Do Notre Dame’s Football Facilities Measure Up to Competition?

Guglielmino Athletics Complex Notre Dame

Former Heisman Trophy winner and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston swung by Ann Arbor, MI, to visit Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh for some last minute, pre-NFL Combine advice. Winston had a lot to say about his visit to Michigan’s campus, but the NFL Combine wasn’t at the top of his list of discussion points.

“These guys don’t know how blessed they are to have this kind of facility,” Winston told the media in regard to Michigan’s players. “I mean, Florida State, we’re a very prestigious school, we have nice stuff, but we don’t have this. I’m sorry, I love Florida State. Go ‘Noles ‘til the day I die, but they’re so much [more] advanced than us.”

If you think Winston’s comments were merely a ploy to land one last job at his old school, a place where his relationship was almost always strained, think again. Former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty – who also made the trek to Ann Arbor – echoed Winston’s sentiments.

“This is bar-none the best one that I’ve seen,” Petty said.

Winston and Petty’s praise highlight a lesser-known but equally important element of college football recruiting: football facilities.

Lots of factors lead to a high school athlete choosing one university over another: academics, desire to play in the NFL, location. But one factor every prospect considers before making a decision is how comfortable they feel with their surroundings, and football programs have been engaged in an all-out arms race to make their facilities a home away from home.

The University of Michigan has invested large sums of money into their facilities in recent years, as Winston observed. The Wolverines possess a 104,000-square-foot indoor practice facility that includes a renovated locker room and weight room for a total cost of $26.1 million, which preceded the $226 million Michigan spent renovating the Big House in 2010. In addition, Michigan announced plans in 2012 to upgrade all of its athletic facilities over a 10-year span for $250 million.

As impressive as Winston’s visit to Michigan may have been, the former Seminole’s comments to the media won’t play well in Tallahassee. Florida State finished upgrading its facilities in 2013, four years after Michigan’s 2009 renovation. Additionally, in 2012 ESPN listed Michigan as only third in the Big Ten for football facilities, trailing Ohio State and Nebraska respectively.

While Jameis may not have been overly impressed with Florida State’s resources, Forbes would disagree.   The business magazine penned an in-depth feature of the unveiling of Florida State’s upgraded facilities, labeling them as “spectacular.” The renovated space, approximately the same size as Michigan’s facility, was funded by Florida State’s “Champions Campaign”, a $250 million fundraising initiative. Each locker is equipped with an iPad linked to Florida State’s video system so players can review game or practice film at any time, a setup very similar to most NFL teams. Florida State even had a life-size College Gameday set constructed where recruits and their families can have their pictures taken.

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Forbes concluded its review of Florida State’s facilities on a prophetic note, stating that football recruiting is no longer a matter of a “campus tour and a nice dinner”, but has instead morphed into “helping the athlete see how he can fit into a story bigger than himself and into a story that is unlike one being told anywhere else.”

The University of Oregon took Forbes’ advice of being unlike everyone else to mean being a cut above the rest. The Oregon Ducks built the Taj Mahal of football facilities with an eye-popping 145,000-square-foot complex – 39-percent larger than Michigan’s and Florida State’s – at a cost of a cool $68 million. Phil Knight, co-founder and Chairman of Nike and an Oregon alumnus, describes the facility replete with Nike paraphernalia as a “Darth Vaderish Death Star.” The groundbreaking Oregon facility includes a barber shop, a coaches’ “war room” and even a hot tub for the coaching staff.

Notre Dame’s Guglielmino Athletics Complex, dubbed “The Gug”, was a step into the modern era when it opened in 2005. Prior to The Gug’s construction all of Notre Dame’s football facilities were scattered about campus, from Notre Dame Stadium to the Loftus Sports Center and the Joyce Center. The Gug centralized the football team’s location and offered a much needed facelift to the Fighting Irish’s structure. Ten years later Notre Dame’s facilities – measuring at 96,000-square-feet and costing $21 million to construct – appear modest in comparison.

While no plans are in the works to renovate or expand The Gug, head coach Brian Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick have made substantial strides in overhauling Notre Dame’s program.   Swarbrick and Kelly orchestrated the installation of FieldTurf into Notre Dame Stadium, signed an historic 10 year, $90 million apparel deal with Under Armour and recently began construction on a $400 million stadium renovation project.

Notre Dame has long walked a fine line between staying competitive in the increasingly outlandish college football arms race while maintaining its status as an academic-first institution rather than an NFL farm system. It’s the reason why, to this day, players on Notre Dame’s football team board with the rest of the student body in dormitories rather than in condos or apartments made exclusively for athletes, a common practice for many universities. It’s one of the many elements that have always made Notre Dame unique.

Forbes describes college football as an increasingly chaotic free-for-all where programs continuously try to outspend one another in order to tell a recruit a “story that is unlike one being told anywhere else.” For Notre Dame, its story has always been unlike the rest. And for many future college athletes, that might very well be the story they’ve waited to hear.

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Even if it means the coaching staff doesn’t have its own hot tub.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him. Scott can be reached at scottjanssenhp@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

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29 Comments

  1. “Gangs of New York” at battle of Five Points had no facilities. Long live the Rabbit. Go Irish , kill Longhorns , eat beef.

  2. I boils down to wins and losses. While some kids may make a choice on what the facilities look like the wins come and you will get the recruits.

