THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: MAY 13, 2019
Where do the Florida Gators rate when it comes to facilities in the SEC? Who has the best athletic complexes? Here are the rankings in the SEC top to bottom.
(1) ARKANSAS: The genius of the late Frank Broyles is that he was able to get billionaires who hate each other to compete for having their names attached to athletic facilities. He got the Walton family (Walmart) to give half the money to build Walton Arena, annually rated the best basketball venue in the SEC, which enabled 10,000-seat Barnhill Arena to convert to a gymnastics, volleyball, women’s basketball venue. The track facilities (think Tyson chicken) are the best in the country. The baseball stadium (Baum-Walker as in Walmart gozillionaires) seats nearly 12,000 and is one of the five best in the country. They keep renovating Dom Reynolds (as in aluminum) Razorback Stadium, transforming it into a very good but not great facility. Indoor practice facilities are first rate as is the Fred Smith (See FedEx) Center, the football ops center. The softball stadium (Bogle Park as in another Walmart gozillionaire) is top half in the SEC. Then there is the Jerry and Gene Jones (as in Dallas Cowboys) Student-Athlete Success Center, a huge academic support/dining facility.
(1A) TEXAS A&M: In Texas they say the only ones with more money than the Aggies are God and the Longhorns, and the Longhorns are feeling the heat. When the Aggies came into the SEC in 2012 they decided to transform aging Kyle Field into one of the best stadiums in the country. They raised $485 million in a matter of months, paid cash, gutted and renovated half the stadium in 2013, then gutted and renovated the other half in 2014. The result is a 102,733-seat palace that is one of the toughest places to play in college football. Obviously, football pays the bills and has world class facilities but there isn’t a venue on campus that isn’t first class including the brand new softball stadium where the SEC Tournament was just held. Reed Arena (basketball, volleyball), Blue Bell Park (baseball), Cushing Stadium (outdoor track) and Gilliam Indoor Stadium (indoor track) are outstanding venues. The Bright Center football facility ranks among the top ten in the country.
https://12thman.comthen click on facilities
(3) ALABAMA: Football is the goose that lays the golden eggs for the Alabama athletic program, which, of course, means the football facilities are as good as any you will find in the NFL. Bryant-Denny Stadium has come a long way since it debuted They’re bringing in so much money that they’ve spent a ton refurbishing the rest of the facilities including razing the old baseball stadium and replacing it with gorgeous Sewell Field. Coleman Coliseum (basketball, volleyball and gymnastics) needs some TLC.
(4) LSU: Tiger Stadium is one of college sports iconic football stadiums. Alex Box Stadium is one of the two best baseball stadiums in the college game. LSU gets very high marks for its track (indoor and outdoor), golf and softball facilities. The Maravich Center (basketball, volleyball, gymnastics) is big but pretty average. At least the roof doesn’t leak anymore. The football ops center is being renovated. Training and practice facilities for football are first rate.
(5) TENNESSEE: In most leagues, Tennessee’s facilities would be the best. In the SEC, they rank fifth. Neyland Stadium is among the most famous stadiums in college football. Thompson-Boling Arena (basketball) ranks right behind Walton Arena (Arkansas) as the best in the SEC. Swimming, softball and soccer facilities are excellent. The tennis complex is second only to that at Georgia. Practice and training facilities for football and basketball are excellent. Lindsey Nelson Stadium (baseball) has changed to field turf and has had two big renovation projects but it’s still pretty average.
(6) SOUTH CAROLINA: When it comes to facilities, athletic director Ray Tanner has taken South Carolina from treading water to trendsetter. The new football ops building is the latest addition to an outstanding athletic park. The baseball stadium is outstanding. Colonial Life Arena seats 18,000 for basketball and 19,000 for concerts. Williams-Brice Stadium is getting yet another facelift with more sky boxes and club seating added. Soccer facilities from Stone Stadium (5,000 seats) to the soccer complex are exceptional.
(7) KENTUCKY: The addition of the new football training facility and Kentucky Proud Park (baseball) have elevated Kentucky facilities to top half of the SEC. AD Mitch Barnhart was smart to decrease capacity at Kroger Field (formerly Commonwealth Stadium). The result is 61,000 more comfortable seats and sellouts. Rupp will also be downsized but upgraded in the process. The practice facilities and Kentucky Coliseum (capacity 7,800) hosts women’s basketball, gymnastics and volleyball. The Wildcat Coal Lodge, which is where the basketball team lives, is the equivalent of a 5-star hotel.
(8) OLE MISS: The recent addition of The Pavilion at Ole Miss (men’s and women’s basketball, built by the same people who built Auburn Arena) is the latest facility upgrade at Ole Miss. The Manning Center houses the football offices and locker rooms and is linked to the indoor practice facility and indoor track practice by an underground tunnel. Swayze Field (baseball, capacity 11,000) just completed $19 million in renovations. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium increased capacity to 64,038 with the bowling of the south end zone.
(8) AUBURN: Jordan Hare Stadium is one of the best football venues in the country and Auburn Arena seats 9,500 yet there isn’t a seat more than 43 feet from the floor. The tennis center features 12 outdoor courts, 16 clay courts and six indoor courts. Plainsman Park (baseball) is falling behind the rest of the SEC. Football practice and training facilities are exceptional. Swimming has a great venue. The track facilities are only average.
(10) MISSOURI: Faurot Field (football) is getting some much needed TLC in which the end zone will transform into a football only facility that will house offices, weight rooms, training and locker rooms. When Missouri basketball moved into Missouri Arena, the Hearnes Center became the home for volleyball, gymnastics, wrestling and indoor track. The new softball stadium is exceptional. The baseball facilities are lower third of the SEC.
