Facilities necessary evil for recruiting

by David Nelson

Since when do inanimate objects help win national championships?

It’s a vital question to ask as talk emerges about teams seeking upgraded practice facilities.

These facilities are put on a ridiculously high pedestal at times. But, unfortunately, these complexes are simply a necessary evil in the sports world.

Last week, the Gophers received a nice $6 million gift that will help fund a basketball facility.

“This most recent gift will provide our men’s and women’s basketball programs with the facilities, training and support they need to compete with the top programs in the conference and the country,” athletics director Norwood Teague said in a press release.

Neither the release nor the fundraising website explicitly said how these new facilities would get Minnesota over the hump.

However, that’s probably because the most important reason for the upgrades might put off potential donors.

That reason is recruiting.

On this day last year, now-UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn announced his intention to play for the Rebels.

Vaughn eliminated Minnesota as an option in the weeks prior to his announcement, but it does not seem coincidental that most of the schools in his top five happened to have a practice facility less than 10 years old.

Which school happened to have the newest facility? UNLV.

Which school out of that group didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last season? UNLV.

While I doubt Vaughn’s decision actually came down to which school happened to have the newest practice gym, it cannot be questioned that each school outclassed Minnesota in that area.

Despite its recent facelift over the summer, the Bierman Field Athletic Building is old, cramped and a little downtrodden compared to some of the newer buildings popping up around campus.

As ridiculous as it is for an athletics department to ask for more money after building brand-new baseball and football stadiums in the last six years, the need for updated facilities is just as important to some recruits as who is the head coach.

Beyond that, the state of a team’s practice facility tends to reflect how much faith a school places in that program.

If the school does not have faith in the program, then neither will the recruit.

Many have already said the amount of money going into college sports seems rather perverted at times.

But as crude or as evil as it might seem, the money put into a program will eventually give way to better facilities.

Better facilities entice better recruits, which creates well-rounded teams.