Mark Jackson, senior associate athletic director at USC who has been involved in the process of the McKay Center since the start, estimated that he and other athletic department representatives visited about 20 universities as well as NFL teams to study what they had to offer before designing the new building. That didn’t include many of the opponents that the Trojans have had on their football schedule in recent years, because USC’s coaches and administrators were already familiar with what those programs had.
“We targeted the places that we thought fit our brand,” Jackson said.
Naturally, donors were needed, and they responded. While there wasn’t one Boone Pickens or Phil Knight at USC, there was a steady flow of check-writers.
The result is one huge two-story (with basement) monument to athletics. At some universities, the facilities are separated by sport: the football program may have its own area, the basketball its own, etc. The McKay Center will be headquarters for all 21 sports, and special attention has been paid both to the successes of all those programs but also Olympic triumphs as well.
And although cynics may chuckle whenever academics are mentioned in connection with big-time college sports, USC’s brass is not among them. The entire first floor of the new center is devoted to academics: computer labs, tutoring rooms, classrooms and more.
To dazzle the young 18-to-22-year-old demographic, there are more flat screens scattered about throughout the building than you might find in your local Best Buy. Each locker has its own iPad. The players’ lounge was designed with input from football players, so it has what you might think they’d demand for down time entertainment and recreation. Outside there is a large patio area with a fire pit for dining and relaxing. A biometric entry system will be in place, requiring a thumb print or handprint to gain access to the building.
“Before we started the project, we thought we were 20 to 25 years behind most of the facilities of the schools we compete against,” Jackson said. “When this is finished, we like to think of ourselves as 10 years ahead.”
That should thrust USC into the lead — until the next major football program orders a significant upgrade of its facilities, which could be any day now.
Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to NBCSports.com. Follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/MichaelVentre44
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Former Penn State President Graham Spanier is asking a county judge to throw out criminal charges accusing him of helping to cover up abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
Check out the action from the postseason.
Check out which players were best of the best at each position.
Check out some of the college football cheerleaders from across the country.