CHICAGO – Anytime Gophers coach Jerry Kill was asked about practice facilities during this week’s Big Ten Media Days, he stressed the importance of pushing forward on the University’s recently unveiled $190 million athletic facilities plan.
“Right now, we’ve got a beautiful stadium, a great place to play on Saturdays,” Kill said. “But we have to improve our practice facilities, strength training and academic facilities. This is a critical project for us.”
Last year, ESPN.com ranked the Gophers football practice facilities as the fourth-worst in the Big Ten. Minnesota ranked ahead of Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern, but Wisconsin has since finished a major upgrade, and Northwestern is close to breaking ground on a $220 million upgrade.
Asked Wednesday if the Gophers have had a recruit tell them that he was picking another school due in part to facilities, Kill said, "It happened about three or four weeks ago. He pretty much said, ‘Coach, I love you and the camaraderie on your staff, the longevity. I love everything about you, love your school. But boy this other school, it’s just hard. They’ve got all this stuff,’ That’s how kids are.”
Coaches can’t mention recruits by name, but Kill could have been referring to J.C. Hassenauer, the center from East Ridge who committed to Alabama last month. The Crimson Tide have won three national titles in four years and boast some of the more lavish practice facilities in college football.
The Gophers’ new $190 million plan would provide new practice facilities for football, basketball and several other sports. The plan calls for the facilities to be phased in over the next six to eight years. For now, the Gophers are doing a fundraising feasibility study. Athletics Director Norwood Teague and Kill both spoke to Chicago-based alumni on Wednesday night.
Asked how soon the Gophers could break ground, Kill said that’s a question for Teague.
“I told him, ‘You need to get a shovel in the dirt before we start camp [Aug. 2],’" Kill said. "I know I’m very aggressive. He called me a pit bull yesterday. We need to get things going. Time’s essential in life, and we don’t need to waste any getting it done.”