IU’s new south end zone facility an exercise in excellence

The Excellence Academy, the new front door to Indiana University’s athletics campus, is a point of pride for Fred Glass.

Eight years ago, early in his tenure as IU’s athletic director, Glass established the program with a three-pronged approach for developing athletes academically, in their sport of choice, and also in their personal lives.

“The Excellence Academy was sort of my baby from the beginning,” Glass said, “in terms of trying to create a leadership program that would distinguish us.”

Now, the program has a concrete home inside Memorial Stadium’s new south end zone complex along 17th street, filling the new enclosure with a state-of-the-art facility and forming what Glass now dubs IU’s “Circle of Excellence.”

“We have almost 120,000 square feet here all in one place at Memorial Stadium dedicated to those key aspects of developing our kids,” Glass said. “That’s most important for the kids that are here now, but we think that it’ll also be very impressive to people we’re trying to attract to join us.”

The move-in has begun inside the south end zone complex, which is expected to be fully operational for IU athletes by the start of the fall semester next month.

While it gives Indiana an aesthetically pleasing front door plaza to the stadium along 17th street, the full purpose of The Excellence Academy enclosure is geared toward athlete wellness.

There are physician offices, updated training and rehabilitation areas and a new dining hall that will be used by all IU athletes throughout the year.

“It’s a total connector,” Glass said. “It’s a totally accessible, circular thoroughfare that we call the ‘Circle of Excellence’ because we think between the Wilkinson Performance Center (weight room), the Shuel Academic Center and the Excellence Academy that we can develop these kids better than anybody else with those three key areas.”

At the end of a hallway connected to the academic center is the Hancock Hiltunen Caito Center for Leadership and Life Skills, where athletes can take advantage of career counseling, resume development and interview training areas.

Next door, in the Dr. Lawrence D. Rink Center for Medicine and Technology, IU will house advanced equipment for imagery, diagnostics and biometrics.

“Our goal here is to bring technology to bear to help our kids get ready now,” Glass said. “This isn’t a laboratory to make get kids better in 20 years, although that will probably happen, or 10 years, although that will probably happen.”

Also on the ground level of the new facility, IU has expanded its rehabilitation center, where floor-to-ceiling windows allow injured athletes, in particular, to look onto the Memorial Stadium field during training. It’s part of a deliberate design Glass says is geared toward inspiring positivity and hope amid the drudgery of rehab and treatment.

“I’m not sure any place else really has anything like this,” Glass said.

There’s also a new hydrotherapy area that features four hot/cold tubs, a lap pool and an underwater treadmill.

“The treadmill can be set so it can handle really tall offensive linemen and smaller divers and everybody in between,” Glass said. “I think it’s fair to say that this is the latest and greatest and most state-of-the-art hydrotherapy complex in college sports.”

Upstairs, IU is moving its training tables to a new dining room that overlooks the football field. Glass says the new kitchen is twice the size of the old kitchen, and will help with daily meal prep for athletes as well as catering services for big events and concessions. The dining area is adjacent to a president’s suite area, which IU will use as an entertainment space during football games and special events.

The existing Memorial Stadium concourse connects to the third level of the enclosure, the Sample Terrace, which will serve as the new home of Knothole Park, as well as a space for other family activities and food vendors.

A new videoboard has also been installed atop the structure, giving IU boards above both end zones.

“We think this is going to be great for our fans to have not one, but two jumbotrons — Jumbo Sr. and Jumbo Jr.,” Glass said. “We think the total surface of our scoreboards is probably as big as any in the Big Ten and nationally.”

Outside, along 17th street, a new paved and landscaped plaza is in the finishing stages of construction.

“Our donor was very interested in helping to create an environment that would be similar to Showalter Fountain, Sample Gates, the Arboretum here on the athletics campus that’s a natural gathering spot, because I think that’s something we really lacked before.”

While that plaza is geared for public use, the bulk of The Excellence Academy is geared toward improving the college and athletic experiences of the IU athletes.

And for the realization of Glass’ vision for providing a space that helps those athletes realize their potential on and off the field.

“We talk a lot about 24 sports, one team and we have our student-athlete bill of rights,” Glass said. “The Excellence Academy is really the fulfillment of that promise, that we’re not full of baloney, that we’re not just saying that and letting the kids be on their own. We’re actually dedicating tons of resources toward making sure that we develop them personally better than any place else in the country.”

20 comments

  1. This is all great….but where do IU Football fans get treated for chronic depression?

  2. I sincerely believe this is a great new resource that will distinguish IU from a lot of other Universities. I’m glad the investment was made and that the facility was built. However, while this facility is intended to help IU develop young athletes become better and more complete adults/leaders, will it make a significant difference in IU’s ability to recruit better football players, or any other type of athlete? Only time will tell. I guess I’m a bit cynical because it appears that in today’s culture, the best HS football players tend to choose to play for schools that they believe give them the best chance of having a career in the NFL, and that everything else is secondary. Maybe that’s not a fair assessment, and I hope this wonderful new facility really does improve IU’s ability to recruit better athletes for all the right reasons.

  3. will it make a significant difference in IU’s ability to recruit better football players, or any other type of athlete?

    No. It’s window dressing. It will have about as much effect on recruiting as chrome helmets.
    And, in time, there will be diminished emphasis on football because parents will refrain from putting their young children in a high risk category of irreversible brain damage via the findings on repeated trauma/hits/whiplash to the head. How can you treat the long term cognitive punishment the game is doing to so many?

