Thoughts of the day: January 19, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning.


While in Auburn today for the Florida-Auburn basketball game, I took the time to drive around the campus to check out one of the nation’s most impressive athletic plants. That got me thinking about the best facilities top to bottom in the Southeastern Conference. This is how I would rate them.

1. ARKANSAS: The Wal-Mart Waltons, Tyson Chicken Tysons and Reynolds Alumninum Reynolds have taken turns ponying up the cash for the SEC’s best athletic complex. Reynolds Stadium, is undergoing a massive face lift that will give the football stadium a much-needed facelift and increase capacity to 77,000. Arkansas gets high marks for Bud Walton Arena, the best basketball arena in the SEC, the nation’s best track facilities and 10,000-seat Baum Stadium, a baseball park that is among the top ten college three baseball parks in the SEC. Barnhill Arena, which used to be the basketball facility, is now used for volleyball and gymnastics.

2. TEXAS A&M: The Aggies will have the best facilities in the league when they finish gutting Kyle Field and rebuilding practically from the ground up at a cost of more than $450 million.  Capacity is set to exceed 100,000. Reed Arena gets high marks for basketball as does Blue Bell Park, where the Aggies play baseball. The indoor track stadium seats 4,200 and the school golf course is outstanding.

3. AUBURN: Auburn gets very high marks for Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn Arena, the Yarbrough Tennis Complex and the Martin Aquatic Center. Jordan-Hare is thought by many to be the best football stadium in the country from a fan’s perspective. Plainsman Park got a $4.2 million facelift about four years ago and it’s a very functional baseball stadium. All the facilities are very fan friendly. Exceptional practice facilities for football.

4. TENNESSEE: Tennessee is burdened with $21 million a year debt service for its $200 million renovation of Neyland Stadium and renovations of Thompson-Boling Arena. Neyland is one of college football’s iconic stadiums and Thompson-Boling rates only behind Bud Walton Arena as the best in the SEC. Tennessee gets high marks for its tennis and swimming facilities. The other facilities are above average. Exceptional practice facilities for football and basketball.

5. ALABAMA: Bryant-Denny Stadium seats more than 100,000. Coleman Coliseum got a massive facelift but it’s not a great facility even though it seats 15,000. Alabama gets high marks for its swimming, track and field and practice facilities for football, basketball and gymnastics. One of the poorer baseball facilities in the SEC. Excellent golf course and the football practice facilities are second to none. Alabama has more than $207 million in athletic department debt.

5. LSU: Tiger Stadium is being expanded to seat more than 100,000. The baseball stadium is the best in the country. LSU has superb indoor and outdoor track stadiums. The Maravich Center got a new roof, but needs some serious indoor renovation. Excellent tennis facility and outstanding football practice facilities (indoor and outdoor). LSU has more than $202 million in athletic department debt.

7. FLORIDA: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is about as big as it can get at 92,000. It got some needed upgrades recently but could still be made a bit more fan friendly. The baseball, softball and lacrosse facilities are outstanding. Florida gets low marks for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, which is in serious need of a planned upgrade and is a terrible venue for indoor track. Soccer and outdoor track share a stadium. The golf course is outstanding. Very average football practice facilities.

8. SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina is going to expand to 88,000 and upgrade Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina gets very high marks for 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena and Carolina Stadium, one of college baseball’s best facilities. The soccer and softball complexes are outstanding. South Carolina gets low marks for its track facilities and for having its venues so spread out.

9. GEORGIA: Georgia gets high marks for Sanford Stadium, which will be expanded to seat more than 100,000 and for its golf and tennis complexes, which rank among the five best in the nation and for the Gabrielson Natatorium. Georgia gets low marks for Stegeman Coliseum and for its baseball facility. The gymnastics training facility is the best in the country. Georgia is moving ahead with plans for an indoor football practice facility.

10. MISSOURI: Faurot Field is going to be upgraded and eventually expanded to seat 90,000. Mizzou Arena seats 15,000 and boasts 26 luxury suites. The aquatic center is outstanding but the baseball stadium is smallish. The rest of the facilities are nothing to write home about although the football and basketball practice facilities are outstanding.

