Dec. 15, 2008
By JERRY HILL
Baylor Bear Insider
Try as he might, Baylor football coach Art Briles couldn't quite come up with the words to describe the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center at Friday afternoon's dedication ceremony.
But like the light bulb turning on in the refrigerator, it came to him. "It's crazy good," he said.
That pretty much sums up this 96,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that now serves as the on-campus home for Baylor football. From the heart-monitor computer in the weight room to the underwater treadmill in the training room and from the computer lab in the academic center to the balcony outside of Briles' office that overlooks the grass practice fields, this place is "crazy good."
Baylor formally dedicated the Alwin O. and Dorothy Highers Athletics Complex and Simpson Athletics and Academic Center during a ceremony in the Champions Gallery.
"This isn't just a gift, it's an investment," Briles said. "It's an investment in the student-athletes that go to this great university, and we're just deeply indebted for that. As we're changing the image of Baylor football on the field, we just changed it off the field. This place right here has just changed it."
The Simpson Center is the centerpiece of the Highers Complex, housing the weight room, training room, equipment room, football players' and coaches' locker rooms, an academic tutoring center for all student-athletes and all of the football and athletic administration offices.
"Today's dedication is the reality of a vision that began about five years ago and involved a great many people," said Baylor Athletic Director Ian McCaw. "We've had great support from our donors. We've had over 130 contributors participate in this project. We've had tremendous support from the Board of Regents and university administration and great commitment from our coaches and staff in putting this facility together."
Bob Simpson, co-founder and chairman of the board of XTO Energy Inc. of Fort Worth and a Baylor graduate (BBA '70, MS '71), was the lead-gift donor for the Simpson Center along with his wife, Janice, and XTO Energy.
"When I came to Baylor from the small town of Cisco, Texas, I was told that I would be challenged in college and that I was lucky to be here," Simpson said. "But it turns out that I thrived in this great atmosphere and this great institution. And with this, we give back. To my family, this is our heritage. So cherish this day and these memories . . . because this is our beginning and this is our tradition."
Simpson also credited several people for shaping him and pushing him in his life and particularly his days at Baylor, including former president Dr. Abner McCall, former professors Rod Holmes, James Parsons and Emerson Henke; his mother and father, Carl and Mina Simpson; and close friend and XTO board member Wayne Collins, who "pushed me to perform at a higher level."
He also recognized his brother, Cecil, and his deceased brother, Ken Simpson, who was "green and gold to his very soul. I don't know of a greater fan than Ken Simpson. He's with us in spirit today and I surely know he's here."
After touring the facility before the dedication ceremony, Simpson said he and his wife came away "impressed and awe-struck."
"What a wonderful building!" he said.
In addition to the Simpson Center, the Highers Complex also includes two grass practice fields and will add an indoor practice facility by next August.
The lead gift for the Highers Complex came from the estate of Alwin O. Highers (BBA '39), who was the longtime owner of the Dr Pepper Bottling Co. in Alexandria, La., and a lifetime fan of Baylor athletics. His widow, Dorothy, still lives in Alexandria but was unable to attend Friday's dedication ceremony.
"It's only fitting that this complex be named in honor of these two avid Baylor fans," said interim Baylor University president Dr. David Garland, "and that their legacy has brought the sounds of football back to the Baylor campus. We are so grateful to the Highers and Simpson families and XTO Energy for the generous gifts that make this facility possible."
With the daily football operations moving from Floyd Casey Stadium, this is the first time that Baylor football has been back on campus in more than 65 years.
"It certainly feels great to be back on campus," McCaw said. "Today is a time of celebration. It's a time of expressing our gratitude to all those who made such a great contribution and allowing us to build an absolutely first-class facility for Baylor athletics and for our football program moving forward."
McCaw also credited The BECK Group of Dallas for the construction, the architectural firm of Crafton, Tull and Sparks for the plans, Baylor's Design and Construction Services and athletic administrators Todd Patulski, Tom Hill and Nick Joos, because "they all played important roles in the development in this project. So we appreciate each and every one of them."
"It's wonderful to see the glow on the faces of our student-athletes as they walk in and see this beautiful facility," McCaw said, "and just the excitement that they have for the new home for Baylor football and our athletic program."
As former Baylor cornerback and NFL veteran Gary Baxter put it: "There's nothing stopping us now from competing with Texas and A&M and everybody else in the Big 12."
Although more than 130 individuals and companies have already contributed to the project, there are numerous naming-gift opportunities still remaining. For additional information, contact Rick Darnell at 254-710-2561 or Doug Smith at 254-710-3650.