When it comes to college athletics facilities, the term "arms race" gets thrown about frequently — and for good reason. Recruits want to compete in the best environments, so investing in those environments can pay dividends on the recruiting trail, which in turn can pay dividends on the field.
But does the arms race approach actually work? If early returns at Northwestern are any indication, the answer is obvious: yes.
Yahoo Sports reports that the 2020 Northwestern football recruiting class, the first since opening the $270 million Walter Athletics Center (featured in this year’s Architectural Showcase) is poised to rank much higher than the previous year’s class — and the school finds itself in recruiting battles with a new caliber of competition than it had formerly been accustomed to.
According to Yahoo, the 2020 class is currently ranked No. 17 nationally, and No. 4 in the Big Ten behind such blue-bloods as Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Last year, Northwestern’s class was ranked No. 50 nationally, and No. 11 in the conference. And prior to that, the Wildcats were No. 60 nationally, and last in conference ranking.
In head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s words: “Recruiting has been wild.”
Of course, other factors have contributed to the increased interest in Wildcat football among recruits — the team won the Big Ten West last year — but the impact of the facility is difficult to understate.
“It’s eye-opening, the recruits gasp when they walk in,” recruiting coordinator Lou Ayeni said of the new facility. “It’s a game changer.”
Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, with amenities like a 100-yard indoor practice field, floor-to-ceiling windows, state-of-the-art weight training space and team locker rooms, it’s easy to see why.