The next step in the arms race

A plan for new practice facilities would help the Gophers catch up to the rest of the Big Ten.

Daily Editorial Board

Last week, Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague unveiled an ambitious plan to put the University of Minnesota back on a level playing field in the arms race of college sports.

The plan, which lays outs the first of two phases, includes a long-awaited basketball practice facility as well as practice facilities for wrestling, track and gymnastics. It also includes upgrades for the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex. The cost of phase one is projected to be $190 million.

Teague said that he hopes to finance the entire project privately. He added that the plan shows what the athletics department is currently lacking and that the new facilities and upgrades are needs, not wants.

In the world of big-time college sports, Teague’s assessment is correct. The University is severely lacking in practice and training facilities, and that certainly has an impact on its ability to recruit talented college athletes. The University and Northwestern University are the only two programs in the Big Ten without a dedicated basketball practice facility.

However, while the new facilities are undoubtedly necessary if the Gophers want to compete, the University’s ability to raise all $190 million privately is far from a sure thing. Nothing in this project will bring in game day revenue, and getting donors interested in practice facilities is presumably harder than selling them a full-time sports venue, such as TCF Bank Stadium. The willingness of boosters to donate depends largely on how well the Gophers perform in the upcoming seasons, which is a gamble. 

Before going any further with the plan, Teague and others in the athletic department should come up with a more detailed finance plan. The department is not known for its fiscal restraint and in the past has had to rely on outside funds to balance its budget. Questions about how realistic the fundraising goal is, and what happens if it falls through, need to be answered. An ambitious goal requires thorough planning.