There is a giant “U” glowing with neon behind the soaring glass panes that welcome you to the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence, but it’s not even the brightest thing in the room.
That would be the glare off Miami’s four crystal footballs – plus a fifth national championship trophy that’s slightly more modest – which sit in the lobby to celebrate Hurricane history and remind our athletes of the ultimate goal.
It’s a fitting entry for the center, which houses new training facilities and academic support for student-athletes.
The Schwartz Center had its official dedication this past Friday. President Donna E. Shalala was in attendance to honor the project’s lead donors, Theodore and Todd Schwartz.
The Canes now have an athletics building with high-end amenities that gave Miami a needed upgrade.
“We are now able to compete with other schools. This doesn’t put us ahead yet, it gets us on par,” said Chris Yandle, assistant athletic director for communications.
Yandle came to Miami from Baylor, whose Simpson Athletic and Academic Center just about set the standard for other universities to aspire to.
His first thoughts when he saw the Canes’ existing facility: “How did they win five titles here?”
“It’s amazing how much Miami did with so little,” Yandle said. “But in 2013 kids are recruiting with their eyes.”
From now on, prospective student-athletes will walk up the brick path that boasts names like Vince Wilfork and Ed Reed among its sponsors.
Then they can browse the Paul DiMare Gallery of Champions. It spans most of the lobby, showcasing artifacts from Miami’s best individual and team performances through the years.
There are Heisman Trophies (Vinny Testaverde and Gino Toretta) and basketball National Coach of the Year awards (2011 for Katie Meier, 2013 for Jim Larranaga), a symbolic bowl of oranges and a full list of past champions.
Beyond the lobby is a brand new football locker room, plus the training center and rehabilitation suite.
The old training area was about 3,500 sq. feet, and the expansion took it to more than 12,000 sq. feet in the new building.
Yandle said the main benefit of the larger space is that everything can be done on site. In the past, athletes had to go to UHealth in Downtown Miami for certain treatments, but there are doctors, x-ray machines and even a dentist all on the first floor.
State-of-the-art equipment can be found throughout. Trainers have more treatment stations, a new anti-gravity treadmill, and four hydrotherapy tubs that can switch between hot and cold water for different types of recovery.
For example, an athlete might alternate hot and cold tubs to help relieve soreness and stiffness.
The building has opened in stages, with certain football employees able to move in May. The compliance and academics staff made the transition in June, and the communications and marketing departments were in place by August.
The second floor of the Schwartz Center is devoted to excellence in the classroom, not on the playing field.
There are large individual study spaces and an expanded computer center, as well as tutoring areas. The floor also houses the Robert Mann Auditorium, a place for academic or team meetings that seats 150.
“It’s an environment more conducive to studying, compared to our old facility which was kind of disjointed,” said Allen Augustin, one of two academic advisors at the center.
David Wyman, associate athletic director for academic services, says student-athletes are attracted to the space because of its comfortable feel and lots of natural light.
“I have Academic All-Americans who I didn’t see in the past come by to study every other day because it’s just so accommodating and so fresh,” Wyman said.