(11) GEORGIA: Sanford Stadium gets high marks for being one of the best in all of college sports, but smack dab in the middle of campus is that dinosaur Stegeman Coliseum. If Georgia really wants to do something good for its basketball program, Greg Magarity needs a new building. Leave Stegeman to gymnastics and volleyball if they want to keep it. The tennis complex is the best in the country and the golf facilities are just one of the reasons Georgia keeps churning out PGA standouts. Georgia just got its indoor practice facility and there are plans in the works to expand Butts-Mehre Hall to make it one of the best football only facilities in the SEC. Overall, however, the facilities are a bit underwhelming.
(12) FLORIDA: It’s amazing that Florida has had such a dominant athletic program with facilities that rank among the worst in the SEC. Donald Dizney Stadium (soccer/lacrosse) and the renovated Katie Seashole Presley Stadium (softball) are outstanding. In two years there will be a new and badly needed baseball stadium. The O-Dome got a redo that made it nicer, but for a little bit more than what was spent, a brand new arena could have been built. Football facilities are costing the program and the golf course and practice facilities are woeful. Mike Holloway deserves a better track. Tennis facilities are cramped for space. Changes are on the way for Florida facilities but they are long overdue.
(13) MISSISSIPPI STATE: The crown jewel of the Mississippi State facilities is Dudy-Noble Field (capacity 13,000), a baseball yard worthy of Class AAA that was Scott Stricklin’s parting shot before he left for Florida. More than $75 million in expansion and improvements to Davis-Wade Stadium have transformed it from a bad venue into one that is decent. The Hump (Humphrey Coliseum) was built in 1975 but it has undergone several renovations since then.
https://hailstate.com (click on facilities)
(14) VANDERBILT: Vanderbilt has the worst facilities in the Southeastern Conference and no one is close. It’s gotten to the point that even Vandy fans are embarrassed by Vanderbilt Stadium. Typically, visiting SEC teams outdraw Vandy in Nashville. Memorial Gym is obsolete. Hawkins Field (baseball) has its own Green Monster out in left field. Golf and tennis facilities are first rate.
FIFTH SEED WAS A BIT OF A SURPRISE
It’s not surprising the Gators (44-15) were a top eight NCAA softball seed. Stuff like that happens when you win four straight games over top 20 RPI opponents to take the Southeastern Conference Tournament. What was a surprise is that the Gators got the #5 seed and Alabama got the #8. Prior to losing to the Gators in the championship game, some thought the Crimson Tide might get the #3 overall seed but the NCAA selection committee gave the Gators a higher seed. You have to figure Florida’s history (two national championships, nine times in the last 11 years to Okie City for the Women’s College World Series) factored as did the Gators turning hot at just the right moment.
It also helped that the Gators posted a 25-15 record against teams in the tournament including wins over the #3 (Washington), #4 (FSU), #6 (Arizona), #7 (Minnesota), #8 (Alabama), #10 (LSU), #11 (Ole Miss), #12 (Tennessee), #14 (Kentucky) and #15 (Michigan) seeds.
Joining the Gators at the Gainesville Regional will be Stanford (Pac-12), Boise State (Mountain West) and Boston University (Patriot League). Florida opens play Friday (2:30 p.m.) against Boston U.
SEC Tournament notes: Kelly Barnhill had an 0.33 ERA with three wins to take the MVP. That improved her to 30-11 on the season and 100-19 for her UF career … Amanda Lorenz went 6-14 in the SEC Tournament, raising her season batting average to .421 … Making the All-Tournament Team from UF were Barnhill, Lorenz, Sophia Reynoso and Hannah Adams.
UF BASEBALL PROBABLY WILL MISS THE POSTSEASON
Had the Gators (30-23, 10-17 SEC) come away with a sweep over Tennessee (35-17, 12-15 SEC) they probably would have had a shot at making the NCAA Tournament, but dropping two straight 1-run games to lose the series to the Vols most likely means the Gators will miss the postseason for the first time since Kevin O’Sullivan became the head coach. Even if the Gators pull off a sweep at Missouri (34-18, 13-13 SEC) in the final regular season series they would still need wins at the SEC Tournament to get any consideration.
The Tennessee series was just a microcosm of the problems that have plagued UF all season. It wasn’t a case of not enough offense – the Gators scored 21 runs in three games – but the pitching once again couldn’t get people out. Florida’s ERA stands at a whopping 5.40, highest by far of all the years O’Sullivan has been Florida’s coach.
OTHER SPRING SPORTS: The Gators stopped Tennessee, 4-2, Saturday to advance to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tennis Tournament. The #4 seeded Gators (24-3) will face Baylor Thursday at the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona … Despite a 1-2 finish in the 100 meters by Hakim Sani Brown and Raymond Ekevwo, the Gators came up short to LSU in the SEC Track and Field Championships. Grant Holloway ran the fourth fastest 110 meter hurdles time in collegiate history but finished second to Daniel Roberts of Kentucky, who tied the second fastest time in collegiate history (13.07), which Holloway set in the Friday prelims … Over on the women’s side, Yanis David won both the long jump and triple jump to pace the Florida women to a 7th-place finish.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Here is a shocker. John Belein is leaving Michigan to become the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bet the farm on this: Michigan will put the full court press on Billy Donovan to say adios to the NBA and return to college basketball … The NBA Draft will televise its lottery selection Tuesday night with the winner getting the privilege of drafting Zion Williamson … Do you ever get the feeling some color analysts – no matter the sport – are getting paid by the word? As unbearable as it was listening to Beth Mowins call the SEC Softball Tournament Championship, it was made worse by Michelle Smith chiming in with more information than was necessary.