Florida athletics receives largest-ever $12.5 million donation for student facility

By Adam Silverstein
December 19, 2014

The University of Florida’s University Athletic Association on Friday announced receipt of $12.5 million from an anonymous donor, which is being billed as the largest-ever donation to the program.

The $12.5 million will go towards a massive $25 million renovation to the Office of Student Life, which the Florida Gators believe will be a huge benefit to current athletes and a massive recruiting tool for future Gators.

The renovation will improve academic programs for all 480 Florida athletes across 21 varsity sports. Renovations will begin in March for what will be named the Otis Hawkins Center for Academic and Personal Excellence.


“This gift was made in honor of Otis Hawkins and his family,” the anonymous donor said in the school release. “Otis was one of the earliest Gator Boosters and fervently believed each student-athlete should be fully supported in their academic as well as their athletic pursuits.”

According to UF:

Included in the project will be a renovation of Farrior Hall that will double the building’s square footage and include 50 tutoring rooms, three computer labs, a 100-plus-seat classroom, a nutrition wing and a sports medicine research area, along with staff offices. Farrior Hall also houses the University Academic Advisement Center, which serves as the advisement center for undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“We want our student-athletes to be champions on the field, court and in the pool – and in their lives and professions after graduation,” school president Bernie Machen said. “This new center will bring together and enhance our learning and career services for these students, ensuring they have every opportunity for academic as well as athletic excellence.”

Added athletic director Jeremy Foley: “It’s easy to admire the skill and drive of our athletes. But, they are no less remarkable in the classroom, where they balance UF’s rigorous academic standards and the demands of a world-class college athletic program. The new center will give our student-athletes an academic facility that enhances the existing Farrior Hall and further demonstrates our commitment to the success of our student-athletes.”

Office of Student Life renovations will coincide with a $45 million construction plan for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Renovations on the O’Dome will begin at the conclusion of the basketball team’s 2014-15 regular-season slate and last through December 2015.

The Gators are also progressing towards a $11.9 million indoor practice facility for the football program with a scheduled completion date, upon approval, of July 2015.

On Nov. 18, Foley said that he would never stop making facility improvements for Florida’s athletic program as long as those changes were actually beneficial and not simply “bells and whistles.”

“We judge our facilities based on [whether] they help our programs be successful. Do they make an impact on their ability to be successful? Whether that’s a weight room for football or a gymnastics practice studio, whatever have you,” explained Foley. “As you look around our facilities, we’re not into bells and whistles. We’re always looking to upgrade our facilities, but we’re not getting into an arms race.”

If and when the indoor practice facility is approved, the Gators will have set aside nearly $82 million for the renovation and construction of three important facilities supporting nearly every athletic program on campus. Florida has also spent $88 million since 2003 to upgrade Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and build the Heavener Football Complex. Other multi-million dollar renovations include building a lacrosse facility from the ground up, renovating the gymnastics program’s practice studio and making minor upgrades to the O’Dome, including new seats and video equipment.

5 Comments

  1. Nick says:

    Man, I’m glad our AD defined “bells and whistles and arms race” for me. Now, I know, at least what they aren’t. A $25,000,000 Student Life building renovation which will house 480 student athletes with a bunch of new learning tools plus an indoor practice field (which the Great Gator Athletic Director wasn’t told about) is, in no way, even close to be “joining the arms race”. Didn’t Auburn’s new DC, say on record their really great Student Affairs building would help recruiting and it’s nice to work at a school that understands the realty of a situation.
    Is it possible AD Foley was reminded that, at the end of the day, he is an employee of the University of Florida and will not be allowed to make policy for the school by himself and won’t always be in the loop. I could be completely wrong. However, Adam you wrote about the screwed up time line on the IPF showing AD Foley saying no while four firms were invited to make presentations of their IPF concepts and cost figures after UF appled for a state permit saying it would help attract student atheletes to UF.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Be careful, Nick. You might have to be lectured on how “great and powerful” Foley is . . of course, the “powerful” part is undisputed, and therein lies part of the problem.

      Good points.

  2. SaraGator says:

    Awesome! Go Gators!

    • 1974Gator says:

      Yeah, it is awesome! This is good news! I try to minimize my analysis of the operational and policy making decisions being made within and for the UF athletic program since I don’t get paid to help make them. Thank goodness the university has a lot of very smart people, with significant prior experience, making these multi-million dollar capital improvement decisions.

  3. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Glad to see that the Academic needs are being made a priority along with the indoor practice facility which will be essential this summer with the ODome under construction. As to bells and whistles, we don’t need waterfalls in the locker room, but having the best in weight room and training facilities is crucial (not that I have read criticism of that at UF). Interesting to me is the new swing back to a more dedicated dorm for underclassmen football players. I remember when I was a student in the mid 70’s that football and BB players lived in Yon Hall and the official training table was there also. That went away after the ncaa abolished all athletic dorms in 1991 but is apparently undergoing some type of revival as Fsu and Auburn completed athletic dorms in the last 3 years, but the max 50% athlete resident rule still applies. The UF underclassmen athletes seem to be spread between the Springs Residential Complex, Sledd Hall, Tolbert Hall, the Keys Residential Complex and the Lakeside Residential Complex with many upperclassmen living off campus. I guess with the Springs built in 95 and Lakeside in 2000, these are considered ‘outdated’?? It does seem it would be easier to keep up with players who lived on campus, but perhaps not.

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