When Joe Castiglione signed Oklahoma up for the Southeastern Conference, he knew he was going to have to dig deep into the pockets of the university and its boosters to keep up with his new counterparts.
And on Tuesday, the long-time OU athletic director proved he’s ready to do just that, with Oklahoma’s Board of Regents approving over $388 million in athletics projects, including a new $175 million football operations facility.
Student-athlete success center: $75M
Baseball park/facility improvements: $45M
Softball facility improvements: $47.9M
Gymnastics center improvements: $13.75M
Indoor track improvements: $5M
Tennis center improvements: $8.3M
Golf facility improvements: $8.6M
Lloyd Noble Center team suits renovations: $9.5M
Football operations facilities: $175M
The football operations facility is the newest addition to the campus master plan, with the other eight projects being further along in their processes. In December, it was approved for the athletic department to hire an architect for an estimated cost of the facility. Now, the regents have approved the athletic department to hire a construction manager to start planning the $175 million project. Castiglione said the funding is currently underway, with the money coming from a combination of private and other Athletics Department funds.
“With hiring this construction manager that can work hand in hand with the architect to – it’s a much-needed step,” Castiglione said. “We can plan out not only where the facility is going, but how it’s going to work on the site, and obviously the costs and assists in association with what the design will bring. It’s an important step.”
With the student-athlete center being built near the old Bud Wilkinson House, the logical placement of this new football facility would likely be in the area of the John Jacobs Track and Field Complex, located near the Duck Pond parking lot. Castiglione said those details likely won’t be finalized until the next Board of Regents meeting in June.
Castiglione added that this project will not affect Phase II of the west side stadium project, which included a new press box and revamping the seating, similar to the south end zone, which was Phase I.
“We’re engaged with our architect on the feasibility and the timing and how that will all work and working on a transition plan for that will come forward at a later board meeting,” Castiglione said.
As for what the new east-side facility will include, Castiglione said it will be a “comprehensive football operations facility” that will include two new practice fields.
“Everything you could think of, some of which exist in the current facility we’ll have to build over in the new facility,” Castiglione said. “Some of the items in our current facility and we continue to be there and operate for the rest of the teams that use them on a day-to-day basis. But everything from practice fields to strength and conditioning, training, recovery, nutrition, dining areas, meeting rooms, locker rooms, in a variety of different elements that serve and help the sport.”
It’s likely OU’s facility will somewhat replicate football facilities that have been built across the country. This sort of project is something many major programs have undertaken. Texas A&M approved a $200 million football and athletics project in April 2022. Georgia finished an $80 million upgraded football facility in July 2022. Florida recently finished an $85 million football facility in January. And Clemson finished a $55 million project in 2019 when Brent Venables was the defensive coordinator.
Venables, who is now entering his second offseason as OU’s head coach, has been pushing for facility improvements since he was hired. And he knows what the best looks like.
“My expectation is we provide the best home-field advantage in college football,” Venables said April 19, 2022. “That we have the best uniforms, that we have the best locker room, we have the best equipment, we have the best elite recovery, we have the best nutrition, we have the best strength and conditioning coaches, we have the best Xs and Os, we have the best development, we have the best apartments, we have the best overall facility in college football.”
Castiglione said they will look at other schools’ football facilities to ensure Oklahoma is among the best in college football.
“Comparative analysis is always part of it,” Castiglione said. “Sometimes you all frame it as ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ – I don’t think it’s that as much as it is the quest to recruit the best and the brightest is as competitive as it’s ever been. And it’s an entirely new landscape… So we have to provide a comprehensive approach that makes Oklahoma the most attractive destination for the best and the brightest. Facilities are definitely part of that. And they always will be.”
“Keeping up with the Joneses” – or, in this case, keeping up with their new SEC rivals – and the “quest to recruit the best” goes hand-in-hand for Oklahoma. This project, along with the raises for a coaching staff that went 6-7 last season, is a signal that Castiglione and the university are gearing up for their move to the SEC in 2024 and believe in the current direction of the program.
And they’re proving their pockets are deeper than maybe some anticipated, and they’re not afraid to dig deep into them, ensuring they have all the resources to not only compete in the toughest conference in football but win.
“We do what we think is best for the University of Oklahoma,” Castiglione, “knowing what we’re trying to do to put our program in a position to compete for championships.”