In the arms race of college football facilities, the Texas Longhorns are falling behind conference rivals and in-state recruiting rivals, but does it matter?
Scott Roussel and Zach Barnett of FootballScoop.com were at Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State in recent days before making the trip down I-35 to check out the state of the Texas football facilities on Thursday. The two then discussed their impressions on a short podcast.
Roussel came away impressed with the stadium and the weight room, but "the facilities are a little bit dated, like Norman."
"It's a lot like Oklahoma," Barnett agreed. "The amount of history, the amount of name-brand players this program has had is staggering. But also like Oklahoma, the facilities aren't gonna really blow you away. They don't want for anything, but they're not going to wow you like an Oklahoma State or an Oregon. So much of what sells UT football isn't UT football -- it's the University of Texas. It's Austin."
Besides the city, the academics at Texas help sell the university to prospects and it's something that the program makes sure is put in stark relief compared to rivals.
"One thing that separated Texas from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State that I think will resonate with certain parents is that they do a better job of touting the academic success they've had," Barnett said. "They've had two Campbell Trophy winners -- the academic Heisman -- in recent years. I credit Mack Brown for that because academics was one of his major initiatives."
UT is far ahead of OU, OSU in promoting academics in its facility. pic.twitter.com/zClqZ2fCB3— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
And, of course, academics remain a major initiative for current head coach Charlie Strong.
Scott believes that the interpersonal skills of Strong can help make up for Texas not having the best facilities in the conference or even in the state of Texas. Here's a look around the those facilities:
The weight room. That quote is everywhere in the facility. pic.twitter.com/8tgSwtaOUE— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
Bret Bielema's favorite graphic at Texas facility. pic.twitter.com/9kscCgE3dO— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
Team meeting room. Not as big as Oklahoma State's, still gets the job done. pic.twitter.com/Oo8OQJ8bIp— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
The locker room. pic.twitter.com/23EPGOHTLh— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
View from the tunnel. The TVs were installed specifically so players could watch pre-game hype video. pic.twitter.com/ORngjaB10M— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
Defensive meeting room. pic.twitter.com/dgYuzzLP12— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
UT is Miami-like in former players' involvement in program. Wall full of signed jerseys. pic.twitter.com/JvlCiFgBcb— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) March 12, 2015
"Facilities are a little bit dated -- that's not that important," Roussel added later during the podcast.
In fact, Strong cautioned against putting too much stock into facility improvements in his own interview with Sirius XM's Camp Tour last fall.
"I'll tell a kid, 'Hey, we have a nice training room but at night you're not sleeping in that training room,'" Strong said. "You're going to go off to your dorm room or go wherever you go.
"If a young man is coming here for a facility he's coming here for the wrong reason," he added. "I want him to come here because he loves the University of Texas. I want him to come here because he wants to get an education, a great degree from a great university and that he wants to play for this great university. That's what it's all about."
Fair enough, but it may also be the case that having impressive facilities is the first step in seriously attracting the attention of a visiting recruit, allowing the staff the opportunity to make a pitch about why a prospect can benefit from playing football at Texas by getting a quality education and becoming a part of the program's storied history.
In the end, though, Strong sounded resigned to the realities of the situation.
"You don't always want to make it about facilities. But that's what it's really coming to."
Those facilities are also about to change.
Dell Medical School plans also show renovations to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, specifically the south end zone, which has something of an unfinished feel still with the bleachers inserted under the Godzillatron.
The gigantic scoreboard is likely to come out during the renovation project that will almost certainly include the construction of more luxury boxes. However, it's not clear at this time whether there is enough demand to increase seating capacity amid difficulties selling out games.
The major recruiting impact will come with the construction of new football offices, as the Moncrief Neuhaus Athletic Complex is apparently set for demolition. Built in 1986 at a cost of $7 million, it's the one major aspect of the Texas facilities that seems obviously dated, though the locker room did receive a facelift in 2011.
The Longhorns will also build a new practice facility since the Indoor Practice Facility -- commonly known as "The Bubble" -- will also make way for the medical school.
The Longhorns are no longer the Joneses of football facilities, but as Roussel says, that may not matter much with the other selling points for the program. And there are upgrades coming.