New LSU locker room

In 1953, LSU's Tiger Stadium was completely enclosed with the addition of the 21,000-seat south end zone.

The move did not get a unanimous endorsement throughout the state.

It was part of a larger campus construction plan that also included, among other things, a new library.

But, first things first.

When the project was prioritized, football was taken care of first and the library went to the back burner.

There were protests and more than a few letters to the editor complaining about the true mission of the university. Maybe because the Tigers went 3-7 the previous season.

Anyway, the 1953 season opened with Texas as the visitor and the new double-deck south end zone full to the brim as LSU won 20-7.

According to Peter Finney's book, "The Fighting Tigers, 1893-1993: One," T.P. "Skipper" Heard, then the athletic director, gazed down from the press box at the addition and observed, "Wonder how many people are in the library tonight?"

Those were simpler times, certainly less PC times.

LSU eventually got a new library a few years later and social media did not explode.

Fast-forward to 2019 and LSU is rolling out its $28 million upgrade to its football facility, complete with a new locker room that looks like something from a "Star Wars" flight deck. There's also a gourmet eating area and high-tech players lounge.

But the locker room is the centerpiece. It looks nothing like traditional dressing quarters.

LSU, which will open it to a media tour today, best described the individual lockers as looking like those first-class sleeping pods on jumbo jets, complete with multiple charging stations, personal iPods to study film (or play video games) and other high-tech-ery from bottom to top. The top, by the way, is where helmets are refreshed with climate-controlled doohickeys.

The game-changer, apparently, is that the bottom folds out into a bed should one need a nap before practice (or during class?).

LSU is just punch-proud about the whole thing and of course the backlash was almost immediate when word got on social media Sunday night.

You see, while the LSU football team acts out a Richie Rich comic book fantasy, that same library that eventually did get built and opened in 1958 apparently is now leaking.

The comparison hasn't been lost on social media. It's those misplaced priorities raising their ugly head again.

Why the Tigers are catching the flack is anybody's guess. Is this the college football facility that jumped the shark?

Oregon a few years ago unveiled a new, Nike-funded $68 million football facility that included imported Brazilian Ipe wood floors in the weight room, gunmetal lockers and a private barber shop.

Alabama upgraded not long ago and ended up with a waterfall in the locker room. It still manages to graduate students other than football players.

And Clemson. Now Clemson's $55 million luxurious facility includes an indoor slide, a bowling alley, golf simulator and miniature golf course. And the school still has a library somewhere on campus.

Maybe LSU's facility needs a disclaimer at the grand entrance: "No classrooms were harmed in the funding and building of this futuristic Taj Mahal."

The athletic department will remind you that the $28 million didn't cost the state or the egghead side of campus a dime. It came completely from private donations, including at least two former players, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson.

But there's the usual hand-wringing over how much easier it is for LSU football to get donations than the chemistry department.

True. Nobody buys season tickets for biology mid-terms.

But the academic side does get donations and (unlike the athletic department) state funds.

Instead of griping about what palatial digs the football team gets built, the academic side should be admiring it … and emulating it.

When LSU football wants something that can be paid for, it usually finds a way without even nibbling on the school's budget.

Athletic departments are a lot like defense departments in that no matter how much money they get, they always find a way to need more … except athletic departments tend to be much more efficient in getting it done.

LSU's athletic department ­— i.e., football — does donate $10 million per year to the academic side.

Even a state-school education tells you that's $100 million over a 10-year span. What the academic side does with it, maybe we don't know.

We do know that the school recently dipped its toe into the campus recreational sciences to build an $85 million pool complex, complete with a lazy river that allows civilian students to backstroke through the letters L-S-U.

Unlike the library, it doesn't leak.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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