The offseason is upon us, and while it usually means a slow news cycle for the teams on the field, there's often times a magnification of the news stories happening around the region. With the recent attention and announcement stemming from Steve Addazio's spring practice remarks regarding an indoor facility, it's always interesting to make note of when athletics programs around the area take strides towards shoring up their on-field success.
Bryant University is the latest to embark upon an athletic initiative, announced in a roughly two-minute YouTube video. As part of the larger Bryant Builds innovation, the Smithfield, Rhode Island-based institution will add roughly 250,000 square feet of academic and athletic infrastructure. They plan specifically to build several new structures that will hopefully enhance the training and practice ability of its athletic teams.
Within the athletic frame work, Bryant is in the process of constructing the Bulldog Strength and Performance Center with an intended opening date of this summer. It will feature state of the art training with the intention of "recruiting the highest caliber of student-athlete to Bryant University."
Along with that, the Bulldogs designed an Indoor Practice Facility it touts as rivaling "similar facilities at NCAA Big 5 conference insitutions." The facility is going to feature 78,000 square feet and 100 yards of turf, fully indoors, in a permanent training structure. This will clearly benefit the school's New England-based setting.
Bryant is one of the youngest Division I programs, having departed the Division II Northeast-10 Conference for the NEC in 2008. Only three years removed from becoming a full-fledged D1 school, they've already made an impact, having made the NCAA Tournament in lacrosse, baseball, and softball.
The move by the Bulldogs is another brick in the ongoing arms race of Division I schools. It's becoming increasingly clearer that teams need to upgrade facilities and continue developing the technologies available in order to further their programs to the next level. Even at lower-level leagues like the NEC, there's a need to continue constructing and building a bigger foundation on which to settle its transitioned teams. They're long gone from their NE-10 days rivaling Bentley University, but they need to keep moving to keep pace ahead of Sacred Heart and Robert Morris.
I mention this because there's always constant discussion surrounding facilities, especially when mentioning a Power 5 school like Boston College. All around the college sports universe, we're seeing an escalation in this arms race. It's well-publicized what UMass did with football and its performance center, and we're seeing now that Bryant is willing to invest in its programs. While it's unlikely to impact a major sport like football for a school like a BC, there could be overlapping impacts on other, ancillary areas.
I can't predict where those impacts reside. After all, Bryant competes in a much lower-level conference than the Eagles. But I can't help but look at the fact that the Bulldogs, with barely a Division I recruiting cycle in their back pocket, won consecutive NEC championships in baseball and was able to win in the national tournament. The lacrosse program, even though it fell into the right coach when Mike Pressler was considered toxic during the ill-advised and even more ill-fated Duke scandal, is highly successful. Basketball won 19 games in its first full year as a D1 school and hasn't finished under .500 since. That's an impressive resume, and this investment should help them continue to strive for the next step, whatever that may be.
By the same token, I also know it's unlikely for Bryant to cut into BC's power. The Eagles, after all, are the biggest team in Division I in New England (save for UConn basketball), and their brand is the strongest with the ACC association. Nobody can touch the Eagles in football, which in and of itself changes the type of recruit going to both schools. You're not going to find a football player all of a sudden turn down BC for Bryant, especially as Steve Addazio goes into areas like Texas to compete with schools like Penn State. So I'm not trying to fool anyone here since BC is the power broker in the area. No amount of facilities is going to be able to change that.
But there's no denying that the time is bearing down on the Boston College athletic department in the facilities discussion. Regardless of who you are or what school you have, you absolutely have to hope that your school will make a public display of support. From a fan standpoint, BC is no different. We're not asking for a massive build on campus in terms of this multi-billion dollar ungodly structure that will rival the size of the Prudential tower, but maybe we're looking for what Steve Addazio said he needed - an indoor practice facility for football. I don't know for sure.
What I do know is that the Bulldogs are becoming the latest to make an investment to strengthen some of its sports. Ultimately, I don't think this Bryant move will have much of an impact on BC. I think it's one thing to build facilities to act like you're a Power 5 school, and it's an entirely other thing to actually be a Power 5 school. As I've mentioned before, I also don't believe it will be the difference between beating NC State in football or losing to Virginia Tech. That's never been the reason you win, and BC's recent recruiting victories are clearly evidence that you don't need to build. Having an indoor practice facility wasn't the difference when BC took Florida State to the brink for two years in football, and the training facilities have nothing to do with the rebuilding project and recruiting wins by Jim Christian on the hardwoods. I've always believed that, and I always will believe that.
I also understand that these things also cost money - big money. It's not exactly lying around the dresser drawers in Conte Forum. I've seen in several different forums how these things come to be; they can take years upon years and test the patience of even the most ardent supporter. I readily recognize that. There may be plans in the works, and there's probably discussion of what to do next that we both aren't privy to nor do we need to be privy to.
As the arms race continues to grow, however, there will be mounting pressure that can only be removed with one solution - construction. And as more schools construct, the tide will continue to rise, bringing with it more and more attention from the fans' perspective.
What are your thoughts on the arms race? What should be the next step for Boston College? Weigh in below with your thoughts and also how you think it could be achieved. Remember that just saying "build the new field" doesn't appear out of midair, so the discussion should have lively points with fact-based reasons supporting them.