Cajuns break ground on new athletic facility

LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette dignitaries and members of the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation were on hand Wednesday to break ground on an Athletics Performance Center that is part of the first tier in the university’s athletics master plan.

“There was a term we always used around here: We do more with less,” said Gerald Broussard, who emceed the ground-breaking ceremony. “They called us a gold mine and a diamond in the rough.

“I am excited to see what we can do with more, and this is the start of it.”

Broussard, a former Cajuns football player, credited UL-Lafayette President Dr. Joesph Savoie with spearheading the many improvements the university has seen over the past few years. Savoie called athletics “the front porch to the university.”

“Exposure has been tremendously multiplied by the success of our student-athletes,” Savoie said. “That is all made possible by the support made through the RCAF. The university will reach its goals by all of us pulling together.”

RCAF Chairman Wayne Elmore said the foundation raised $7.3 million during the past fiscal year. The $13.8 million facility is being paid for with $24 million in bonds, which are also being used to renovate Cajun Field.

RCAF donated $400,000 per year to pay interest on those bonds.

The Athletics Performance Center will be adjacent to the Leon Moncla Indoor Practice Facility and will replace the Cox Communications Center, which has served the needs of the university’s athletics for more than 40 years. The football team will have 24,000 square feet of amenities in the new center, including offices for the coaching staff, a new locker room and meeting rooms and a state-of-the-art training facility.

“When the Cox Center was built, there were no personal computers, no wifi, no Internet,” said Athletic Director Scott Farmer. “It has served us very well and this Athletics Performance Center is going to better suited for our student athletes today and the next 40 years.”

Farmer said the key to the athletic department maintaining success and growth is to give coaches what they need to recruit and give the athletes what they need to be successful. He said the facility accomplishes both of those goals.

“All of our athletes will have access to these state-of-the-art facilities,” Farmer said. “It touches everybody and helps make us better.

“With facilities like this, our foundation for success is built well into the future.”

Football coach Mark Hudspeth and baseball coach Tony Robichaux each spoke about the advantage the facility with bring to their teams. Robichaux said recruiting is a lot different than it was when he started coaching at UL-Lafayette 20 years ago.

“In the past, when a kid came here, you could put a Band-Aid on everything and let him look and hopefully he didn’t figure anything out,” Robichaux said. “If your place wasn’t good, maybe that kid leaves and tells two or three people. Today, with social media, he’s telling thousands and thousands of people.

“Kids are committing at 13 and 14 years old. This year we were asked to try to take down LSU, Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Every time we get close to these schools, they are going to move forward. We have to continue to move and grow.

“The building is going to be nice,” he said, “but the one thing they can’t copy is our people.”