NORMAN — OU athletics director Joe Castiglione said the plan to move forward with a new facility for football operations involves much more than simply participating in the SEC arms race.
“Sometimes you all phrase it as ‘keeping up with the Joneses,'” Castiglione said after Tuesday’s OU Board of Regents meeting at the Stephenson Research and Technology Center.
“I don’t think it’s as much about recruiting the best and the brightest, as competitive as it has ever been and it’s a whole new landscape. … So you need to provide a comprehensive approach that makes Oklahoma the most attractive destination for the best and brightest, and do what we do best. Facilities are definitely part of it.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the OU board approved the next step in the facility and approved the selection of a site manager for the project.
The facility, which will be built separately from Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, is expected to cost $175 million.
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The location for the facility – which is expected to include areas for strength and conditioning, recovery, sports medicine, nutrition, team catering, meeting rooms, offices, locker rooms and adjacent practice fields – is still being explored, although the facility will likely be to the east of the stadium in the same area where the current track layout is located.
Castiglione said his program takes into account the changing landscape of collegiate athletics — which includes the role of name, image and advantages of likeness.
“That’s what we’re doing – trying to make sure we’re weighing how we interpret the changing landscape going forward,” Castiglione said. “There is no blueprint. We understand. This is unfolding before our eyes. We use the best thinking of the brightest minds out there.”
Funding for the project comes from sports funds and private donations.
The project will also look at the use of the current team facilities at the south end of the stadium. The Switzer Center was dedicated in May 2018.
The selection of the architectural firm HOK to handle the project was approved by the Board of Directors in November.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first since announcing that the Sooners would move to the SEC in the summer of 2024, a year ahead of schedule.
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“It’s a great moment to know for certain what that data is,” said OU President Joe Harroz.
Harroz said Regents would need to approve the details of the early exit at a special meeting later this spring.
Part of the need for the new facility stems from the rapid expansion of the support staff since Brent Venables was hired in December 2021.
“It’s all part of it,” said Castiglione. “But it primarily depends on how we generate the resources that student athletes need and want and that are part of our offering.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, new Wide Receivers coach Emmett Jones’ two-year, $550,000 contract was approved.
Assistants Bill Bedenbaugh, Miguel Chaves, Brandon Hall, Jay Valai, Joe Jon Finley and DeMarco Murray had their contracts extended through the 2024 season, while Todd Bates and Jeff Lebby’s contracts were extended through the 2025 season.
All of these contracts were one-year extensions.
Murray received a $100,000 raise, while Hall received a $50,000 raise.
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“We have a great coaching staff,” said Castiglione. “We want to make sure that the terms of the contract are in line with our intentions.
“We are very careful. We’re doing as much as we can proactively to not only show confidence but the fact that we keep track of most of the things that are building our program and our coaches did a hell of a job recruiting.”
Castiglione also said that if OU and Texas make the move in time for the 2024 football season, the SEC is headed toward a decision on a football planning model.
He said the league is exploring both an eight-game conference model and a nine-game conference model. While an eight-game model would only offer one permanent matchup, a nine-game model would give each team three permanent matchups.
In either scenario, OU-Texas would be an annual matchup. Missouri is expected to be another constant foe for the Sooners if a nine-game model is approved, with the other being either Florida or Arkansas, though Castiglione would not confirm those reports.
“I know there has been some speculation but be careful, don’t let anything confuse you too much now,” Castiglione said. “It’s still a process.”
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Upgrades and additions to the OU sports facility
Regents also improved a $75 million Student-Athlete Success Center, $45 million for expansion and improvement of baseball facility at L. Dale Mitchell Park, $13.75 million for expansion and improvement of the Sam Viersen Gymnastics Center and improvements to the indoor tennis facility, golf learning center and Lloyd Noble Center.
The basketball renovations, which are expected to cost $9.5 million, will focus on the team areas.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU Football: Regents approve Sooners’ $175 million facility