  4. I think the total facilities show that I U has a real interest in the well being of their student athletes. The new dining area is a great improvement , the present dining area is located under the seating area on the West side of the stadium with no windows.

  5. So if I understand correctly, it’ll be another year before the entire project is finished. They’re going to take what is now the dining area and use that space to expand and upgrade the football player’s locker room, player’s lounge, expanded treatment facility, etc. Nice!

  6. Should have made architectural changes to the press boxes/media enclosures on the west upper tier to reflect/complement the changes in exterior design of the ‘Excellence’ additions. I don’t know where they find designers, but they lack in design continuity. It’s beginning to look like one massive hodgepodge …Gothic meets new sleek contemporary…meets existing ’70s dated modern. Just throw in some Frank Lloyd Wright and some ostentatious angel fountains…. Maybe have an angel wearing a giant chrome helmet. A lot of money spent to make Lincoln Logs work with Lego pieces….

  7. Between these facilities and the Cuban Center there are some serious bright and shiny objects to show off to recruits.

    It looks like a pretty solid long game.

  8. I agree these are good improvements and are worthwhile to show off to recruits. I will agree with H4H, they give me the feel of window dressing. These are nice but how do they compare with a 80,000 – 100,000 seat stadium full every Saturday in the fall? I have a feeling the stadium will turn more heads than the new toys on display. Add these shiny new toys to a much bigger and full stadium, it makes a nice tie breaker.

    If you are trying to come up to speed with the rest of the B1G East, wouldn’t having a reputation of an extremely effective player development program be more of a draw for recruits? Remember, getting to the NFL is the goal for most players and especially for the higher levels of talent. No different than any other field of endeavor, you go to the school which presents the best opportunity to get you to the next level or to whatever goal you might have in mind. If the S&C program turns out to be the real deal it will likely have far more impact, at least until the rest of football catches up. It certainly would give a window of opportunity to establish a winning program perception.

    btw, Very interesting article written by Jeff Trotter at espn this week on the 50th anniversary of the Wishbone Offense. I knew it was revolutionary for the time, but didn’t realize how much it transformed college football for that time period. Saved Darrell Royal’s job at Texas after a couple very poor years even though he had won the ’63 national championship. The Wishbone changed the fortune of a lot of other schools as well. I’ve said it several times, if you happen to be on the front end of innovation and know what to do with it, the possibility of transforming even a traditional losing program is not out of the question.

  9. I’m with Chet, “a solid long game”. Student athlete recruits IU cherishes will recognize the benefits they’ll enjoy from these advantages/opportunities IU is offering. Lots of time to shine up press boxes(that ought to really elevate recruiting and/or performance)and add 10-12k more seats. The Excellence Academy is the right move for the program.

    1. I would treat the press like gold…I would give HT a private suite and I would cater in top meals for Don Fischer and crew. The press boxes should be as modern and ‘state of the art’ as anything provided to coaches and players. Though it is the trend of the day, don’t make the press your enemy. The best advertising in the world is from those who travel and cover games as they travel with the team and meet others from local and national papers/media outlets.
      Writers, reporters, journalists, anchors of IU programming possess the gifts of communicating like few can. Treat them like gold and it will comeback threefold.
      But I digress….From a purely aesthetic appeal, the press thingamajig protruding like a sore thumb needs to have the same continuity with the other modern architectural updates. Maybe I’ll work on doctoring up some photos and submit some ideas…

  10. Going after Northwestern and Stanford type recruits? Or those who quite can’t make it at Yale, Harvard, Rose Hulman? IU looking for that highly intelligent player and raising the IU football team IQ. Innovation.

    1. t,
      I only see one flaw in your argument, you are assuming IU is academically considered anywhere near the level of the institutions you mentioned. If you want to pursue that line of thinking I recommend one look at how IU is perceived academically by those on the outside looking in rather than those on the inside looking out.

    2. Really? That is what you think? Certainly didn’t list anything like that in my post. The essence of the plan was this; to have a facility with a visioned, focused and stated purpose other than just to fill the void in the SEZ. Whether Ivy League material or not smart student athletes and supportive parents will identify it for what it is intended. GO IUFB!

    3. Did someone mention Harvard? My Harvard life alert button started flashing….IU’s new football slogan: “I’ve fallen…and I can’t get up.”

  11. Facilities are a significant part of the equation when trying to recruit top athletes. So at the very least, this newly completed “Circle of Excellence” is not going to hurt IU’s recruiting. It will probably help. But I just wonder, given all the money that has been spent on football facilities, dating back to when Fred Glass bought the tallest flag pole in college sports so that he could hang the largest American flag in college sports, if some of the money spent on facilities would have been better spent over the last decade to attract and retain proven head football coaches and top assistant coaches. I just wonder which strategy would have produced the best “Return-on-Investment” for IU Football?

    1. PO- a lot of times, donors are willing to write checks for capital improvements (as opposed to operating costs such as salaries) ’cause the fruits of the donation are concrete (pun intended in the case of this new facility) and are plainly for the betterment of the institution (as opposed to benefiting an individual). Same rationale applies to the Trustees’ vote to spend tax dollars.

  12. Insanity is doing the u old thing for a 100 years and expecting different results. This innovation along with s&c innovation creates a new and different culture of brotherhood. (better more intelligent recruits, solidly committed along with their families, and real opportunity to maximize potential and self actualize as individual players and team/program.

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