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State of the Program: BYU has the necessary facilities, but is it time for an upgrade?

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BYU was once ahead of the curve when it came to facilities. Should they try and keep pace with others?

Wisconsin v BYU Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

As we inch closer to the football season with each passing day, Vanquish the Foe will be here to give you in-depth analysis in our new series State of the Program. Once a week we’ll take a closer look at a specific aspect of BYU’s football program (including everything from recruiting to attendance trends) and evaluate where the program currently stands and where they might be heading. This week we’ll take a look at BYU’s football facilities.

Imagine the year is 2003.

George W. Bush is in his first presidential term, the Florida Marlins are World Series champions and and 50 Cent had us all singing “go shawty, it’s your birthday”, even though it was unlikely that it was anyone’s actual birthday. We were a country trying to wrestle with a complicated war in the Middle East and 3 Doors Down was a wildly popular musical group. In short, it was a hell of a time to be alive.

What’s even more surprising, at least from where we stand now, is the fact that BYU was at the forefront in the very early stages of what is now a full-blown football facilities arms race.

Thanks to $30 million in construction costs (and an additional $19 million raised as a maintenance endowment) the Cougars had a brand new indoor practice facility and a student center that would essentially be the hub for all things football. It was a huge step forward for then athletic director Val Hale and football coach Gary Crowton, and seen as a major factor to help in the recruiting effort. It helped the athletic program overall by easing the burden on a very crowded Smith Fieldhouse and gave the football team a perfectly centralized training facility that put the practice fields, weight room and offices on the same block.

Fast forward to the present and BYU still has the same great facilities, but they’re still pretty much that. The same.

Over the years, the athletic department has done a nice job of maintaining the Indoor Practice Facility and the Student Athlete Building with small upgrades. In 2016, they added a 2,500 square-foot expansion to the weight room and they also “re-sodded” the turf in the Indoor Practice Facility so that it’s one whole field as opposed to two 50-yard pieces. They were essential updates that were absolutely beneficial to the football program but didn’t warrant major attention.

While BYU got out of the gate fast in the arms race, they were quickly outpaced by their P5 brethren who were busy spending twice as much on gaudy football shrines. If you want to waste a solid half hour by wallowing in pure jealous go ahead and watch the tours of the facilities at Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and the crown jewel of them all, Clemson. It’s not fair to compare BYU to these schools and their Power 5 payouts and absurd budgets, but it’s the reality they’re competing against.

So as we consider BYU Football and the current state of the program, is it necessary that they start planning their next major upgrade?

In terms of necessity, a major renovation to a serviceable set of facilities shouldn’t be a priority. Ideally, Tom Holmoe has a 5, 10 and 20 year plan for all of the properties of BYU athletics and eventually he’ll put the wheels in motion to make sure fundraising is planned. It’s probably not something that will happen in the next five years but don’t be surprised if it’s within ten, at which point both buildings will be 25 years old.

If we take a step back and look at BYU athletics as a whole, the football program might be the beneficiary of the next major project. Over the course of the last decade many of the sports have benefited from some major work to their playing and practicing areas. The basketball team just recently finished a solid upgrade across the board with the Marriott Center Annex along with a facelift to the Marriott Center itself, including new seating and scoreboards. The baseball program unveiled a brand new heater field that allows for the team to play even after some of the surprise spring snowstorms. Even the swimming team will be getting a brand new pool this summer in the Richards Building.

The only potential projects for the athletic department outside of football would be upgrades to Robison Stadium, the home of BYU Track & Field, or an overhaul of the Smith Fieldhouse. While the building itself is dated, the Smith Fieldhouse has been renovated in pieces over the course of its history. Also a large scale renovation might mean losing one of the best home-court advantages in collegiate volleyball.

Even with all of the other programs in a good place, BYU shouldn’t rush to spend money on a gaudy football shrine. Trying to compete with the likes of Ohio State and Georgia will remain a futile task as their seemingly limitless cashflow will always provide the opportunity to something bigger and more technologically advanced. BYU has what they need for now and when the time comes they’ll make a modest update.

The college football fanatic in me wants to see BYU build a massive football kingdom into the side of Y Mountain, complete with a campus-connecting tunnel system using Elon Musks Hyperloop technology. The realist, however, is glad that they are looking to build the program on personnel. Spending money to beef up the coaching ranks will do much more for a program than a shark tank and 100,000 square foot locker room will ever do.

When BYU does decide to make some changes, I would advocate for thinking beyond giant whirlpools and game rooms. BYU is a unique place and as such they should seek to set themselves apart with something other schools wouldn’t think to offer.

Unique and creative ideas take shape in many different ways buy my wild suggestion would be to take advantage of the landscape build a mountain training complex up Heber Canyon. While there are obvious advantages to having everything on campus, offering a second training home in the quite of Wallsburg (or even Aspen Grove) would be a peaceful getaway for the players to either train Rocky 4 style or partake in the beautiful scenery.

One of the highlights of BYU’s major recruiting weekends is a trip up to the mountains for snowmobiling. What if they could have that same experience on a regular basis? For now I’ll choose to ignore the disadvantages (travel back and forth, cost, etc) and instead focus on defensive lineman doing bear crawls up the side of a mountain. Obviously other schools could try and replicate the idea of an off-campus training building but very few could do it in such a perfect location.

Until that day, BYU will be best served to make modest updates and build their program in other ways.

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Check out our previous “State of the Program” article below.

Coaches: New BYU Football coaches provide a new sense of urgency