Even in an NIL world, FSU's Alford says facilities remain huge priority
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- As soon as reports started to surface of recruits and transfers receiving six- and seven-figure NIL deals to sign with certain schools, it didn't take long for fans and media to assume that would be the battleground for the next great arms race in college athletics.
Not just the next great arms race, but maybe the only important arms race.
Instead of coaches' salaries and facilities gobbling up a huge portion of the industry's resources, which has been the case for two or three decades, perhaps most of that money would now go directly toward NIL opportunities for the athletes.
FSU athletics director Michael Alford understands why some might think that. But as the Seminoles move closer to breaking ground later this year on a new standalone football facility -- with an expected price tag of over $60 million -- Alford said facilities will continue to be a huge piece of the puzzle in college athletics.
"Facilities is so important," Alford said during a break in the ACC's annual spring meetings. "We're always looking at facilities. If you talk to my staff ... poor staff, because I'm five facilities ahead of them right now in my mind. We haven't even broke ground on this one yet, and I'm already looking to design a couple more. And I've already started that process. Because we're always going to be looking to, 'How can we get better and provide that best experience for our student-athletes?'"
While state-of-the-art facilities might not be the biggest differentiator during the recruiting process, Alford and head coach Mike Norvell insist they are essential when it comes to developing players and building successful programs. And they are especially important right now at FSU, considering the Seminoles have fallen behind many national powers in that area.
So while the idea of encouraging donors to divert millions of dollars from a project like the football facility to NIL contracts might sound like a prudent move in the short term, it is not even close to being on the radar right now.
"People are supporting us and understand that for us to compete nationally, we need to have facilities and we need to provide resources to our student-athletes that allow them to compete nationally," Alford said.
He added that his staff is watching to see if growing interest in NIL investments will have a negative impact on donor contributions, but there has been no noticeable impact as of yet.
"That's something you monitor," Alford said. "Right now, that hasn't hurt our fundraising efforts. I don't forecast it will overall, to be honest. But it's something that we look at and monitor."
Alford, who is in his first year as FSU's athletics director after previously serving as CEO of Seminole Boosters, said the school is continuing to see "record" numbers of contributions. In fact, he said, Seminole Boosters received another seven-figure commitment to the football facility just this week.
And the plans are in place for a groundbreaking following the 2022 season.
"Everything's online," Alford said. "Hoping to break ground this December. Right now, we're on target for that. Looks about an 18-month completion. So we're looking at sometime in the summer of '24 moving into that facility. Prior to the '24 season.
"It's going to be state of the art. It's going to be the best facility in the country."
And it won't be the last major investment the Seminoles make in facilities.
"Everything we're doing is truly for the betterment of the student-athlete," Alford said. "And how do we grow them? Whether it's on the field, whether it's academically or whether it's socially. What are we doing to provide the resources for them to grow in a holistic way?"