The Santa Clara Athletic Department’s lack of transparency regarding a $40 million facility has the campus community questioning logistics and funding
April 5, 2018
Santa Clara’s campus has been crowded with bulldozers and builders throughout the past year. There is seemingly no end in sight for the university’s construction projects, especially as the Athletic Department looks to break ground on a new facility.
The “Athletic Excellence Building” or AEB, as women’s soccer Head Coach Jerry Smith calls it, is a somewhat underground project, spearheaded by a group in the university’s Athletic Department.
According to Smith, the building is necessary due to the athletic department’s current lack of training, conditioning and practicing space for its 18 Division I sports teams.
He explains that the Leavey Center, Santa Clara’s current athletic facility, has become increasingly difficult to schedule and share with so many other teams.
“The teams can’t fit in [the current weight room], so what you end up doing is a lot of stuff in the hallways,” Smith said. “This touches on issues of student athlete welfare, treatment of injuries and just not having the right equipment. We need more. Our space will be much bigger.”
The AEB, which is planned for construction next to the Leavey Center—by taking over three of the tennis courts—has been a topic of conversation amongst coaches and student athletes for over two years.
The department’s only setback is the lack of funding, which is said to come entirely from university donors.
“The fundraising for the building is not done, and fundraising has to be done to get a permit,” Smith said. “But, we have already met with the city of Santa Clara and we are confident that the permitting process will go smoothly; we are very close.”
According to Smith, the Athletic Department has sent a multitude of requests to potential donors. If even one or two agree to donate, the department will hit their fundraising goal.
Yet, many students and faculty at Santa Clara have yet to hear of this $40 million project that has been in the works for years.
“I had heard of [the facility], but only in the sense that the Athletic Department was hoping to build it, I never heard of it through any official channels,” communication professor Michael Whalen said. “As one of the faculty members who really attends the sporting events, I am actually all for building a stronger athletic program. But I think it’s a terrible idea when anyone at the university doesn’t make their plans totally transparent.”
Some student athletes have even been anticipating this building for a few years.
“When I was being recruited for baseball, [the Athletic Department] showed us this super detailed video and talked a lot about a new facility they were planning on building,” sophomore baseball player Michael Praszker said. “It was a big topic while recruiting and they seemed to have a pretty firm grasp of what they had planned.”
According to Praszker, his team and many others struggle for space in the weight and training rooms.
Although he does not believe that he will be here before the building’s construction is completed, he explains that it will improve Santa Clara’s athletic presence due to its stateof-the-art amenities.
Smith agrees with Praskzer, claiming that “the new building will have bigger and better strength and conditioning area, bigger and better training area, a better academic center, study area, offices and a fueling station. It will also be a huge recruiting draw for all teams.”
Potentially the most important aspect of this new facility is a new basketball practice court. Scheduling for the Leavey Center court has been particularly difficult for the teams who use the only court on campus.
In fact, drawing recruits is the most notable reason to build this facility. Its new amenities will be a large talking point to potential athletes, not just an improvement for those currently here.
“When we got our new soccer building a few years back, it was a huge draw for future recruits, it really changed the game,” Smith said.
While Smith’s women’s soccer team will not have much use for the new court, he is particularly excited about the facility’s “fueling station,” a small area for student athletes to use their Santa Clara dining plan to purchase food. Smith explains that his team practices from noon to two every Monday, Wednesday and Friday because that works best for their players’ academic schedules.
“I hate the time and wish that I didn’t train at that time—the reason being food,” Smith said. “It’s really awkward for the players. Our girls, even the ones that have a meal plan, can’t even get lunch, they won’t have time.”
The “fueling station” along with study areas and academic advisor offices in the AEB, will allow student athletes to have everything they need in one place. This touches on a worry students have expressed regarding the AEB. While Smith describes this as strictly positive, the facility could entirely segregate athletes from the rest of the student body.
“One of the best parts about our school is that the athletes are always around other students, unlike bigger schools,” sophomore and former baseball player Wylie Lowe said. “I just think [that] having a food area, and an academic study area, in there will completely get rid of that atmosphere.”
Whalen expresses similar opinions. He believes that a project this big should be available to all students at a school with only 5,000 undergraduate students.
“One of the biggest issues is that the Athletic Department doesn’t properly integrate itself with the public,” Whalen said, “Even as a communication professor, I have tried to integrate our department with athletics and propose live streaming games by working with film students, but the Athletic Department has never expressed interest.”
Student athletes and coaches have shown little concern regarding the separation of athletes from the student body, and while some are willing to share the information and opinions they have, secrecy still lures around the complex.
Those who have been willing to speak up have made it clear that this facility is nothing short of detrimental to the program’s success. This has driven the community to question the lack of transparency further.
“If the Athletic Department truly needs this building, they should have released information about it sooner,” sophomore Elizabeth Klicpera said. “The fact that they haven’t said anything about it for over two years makes it seem like they are doing something wrong when they probably aren’t.”
The athletic sector of Santa Clara and those who are not involved in athletics have developed conflicting opinions regarding the facility. Now, with a lack of transparency and a social segregation of athletes, much of the university’s faculty and student body has been ostensibly left in the dark.
Contact Olivia DeGraca at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.
Correction: An earlier version of this story featured quotations from some sources who commented for a class project and were not aware they were speaking for publication in The Santa Clara. Those quotes should not have been used and have been removed. The Santa Clara sincerely regrets the error.