  3. I have a lot of respect for what ND spends of their NBC money on academics that improve their already distinguished standing as an elite educational institution rather than pouring nearly every nickel made back into the football program as some of our competitors do with football earnings. Whereas WSJ estimates that over 90% of football revenue is returned to colleges’ football programs, “The revenue generated through the NBC contract is a primary reason why Forbes magazine has recognized the substantial financial contributions made by Irish athletics to the University’s academic enterprise. In a 2007 survey, Forbes reported that the Notre Dame football program returns $21.1 million to academic initiatives, a total that is more than the survey’s next five programs combined.” Having said that, ND must keep up with the Michigans et.al. who feature elite athletic facilities. The recruiters and the facilities do obviously play a critical part in catching the attention of the young recruits. Of course winning and being among the several who are in the playoff discussion annually are also key. I don’t know how NDs athletic facilities match up with, say, Alabama and LSU, but the money is there if improvement is needed. Maximizing the talent already there, thanks to top recruiting efforts on the part of BK and staff – despite the narrower pool from which to draw – are in place to maintain an elite football program. Consistency on the field is our next step, and I suspect we’ll see that with the depth of talent in place. #looking forward

    1. While that is true, ND’s athletic dept is not run a as a separate entity like most schools. ND’s athletic department falls under the entire umbrella of the university which allows funds like this to be distributed easier. Most athletic departments lose money with maybe 10-15 actually turning a profit.

  4. you mischaracterize everything, denson and lyght are awesome, but i have lost faith in a dc that gives up 28, 49, 31, 43, 43, 55, 31, 43, 14, 15, 14, 0 and 17 points. gilmore, i dont know.

    1. Grow up?
      That’s it?

      No apology?
      No “Peace out”?

      We were hoping for one of your classic screaming lectures on “Loyalty” to everything Notre Dame.

      Like the one about Kelly having the nerve to talk to the Eagles back in 2012.

      You can bet we won’t (or you won’t let us) forget that one anytime soon.

      Or you wanting Tee Martin over our very own Autry Denson and Todd Light.

      Maybe, just maybe, it’s YOU who should grow up ?

    1. bj..Bruce johnson…BJ…. bruce johnson…. bj….. Bruce Johnson… bj… Bruce johnson.

      One a you turds is about to get smacked in the mouth!

    1. So now something is wrong with Autry Denson and Todd Lyght?

      Surprise, surprise.

      Yes… neither is your guy, TEE MARTIN, The Ex Tennessee Volunteer.

      The very last thing “WE” want, is some whinny, spoiled, ungrateful, idiotic half-wit, fair weather little punk bitch, always trying to tell us what we need.

      Now finish your fig newton and go back to sleep!

  5. I agree, I would hope notredame never lowers their standards just to be a football power. However, I do believe they need to win a lot to Attract elite tatalent.

  6. Fancy facilities create pampered pussies. We don’t need guys like that Florida State clown.

    Warriors don’t need that crap. A weight room is a weight room. There are no shortcuts. As Russell Wilson says: “the separation is in the preparation!” I’ll take Brian Kelly’s “tough gentlemen” concept.

    I am sick of prima donna so called athletes.

    Thousands of years ago, how did Sparta have the finest warriors in the world? they weren’t mamby pambies. they were hard asses!

    Rant off….

    Woodrow

    1. WOH,

      I myself always considered the Celtic Warriors (Celts or Gauls)of the Iron age as the fiercest and finest of warriors.

      This Celtic Warrior culture was supposed to have expanded to the British Isles, France and The Low Countries, Bohemia, Poland and much of Central Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, Lusitanian’s northern Italy, and following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC, as far east as central Anatolia.

      The Celts were described as fighting like wild beasts, and as hordes.

      Their “manner of fighting, being in large measure that of wild beasts and frenzied.

      At one moment they would raise their swords aloft and smite after the manner of wild boars, throwing the whole weight of their bodies into the blow like hewers of wood or men digging with mattocks, and again they would deliver crosswise blows aimed at no target, as if they intended to cut to pieces the entire bodies of their adversaries, protective armour and all.

      Go Irish! Beat Texas!

      1. unleash the berserkers!!!

        Go Irish!

        Woodrow

        PS How did those UM facilities work out for them in 2014? 31 – 0 :-)

    2. Sparta was eventually wiped off the face of the earth by empires who adapted and improvised and had better facilities. But hey it made for a great movie.

  7. All applicants who put those 3 questions first should be rejected out of hand as not interested in or worthy of a Notre Dame education.
    The Notre Dame faculty should not have to waste time in a hypocritical effort to treat them as students, which they clearly are not and are not interested in becoming.

    1. Here’s a 17 yo or 18 yo that knew exactly why he chose ND

      “I think the school sets you up, not just for a four-year plan, but for a 40-year plan,” Zaire told ISD. “It can take you far in life and help you be very successful once sports are over.

      “I think that’s something everybody should look at in recruiting, a place that can set you up for life after sports and somewhere you would love to be not playing sports. I think if you look at it from that aspect, you’ll definitely find the place that you want to be.”

      Malik Zaire

  8. Personally, I think it all comes down to 3 things when kids are deciding a school. one- is this school a national title contender every year? Two, can this coaching staff develop and utilize me to be the best college player I can be?
    Third, can this coaching staff develop me as player that can play in the NFL. Yes, the academics are important, as is the weather, social life, facilities, etc. But , not as important as the 3 questions I mentioned imo.

    1. just because it should come down to those three things pete doesn’t mean it always does. You have to remember that you’re talking about 17 and 18 year old young men. I still remember the transition into young adulthood. My priorities were nowhere near straight. (Chuckle)

    2. I think a 17 year old person is a complex being who has a lot to consider in making a big life decision like where to attend college, and I really don’t think fans can reduce it to a handy general purpose list.

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