Miami making progress in facility upgrades

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami athletic director Blake James has spoken repeatedly about giving his programs the resources they need to succeed.

Progress is being made in that area on the football side. Work continues on the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, with phase I already completed. Miami already has a brand new locker room done, along with a players' lounge complete with couches and flat-screen televisions. Its new academic center for student-athletes is also up and running on the second and third floors.

The locker room is pretty impressive and pretty expansive, designed so every player has a view of the front of the room from their locker. The prominent "U" that used to be in the center of the locker room is now up on the ceiling, so nobody will step on it ever again.

What is not completed yet is the lobby, which will feature tons of Miami memorabilia currently in the school's Hall of Fame and not prominently displayed. Miami has won five national championships, and has two Heisman winners, but none of those trophies are in a lobby for the public to view. That all changes soon.

Miami will display its national awards, All-Americans, ACC trophies from all sports, the Heismans and other national awards that players or programs have won. It will be called the DiMare Gallery of Champions. You can bet that will be a big recruiting tool for the Canes moving forward.

In addition, work is being done right now in placing new Bermuda sod on the practice fields.

"That will give us an incredible surface to practice on," coach Al Golden said. "We’ve made tremendous progress providing our student-athletes nutritional items they need to achieve peak performance, so I think there’s a variety of things Blake has already put in place to allow us to move forward as a program, the least of which is the incredible leadership he’s shown through the whole NCAA ordeal. He’s doing everything that we could want and we’re going into 2013 with all the things we need to be successful."

I asked James about the potential for an indoor practice facility. There are no concrete plans, but it is something he has thought about. There would be significant hurdles toward getting that done, specifically the difficulty in securing building permits in Coral Gables.

"It’s a reality of this environment that that’s something you have for your football program," James said. "Is it in our thoughts? Yeah that’s definitely in our thoughts. There’s a number of things that we have to be thinking about in terms of how do we better our situation for our program? Those are things we’ll continue to roll out over the next few years. There’s all sorts of different things you can look at your program and assess. Some of them we’ll do sooner rather than later, but to answer your question, yes it's definitely in our thoughts."

Whether that becomes a reality or not, James says Miami cannot stop improving its facilities with the completion of the Schwartz Center.

"As I’ve said to our fan base and our alumni base, that’s not the end," he said. "That’s just a step. We’re going to have to take another step and continue to do things. It doesn’t stop because it doesn’t stop anywhere. There isn’t a program in the country, if you went around and surveyed everyone and asked, 'Are you going to do anything for the next five years or are you guys good for five years?' Everyone is going to have something. If you’re not moving forward, everyone’s passing you.

"One of the things we need to make sure, or I need to make sure, we do as a program is continue to move forward. We can’t be in neutral. We will be able to move forward once this NCAA situation is behind us. But at the same time there’s investments we have to continue to make in the program to help us get to a level I believe we can get to, that I know Al believes we can get to, that our fan base wants to see us in."