Players on the 2015 Davidson College football team had the honor of breaking in a newly renovated locker room and weight room in Richardson Stadium. Made possible by parent and alumni donors and volunteers, the new spaces create a better training environment for current players. In addition, the facilities are on par with or better than those of competing schools and programs, which will aid in recruiting efforts.
During a preseason meeting last year, conversations with parents included discussion of long-term plans for enhancements to the current facilities. Parents were interested in speeding up the timeline, and they decided to move the project forward in partnership with the college.
Jeff Polofsky (Grant '17) and Jim Morris (William '16) led the charge on the parent side with support from Head Football Coach Paul Nichols '03 and President Carol Quillen, and they encouraged other parents to get involved.
"If academics, campus life and community are equal, an 18-year-old young man visiting colleges is going to compare facilities," said Polofsky. "I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Now, not an athlete anywhere can say they've seen better facilities in the Ivy League or at another school of our size with the scope of our program. With sub-par facilities, we were potentially losing students for the wrong reasons."
"It's very difficult to play football, carry a full course load and interview for jobs," said Morris, whose son has balanced all three this year in preparation for graduation next month. "These guys put a lot in, and they deserve the best, not only in facilities but in all areas of their education. They work hard, and they make a lot of sacrifices."
The project moved quickly, and the improvements were in place before the team reported for camp in August. The revamped weight room accommodates more people, allowing the team to work out as a unit and helping to build teamwork and camaraderie.
"When you have 100-plus players on a team, it's difficult to feel like a team when only 40 players can be in the weight room at any given time," said Polofsky. "Increased capacity to train together is a selling point for Davidson, now."
Two football alumni, long-time donors and volunteer leaders for Davidson, Earl Hesterberg '75 and David Sprinkle '66, made generous gifts to complete the fundraising effort, building on what the parents had raised toward the project.
Hesterberg serves on the college's board of trustees executive, audit and finance, and athletics committees. He also serves on the Davidson Athletic Fund (DAF) board. Sprinkle is a past trustee and currently serves on the board of visitors and the DAF board.
"David called me one day and asked if I would split the difference with him to finish up this project for the football program," said Hesterberg. "It took me about 30 seconds to respond because it was a concrete plan and something we'd been waiting for. I give kudos to the parents for taking the initiative and for making it easy to decide to support it."
"I just want to help everyone become as strong as Lowell Bryan," joked Sprinkle about his support of the project. Bryan, a member of the board of trustees who has supported many programs at the college, graduated from Davidson in 1968 as a four-year member of the football team.
The project has yielded positive outcomes almost immediately, Nichols said.
"Davidson is a very attractive option for top students in the country," said Nichols. "Students who have the academic credentials to come to Davidson and are strong enough football players to help us win are rare. The improved facilities have already made a huge difference for the program and will continue to help in the recruiting process and to further energize current players. I am grateful to the leaders around this project for their vision, and to every person who made a contribution."
The parents of current students knew their sons had a finite amount of time in which they could benefit from this project directly, which contributed to the sense of urgency. But most of all, they were committed to making a lasting difference for Davidson.
"I have developed a strong fondness for Davidson," said Morris. "The education is as good as you're going to get, and there are many opportunities–including through the football program–for students to grow. If we can get football to a similar level as other sports, we'll start seeing 3,000 folks in the stands instead of 1,000."
"Davidson has been a perfect match for our son in terms of the size, the students, the administration and the diversity," said Polofsky. "He's thriving, and as a parent, you can't ask for any more than that. He's becoming the young man we've dreamed of him becoming."