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Athletics: Facility upgrades would aid coaches – Build it, Hudspeth believes, and they will come

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, Feb. 9, 2014

Every college football recruit has different desires, different needs.

The biggest often is different for each one.

For some, it’s playing with a winner. For others, it’s tube time. Some need to know they’ll be seen by NFL scouts. Others want a bond with the coaches recruiting them.

It’s a myriad list.

“I think it depends on the kid,” UL coach Mark Hudspeth said after introducing his 2014 class on National Signing Day last Wednesday.

“I think every kid is different … whether it’s early playing time, whether it’s competing at a high level, whether it’s having the opportunity to play on national TV. Maybe it’s staying close to home. Maybe it’s great facilities. And, then, obviously, everybody likes to be a part of a winning program – a team that goes to bowls, teams that win bowl.”

With three New Orleans Bowl victories in the last three years and plenty of appearances on ESPN networks in that span, UL has had little trouble meeting those most of those wants.

What they do not have, however, is something that really does mean a lot to certain prospects: Proper facilities.

But they’re on their way.

So they say.

Tier 1 of UL’s multi-tiered, $115 million athletic masterplan includes 5,900 new end zones seats at Cajun Field that will pave the way for future stadium expansion, plus a 70,000-square-foot, $12-plus million athletics practice facility that will house a new locker room, players’ lounge room, weight room, trainers’ and medical facilities, coaches’ offices, equipment room, team meeting room, position meeting rooms and even a hydrotherapy room.

The Cajuns introduced the plan, with much fanfare, last March.

Almost a year later, however, the only turning of dirt was done during a made-for-TV ceremony during halftime of a game season that was aired nationally on one of the ESPN networks.

UL officials say work in earnest should begin soon, perhaps even sometime this month. They have not said precisely when, though an announcement of some sort could be coming soon.

A supervisory management company, Atlanta-based Carter USA, was selected last week to oversee the project’s Louisiana-based general contractor, The Lemoine Company.

When its contract was awarded, Carter issued a statement saying Cajun Field “expansions and improvements (are) set to be completed in the fall of 2014” and that “remaining components,” presumably including the athletics practice facility and nearby soccer/track renovations, “are scheduled to be delivered in mid-2015.”

The Cajuns originally hoped to have the building ready for National Signing Day in February of 2015, but Hudspeth said last week that it should be completed by “next spring.”

Whenever it is finished, however, won’t be soon enough for Cajun football coaches who know just how big of a boost it will be to recruiting.

“We’re very happy with where we are right now. We’ve got one of the best indoor (practice fields) in the entire Southeast,” UL assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Reed Stringer said. “But I think once we get the new locker room, add on to the stadium, the new team room, that’s gonna allow us to go after an even higher-caliber guy.

“Some of these guys we might have lost here in the last year or two really liked some programs that maybe, perception-wise, people might think might be better.

“I think (the new facility),” Stringer added, “will help us keep those guys, or maybe flip them at the end.”

Stringer is not alone.

“Before we were sort of selling the dream, in Year 1,” said Hudspeth, who was hired by UL less than two months before 2011’s National Signing Day. “Selling the dream of, ‘Hey, we’re gonna compete for championships, we’re gonna win bowl games.’

“Now that dream has come to fruition. And now we’re selling (that) we’re fixin’ to build a brand new football state-of-the-art facility – and that’s the next step that will aid us in recruiting in the future.”

Build it, Hudspeth firmly believes, and they will come.

“Right now, we think our program is pretty attractive,” he said. “And once we get this facility finished next spring, I think we’ll be as attractive as anybody in the country – because we’ve done some things, in three years, to take this program to a whole new level.

“And now, I think, with this new facility, that’s gonna be that final step that helps get to where we want to get to.”