any “fading” yet.

        • Wolfdon Reply
          4 years ago

          I know BK is very smart, but ……what a comment.

          • BobLee Reply
            4 years ago

            BK, bless his heart, holds a third-degree black belt in “what a comment” ! 🙂

    • Brent Reply
      4 years ago

      I think this is genius. Give these football players all the entertainment they need in this one single (supervised) complex. Less chance of them leaving the complex to run over people with mopeds and such.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        Can “The Best Little Whorehouse In South Carolina” be far behind?

    • Wildatheart Reply
      4 years ago

      Well as an architect I can tell you that from the front (not shown in the article) the Clemson facility looks like something a church committee came up with. That “hill” on the inside is just goofy. I know even the Ivy League schools are changing, but gosh I wish all of college sports could go back to that model.

      • BobLee Reply
        4 years ago

        Not in our lifetime my friend. PT Barnum’s words about “one born every minute” were never truer.

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