In the world of college athletic recruitment, it’s a well-known refrain that you don’t pick the talent, the talent picks you.
Quality of facilities plays a particularly important role in attracting top-notch players and coaches. If UCLA football wants to continue to be a first-rate pick for recruits, it’s time for a facilities upgrade. Even so, it is important to keep in mind that recruiting is just one element of a successful athletic program.
Late last month, the university announced plans to raise funds for a football training complex. The new building will be located just west of Spaulding Field, adjacent to the current Acosta Athletic Training Complex.
The cost is an estimated $50 million, to be funded entirely by private donors.
Fifty million dollars is not an insignificant figure, but it’s a reasonable investment if UCLA wants to maintain a competitive recruitment program year after year.
The new training facility is expected to include a locker room, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices, strength and conditioning areas, athletic training rooms, video rooms and “several elements that will feature the storied history of UCLA football,” according to a university statement.
Weather and location are already major factors of UCLA’s advantage in the recruitment process, and new and improved facilities will attract even higher caliber recruits.
“If you don’t have facilities, it’s hard to attract top talent. Here it’s not as hard as other places because we’re in Westwood, California with the beach five miles away on one of the most beautiful campuses on earth,” said coach Jim Mora. “We always have that going for us, so if we can add a new facility it will accentuate everything we have.”
But amenities only go so far. Each football recruit has his own tastes and preferences. For some student-athletes, the decision boils down to in-house visits, relationship-building and the promise of being developed toward the next level. For others, the chance to earn a top-rate degree while winning football games is a must-have.
Coaching ability and longevity – in other words trusting a coach not to leave for a better situation mid-way through the player’s career – are other important aspects of the recruiting process.
With this understanding, a new football facility is a step in the right direction. UCLA competes for the best recruits with schools such as Pac-12 rival Oregon, which unveiled its new 145,000-square foot football facility, funded by Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight and his wife, this summer.
Cross-town rival USC updated its athletic facilities last year with a $70 million, 110,000-square-foot athletics facility that houses the football program, and Washington State is in the process of constructing a new football operations building.
UCLA is overdue for a catch-up.
Given that the football program generates the most funds for the athletic program, it makes sense that athletics would prioritize football for a facilities upgrade. During 2011-2012 season, the football program garnered about $25 million in revenue, more than three times the revenue generated by the basketball program.
A brand-new football facility adds to UCLA’s wide array of attractions, but without all the other pieces of a football school solidified year after year, it would act as a lowly pawn on a recruiting chessboard.