Maryland athletic director Damon Evans, who recently announced an ambitious fundraising plan to improve a variety of athletic facilities around campus, says the Terps are, in some respects, “woefully” behind their Big Ten counterparts in that area — but the school has a head start on fundraising for a couple of facilities in particular.
On Jan. 9, Maryland detailed its hopes for improved facilities for soccer, track and field, golf, softball, baseball, women’s lacrosse and field hockey. It also announced plans to renovate Gossett Hall, which currently houses the football team but will accommodate new programs once the football team moves to Cole Field House. The football team’s move is scheduled for the winter of 2020.
The newest announcement comes after taking on projects in recent years and months to build up the football and basketball programs. In October, Evans announced a fundraising campaign for the $36 million Basketball Performance Center, which will house the men’s and women’s hoops programs.
In August 2017, Maryland reopened Cole Field House as an indoor football practice facility. An in-progress expansion will allow Cole to house the entire football program and the Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance, a research center that will focus on head injuries. The new Cole was originally billed as a $155 million project but ballooned to $210 million in 2019.
The entire effort, from Cole Field House all the way down, has been dubbed “Building Champions.”
“In some areas, we need to catch up. In some of our areas, we’re woefully behind our Big Ten counterparts and when you look at the landscape of intercollegiate athletics,” Evans said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 9. “[On Jan. 8], I stated in my address, ‘When we moved into the Big Ten, we moved into a more expensive neighborhood.’ When you look at some of the facilities that our Big Ten counterparts have, we’ve got to step up the game.”
Evans said the facility upgrades announced Jan. 9 will cost $25 million. Evans added that the athletic department refinanced some of its debt in order to lower its annual debt payments in order to free some cash to funnel toward its new facilities, which he called “one of the main parts of the strategy.”
Evans is also hoping an effective fundraising campaign can defray some of the cost, and Maryland has already gotten a spark in that regard. Evans said the school has secured $500,000 for naming rights for the new baseball development center and $800,000 toward the renovated women’s lacrosse and field hockey facility.
However, the best long-term revenue drivers for the school would be football and men’s basketball programs that are able to fill Maryland Stadium and Xfinity Center, respectively. Football, in particular, can be a cash cow, but the Terps are 41-70 since 2011 and have qualified for a bowl game just once in the past five years. That means empty suites and seats on game day.
“When basketball and football are successful it drives more revenue, and then that revenue is able to provide more resources for all of our other sports,” Evans said. “When basketball and football are doing well — and if you take a look, they drive the majority of the television revenue and the majority of the revenue for our department — but fans tend to get excited. When they’re excited about those two sports, they even become more excited about the athletics department in totality and that includes all of our sports.”
For some of the non-revenue sports on campus, the lack of ideal facilities has simply been a speed bump on the way to prominence. Women’s lacrosse has won five national championships since 2010; men’s lacrosse won the title in 2017; men’s soccer won championships in 2008 and 2018, and field hockey won five titles from 2005-2011.
That said, those sports could still use facility upgrades. Men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski has long pined for a soccer-specific stadium; his team currently shares Ludwig Field with the track and field program.
“… I believe as the administration we have to uphold our end of the bargain as well,” Evans said. “You can’t ask teams, you can’t ask coaches and student-athletes to go out and do things and not give them the resources to do so. I’m pleased with the fact that we have some programs here that have been at the top of their game and they don’t have some of the resources that other institutions have.”
Upgraded facilities would also give the school’s coaches another tool in recruiting as well.
“We’re in an arms race. Let’s not forget about that in the world of intercollegiate athletics,” Evans said. “When you recruit students, they like bright, shiny toys, and we need to have some more bright, shiny toys.”
To hear more from Evans, including why he supports the NCAA’s decision to allow student-athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics