USC Recruiting

How a lingering negative in recruiting vanishes with USC’s new operations center

Five things that stand out about USC’s football operations building

South Carolina's new Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center has state-of-the-art amenities. The State's Josh Kendall highlights some key parts of the new building.
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South Carolina's new Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center has state-of-the-art amenities. The State's Josh Kendall highlights some key parts of the new building.

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp was standing in the middle of his team’s palatial new operations building when he laid out a primary perk of the $50 million project.

He was at the front of a defensive meeting room, looking up at steep rows of leather seats with the team’s various slogans built into the walls.

“In the recruiting process, you always know as a school and a program the positives and the negatives that you have,” Muschamp said. “The negative we had was a fractured facility. That’s no longer an issue. We’re not outdated anymore. That’s just one less obstacle, and it was a big obstacle for us to overcome. It’s what recruiters at other schools can take shots at. And they can’t take that shot anymore.”

The explanation for the arms race in college athletics always comes back to recruiting. Part of the reason places such as Alabama and Oregon became what they were was the majestic buildings that helped impress high school players, the kind the staff wanted to build a program on.

Muschamp and the staff have already had a few big recruiting weekends since the Cyndi and Kenneth Long Family Football Operations Center was finished at the start of January. The early reviews have been favorable.

“In the recruiting process, it’s helped us with young men we’ve had on campus and their families,” Muschamp said.

He said there was no one thing that drew the most praise. The weight room, nutrition and players lounge were among the different things that appealed to different recruits.

The geography of South Carolina’s football operations has been spread out.

Football offices were in a different part of Williams-Brice Stadium from the weight room. USC athletics director Ray Tanner pointed out the staff and players often weren’t even passing one another in the hallways. If players were doing conditioning in the indoor facility, it meant someone leaving Williams-Brice, stopping traffic on Bluff Road and taking a tram ride or walk across Gamecock Park. (That was also how practice worked.)

Then there are the amenities. The players’ lounge has a barber shop, a pop-a-shot basketball game and a recording studio. (Muschamp said one player was in the studio until 4 a.m. one night, prompting some limits to be set.) There are plush meeting rooms, the full nutritional station and a massive weight room with ceilings high enough to fly a drone and a sound system that compares to a small basketball arena.

Strength coach Jeff Dillman both runs that room and plays his own role in the recruiting process, and he has a perspective watching all this change go through.

“When they were coming to visit at Williams Brice, I would always tell them, ‘You like bells and whistles, well guess what, we’re building it,” Dillman said. “Now, ‘If you like bells and whistles, we’ve got bells and whistles.’ But it doesn’t matter about bells and whistles. It’s how you use it. That’s what this is for.”

USC is closing in on the end of the 2019 recruiting cycle. The class is in the low 20s in the 247Sports Composite rankings and could jump a little more if a pair of coveted prospects pick South Carolina.

They’ll be the last class sold on the idea of the bells and whistles. The next will be the recruited with concrete reality.

After all, the big, shiny building is central to that mission.

“It’s for recruiting,” Dillman said. “It’s the first thing we told all the architects. Coach said, ‘When a young man walks in, they need to be wowed.’ That’s what this is. It’s got the wow factor.”

See all the bells and whistles in the Gamecocks' new Long Family Football Operations Center in this 360 video.