11. KENTUCKY: Commonwealth Stadium is getting its first upgrades in 40 years and will expand to more than 70,000. Rupp Arena is nearly 40 and it’s being debated whether to scrap it and build a new 32,000-seat arena or to renovate. The old Kentucky Coliseum is an outstanding arena for women’s basketball, gymnastics and volleyball. The baseball stadium is the worst in the SEC. Exceptional practice facilities for basketball and an outstanding indoor football practice facility.

12. OLE MISS: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is being expanded to seat more than 68,000 and renovated. The Tad Pad will be replaced by a brand new 9,000-seat basketball arena. Swayze Field seats more than 10,000 for baseball. The rest of the facilities are fairly average. Excellent indoor football and basketball practice facilities.

13. MISSISSIPPI STATE: Davis-Wade Stadium is expanding to more than 60,000 and upgrading throughout. Humphrey Coliseum is good but not great. Dudy-Noble Field can accommodate 15,000 for baseball and the tennis facilities are first class. Very nice indoor football practice facility.

14. VANDERBILT: Vanderbilt Stadium seats only 40,000 and until the past two years, typically had more visiting fans than Vandy fans. Memorial Gym is an icon but the silly team benches in opposite end zones is ridiculous. The baseball stadium is nice. $50 million has been allocated for renovation of all facilities. They’re planning to paint Vanderbilt Stadium. 


Matt Hayes, the highly respected college football writer for Sporting News rates them like this: (1) Texas; (2) FLORIDA; (3) Southern Cal; (4) Alabama; (5) Ohio State; (6) LSU; (7) Notre Dame; (8) Michigan; (9) Florida State and (10) Georgia. Hayes writes: “Want to know why FSU and Miami are thrilled about Florida’s decline? Because no matter what either does, the Gators are the state’s flagship school – with the right coach. All the resources any coach could need right in the middle of the best high school football in America.


I’ve been listening to Van Morrison for nearly 50 years now and he never grows old to me. I’ve heard “Days Like This” live and I’ve got it on CD. It’s one of my favorite songs, probably because there are a lot of days when there aren’t a lot of answers.


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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.


  1. The list of the top coaching jobs looks about right. I thought the list you shared the other day was ridiculous. The only reason FSU makes it in there right now is because of the championship…any other year you could swap them out with Oklahoma.

  2. First, thanks for this column….it starts many folks days. As a Gainesville contemporary, I especially enjoy the “ruminations”. The layout on facility conditions begs for a more investigative follow up —- just how much debt does a University incur to move up that list. The additional costs have been hanging for some time of dropping the tax deductability of contributions, in tandem with “pay for play”. I would think some of these “dream facilities”, along with substantial payouts to coaches no longer there, could put the more aggressively managed departments in bad shape. We also saw comments about how many programs had substantial state government budget allocations. My apologies is this is more in depth that Gatorcountry’s intent, but I thought I’d mention it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained……I’ll bet you a cup of coffee that UF is prepared for that much better than our competing schools.

    • Franz,

      Let me start this by saying I do look forward to your column each day. However, there has got to be some proofreading and editing before it should hit the sight. Take a look at the Arkansas paragraph. It is virtually “un-readable”. It’s not just your column, it seems that the fingers have no sooner hit the keyboard that the send button is pushed and it is on it’s way into cyberspace. Please have someone read over the work before it is sent out. It makes the entire site look bad when there are so many errors on the pages. Thank you!

    • I get the overall vibe that UF has been rather “conservative” during the past 15 years or so with athletic facility spending and that may be our saving grace as we look ahead. I’m really not sure how these other schools that have plans to expand their football stadium expect to fill the seats when you look at the current attendance decline affecting not only college football but all of sports in general.

  3. There was a typo in one sentence, a sentence written at 3 a.m. when I had to stop after traveling to Auburn and trying to return to Gainesville in the same day … it was corrected this morning, but thanks for catching it.