June 8, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
EUGENE, Ore. - Until now, Todd Harbour has never used facilities as part of his recruiting pitch to some of the best track and field athletes in the country.
"We always felt like who Baylor is, our reputation, the people at Baylor, the Christian environment - those are all the things we really try to emphasize and find athletes that are looking for that," Harbour said.
But without a showpiece on-campus track, "we haven't been able to land the big quarter-miler the last three years; and it's hurt not having one," he said. "Would (a nicer stadium) help you? Would this tip you over the scale? It's possible, because that's the way this generation thinks. I don't think that way. But like (football coach Art Briles) says, `You're in an arms race,' and you're not going to win it, but you've got to stay in the hunt. You've got to at least stay in the ballpark."
The new $13.6 million on-campus track and field stadium that was approved by the Board of Regents last month will put the Bears "in the ballpark" with a "quality facility and a quality experience," said Deputy Athletics Director Todd Patulski.
"We need to have a nationally prominent facility to go with a nationally prominent team," said Patulski, who has served on the NCAA Track and Field Championship Committee for the last five years, including two years as the group's chairman. "And we can have something special."
While most of the funds are already in place for Phase 1, Patulski said, "We still need about eight to 12 people who can make strong gifts and get this project done."
Patulski estimates that $800,000 to $1.5 million is still needed to finish Phase 1 and include a scoreboard, cooling and heating for the indoor training facility and a cover for the stands.
"Those are things that you can chop off if you don't get the additional money," Harbour said, "but we're right there. We're almost to the finish line. We just need a few more that can step up financially and help us do that. . . . I think the feeling is we're here, this is going to happen, it's a reality. But we've still got a little work to do."
A year ago, former track letterman Richard Woodall (BBA '80; MSEco '81) and his wife, Donna, made a significant lead gift. In honor of Richard's father and mother, Lewis and Mary Woodall, the 13,500-square-foot indoor practice facility will be called the Woodall Training Center.
This will be the first time Baylor's track and field program will have any kind of indoor facility. In the past, they have used the concourse level of the Ferrell Center and more recently the Allison Indoor Football Practice Facility for at least limited workouts during bad weather.
"What other sport would ask their athletes to go compete when they haven't even had a chance to compete?" Harbour said. "We've been in a holding pattern for really a good while now with something that we felt like was really critical to taking us to another place. We want to be who we are - Quarter-miler U. - and that's always going to be part of our legacy. But you also want to be more than that. You want a place where coach (Stacy) Smith can coach great jumpers and coach (Danny) Brabham can coach great jumpers and throwers and multi athletes. They all need an area to get indoors sometime in January and February, and even in November and December before you leave, just to work on some technical things."
Additionally, former track letterman David Hodge and his wife, Amy, gave a significant lead gift toward the new track stadium, "and we've probably had eight what I would call gold-medal gifts (of $100,000)," Harbour said.
But there are still "big naming opportunities," Harbour said, for the team clubhouse, the Plaza of Champions and a new training room that's part of Phase 2.
"The Plaza of Champions, as you come in, is where we envision the big donors being recognized in a special way with our Olympic champions and coach (Clyde) Hart)," Harbour said.
With construction expected to begin in August and completed by the following summer, the new track and field stadium will be built on the far east side of the 93-acre Baylor Stadium property and will include a nine-lane track; seating for 5,000 spectators; a 6,000-square-foot team building containing men's and women's locker rooms; a training room, meeting room and equipment space; and the Woodall Training Center.
Harbour said the venue, next to the football stadium, is a perfect site where "track and football will be tied together."
"Briles is a track guy. He loves track," Harbour said of the Bears' sixth-year football coach. "Sometimes, our toughest recruiting is against him, because he grabs (the fastest sprinters). You're like, `OK, we're going to go after this guy and offer him.' And coach Briles has already offered him, which is a good thing. Now, he can tell some of the best sprinters in the country, a guy like (2013 football signee) Kyle Fulks, this is where you're going to run track. You just look out of his office, and there's the track."
Phase 2 of the project, which will cost an estimated $2 million, will include an expanded training facility and coaches' offices.
"I would hate to see us go another five, seven, 10 years without getting that done," Harbour said. "The training room, to me, is going to be one of the biggest selling points to recruits. . . . We're going to have a world-class track program, and we're going to take care of you in a world-class way. This is going to be your home. I know a lot of college programs do that for their athletes, but I don't think anybody does it any better than us."
Among the gold medalists still training at Baylor are Jeremy Wariner and Sanya Richards-Ross, who both work under Hart's tutelage.
"That's a huge deal for your athletes to watch those guys working out every day," Harbour said. "But they're also in the training room before they practice and doing maintenance after practice. And to be able to have it right there, where you walk out of the training room and you're on the track, that's unbelievable."
To make this "dream a reality" and find out how you can help in getting this project past the finish line, contact Greg Davis in the Bear Foundation office at 254-710-8456.
"We have the opportunity to have something really special," Patulski said. "We need those people that love the sport, love what it did for them and ones that are just huge fans of Baylor track, to step up and make this dream a reality, because we're that close."