CLEMSON - Almost since the day he stepped on campus, Clemson head football coach Tommy Bowden has preached the necessity of facilities upgrades.
As major college football programs in this region fight for top football talent, sometimes the latest state of the art training complex can sway a player toward a particular school. Maybe it's a plush locker room, or perhaps a weight room stocked with equipment pushing the very edge of today's technology.
Whatever it is, Clemson's facilities have been lacking for some time, Bowden has said. And when Duke - a university which is the epitome of the term "basketball school" - recently dropped $22 million for a new football complex, eyes began to open around the Atlantic Coast Conference.
And now, with an athletic director on board who shares his vision, Bowden can finally see things being accomplished.
It began with recent upgrades to the Tigers' locker room at Memorial Stadium, the weight room in the Jervey training facility, and the football offices at the McFadden Building.
Friday, after weeks of preparation, the next step got underway as crews began installing artificial turf on one of fields at the Jervey Athletic Center.
For Bowden, it's an important step forward.
"Schools all over are upgrading their facilities, so we can't be left behind," he said Friday. "You take those four things and add to it the fact that we'll be breaking ground on the West End Zone project in about six months, and we're definitely headed in the right direction."
Bowden said he and athletic director Terry Don Phillips first discussed the idea sometime in 2003, but the project really began to take form, ironically enough, near national signing day back in February. Once Phillips and associate AD for facilities and grounds Robert Rickets worked out the details, work on the project began in earnest back in the spring.
The project cost has been estimated at near $300,000.
But for Bowden, the return will go well beyond any dollar figure pinned on the project.
"I was down in Auburn not too long ago and happened to see the practice field they have down there. With the end zones done up and the big symbol at midfield it really stands out," he said. "I saw a picture of Georgia's, and it was the same thing. It's a great recruiting tool."
But beyond that, Bowden said, the practical use of the artificial surface will allow the Tigers to make up practice time it has lost in the past.
"With our offense relying so much on throwing and catching, timing, running precise patterns and so on, on days it rained or even the day after a good hard rain it was hard to get a lot accomplished on a grass field," he said. "But now we'll be able to go out and get in our regular work regardless of the weather."
The new turf, similar to what the Tigers played on at the Georgia Dome in last January's Peach Bowl, is expected to be ready to go when Clemson begins practice Aug. 6.