Steven Potter is the deputy editor and former sports editor of The Universe. The following represents his opinions about the Marriott Center Annex.
BYU announced plans to renovate and upgrade the Marriott Center, home of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, university forums and other school events Feb. 10. The plans included three major changes/upgrades: 8,000 new padded seats in the lower bowl, state-of-the-art LED scoreboards and a training facility attached to the east side of the stadium.
The university repeatedly stated that the proposed plans—scheduled to begin this summer—are tangible evidence of BYU’s commitment to its fans, and more especially, the players. Men’s head coach Dave Rose mentioned that future players are expecting the new training facility, and that completing the project is essential.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this is bigger news than you think.
It’s easy to brush off Rose’s comments that this will “enhance recruiting”, as he stated in the press event; those that are committed to BYU because it’s privately owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are going to come regardless of facilities. And why would a top recruit—even if they were Mormon—choose BYU over other top D1-programs when they could get better coaching and training at Duke (Jabari Parker) or Kentucky?
The privately-funded stadium (that’s right, not a dime from the university), is overhauling basketball all on the hinges that it will “advance recruiting” and create an environment that can one day hold its own with the best college basketball has to offer, which is an admirable goal.
The Cougars got a taste of it as recently as four years ago in the Jimmer Fredette era. But the fact is, a talent like Fredette, a scorer like Tyler Haws and triple-double animal like Kyle Collinsworth are few and far between in BYU hoops, and desperate measures had to be taken to compete.
Equipped with a training room with hydrotherapy, a study room, a strength and conditioning center and a hall of honors, BYU’s preparing a pretty good pitch to potential recruits that aren’t in the “I’ve-always-wanted-to-go-to-BYU” camp, and those in the “how-is-BYU-a-better-option-than-Duke” camp. Truth is, BYU doesn’t hold a candle to Duke, but that doesn’t mean the proposed improvements won’t change BYU basketball forever.
Fan commitment is why these changes matter. Not the fans benefitting, but the fans donating. Donors are sick of excuses. A new facility and state-of-the-art amenities mean the fans/former players are serious. Dave Rose signing a five-year contract extension at the same time this announcement was made means he’s serious. This should be good sign in recruiting.
Fence sitters, deciding between Utah, Utah State and BYU now have to consider the upgrades. Sure, Utah is bigger, has no honor code and plays in the Pac12. Utah State has the Spectrum and a history of fan participation. But now BYU is going full-on state-of-the-art, and committing—at a university that is widely-known as academic first—to its current players and future commits.
The fans need this, the players need this and BYU needs to show that if they want to beat Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s or Duke, for that matter, are going all in. Expect the Cougars to compete in years to come; Eric Mika will be back, T.J. Haws will make his entrance and recruits that Rose said are “expecting” these facilities, will have an impact. Think of this as the BYU community dedicating itself to the school. Privately funded; it’s can’t be repeated enough. For a change, the school is letting the alumni/former players/fans’ money do the talking. So let’s not say, “This won’t change anything,” because it changes everything.