The University of Southern California announced on Tuesday the opening of their new $70 million McKay Football Center.
The center is named after legendary Trojans coach John McKay who created a football dynasty between 1960 and 1975 collecting four National Championships along the way.
USC boasts that, “the 110,000-square-foot athletic and academic facility is a powerful symbol of the rich Trojan history."
And the path blazed for future greatness at The exterior design, described as "Collegiate Romanesque," fits in with the rest of campus.
While the interior is modern and edgy filled with glass windows that provide a bright, open air feel.
The building houses meeting rooms, coaches' offices and a locker room for the football program, as well as the Stevens Academic Center (including space for tutoring, counseling, study and computer rooms for student-athletes), a weight room, an athletic training room and a state-of-the-art digital media production facility for all of USC's 21 sports.
The centerpiece of the McKay Center is the two-story video board in the Parker Hughes atrium, which can display six big screen televisions.”
What USC’s press release doesn’t mention is the underground weight room and practice field as well as every locker boasting a video screen so athletes can presumably watch tape of their opponents or messages from coaches as they dress out.
With the opening of the building, USC continues a trend that includes other notable football powers like Alabama, Tennessee, and Utah in a battle of one-upmanship to snag the highest rated recruits coming out of high school or junior college.
However, while USC says the new facilities are nominally available to all the student athletes, in reality the McKay Center is a castle built on the funds generated by football and exclusively for the use of the football team and staff.
It’s no secret that football players at major universities are treated with deference akin to royalty and considering the millions of dollars they cause to flow into college coffers, is understandable.
Perks include fully-paid tuition (which at USC is nothing to sneeze at) special housing and meals, access to otherwise filled classes, special tutoring and more. But is such treatment and passage to luxuries fair to the rest of the student body?
USC particularly is in a unique position due to the compact size of its campus and location in the center of a major city. Field space is at a premium and thanks to Title IX restrictions that require equal numbers of men’s and women’s teams, many sports have been relegated to club status.
Club status means these teams receive little or no money from the university, coaches work on a volunteer basis, and finding a place to play games or practice often requires travelling far from campus.
Alum would be horrified if such a situation existed with their favorite gridiron team. Of course, club athletes at USC have no access to the amenities at the McKay Center and must fend for themselves.
Take the USC Men’s Rugby program for example. Made up of dedicated young men who perhaps were a bit too small or too slow to get a football scholarship, who still seek out the excitement of competition and the camaraderie that results from teamwork.
The team has been coached by Dave Lytle for over 20 years. Lytle is a USC alum, a former rugby player and a former USC Trojans football player. Dave bleeds cardinal and gold and through his hard work, devotion and connections within the university has managed to have the USC Rugby team compete on campus only a handful of times during his tenure and once as part of the halftime presentation at a football game.
There’s only one thing Lytle loves more than USC Football and that’s USC Rugby. Do you think he wouldn’t want his athletes to share in a little piece of the McKay Center pie? If they did, would they be a better team and a more cohesive unit?
The progression toward greater more glorious football stadiums and training comforts is in no danger of disappearing as college and even high school football becomes more popular and generates even more money.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with providing the best for college athletes, but doesn’t it seem as if someone must be getting the short end of the stick?
Could at least some of those funds be used to benefit students in need of a different athletic experience or even something as simple as a college education?
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