A heavy proposal

By Josh Moon, Courtesy of Montgomery Advertiser
Updated: October 12, 2007

Weight room move ‘doesn’t make sense’ MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA When L.C. Cole took over as head coach at Alabama State two years ago, he realized immediately he had few recruiting tools at his disposal.

The Hornets had no stadium to call their own. There was no off-campus housing for scholarship athletes. The players used a tent as a dressing room at home games and the weight room, at the time, left a lot to be desired.

Of those, the only thing Cole and his coaching staff could improve on quickly was the “weight room” – a shell of a building that was an abandoned grocery. It had plenty of space, but was in need of serious work.

It got serious personal attention from Cole and his staff. They tore out the old carpeting and got the floors ready for new carpet to be installed. They washed down the walls, bought paint and brushes themselves and painted the entire inside of the building.

With sweat equity, ASU had one of the nicest weight rooms in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Maybe it was too nice. Cole has learned that university officials – in the process of a campus-wide evaluation of space – plan to take the building from the athletic department and relocate the weight room.

As one might expect, the idea hasn’t been accepted with open arms from Cole and his staff.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Cole said of the move. “Why would they want to a have a class building or a student center or whatever they’re planning on making out of it off campus? That building is perfect for what it is – a weight room.”

What makes the move such a bad idea, according to Cole, is that the proposed new building for the weight room is about half the size of the current location and in need of serious work.

“We’ll lose about half of the equipment from that weight room if they move it,” Cole said. “That place isn’t anywhere near ready for a weight room. There’s all kind of things that would have to be done to get that place ready for a weight room and that’s after we lose half of the equipment.”

Strength and conditioning coach Jason Novak agrees the move is a bad idea.

“If they move the weight room to that location then we won’t be able to keep most the equipment that we have now,” Novak said. “You need 1,000 square feet per athlete in a weight room. When we have all of the football players in the current weight room, it’s just about right. It’s a little small even now when everyone is in here, but if they move it over there, I don’t know what we’re going to do. That place is nowhere near large enough to support the kind of weight room a football team needs.

“It doesn’t have running water. It doesn’t have a ceiling or the proper flooring. A lot of work would have to be done and a lot of money spent to get that place ready to support a weight room.”

The possibility of the move has Cole fed up with the cutbacks he’s faced at ASU.

“I’m tired of fighting the stone walls around here,” Cole said. “It seems like the more you progress, the more they cut back. If you’re going to have these athletic programs then you have to fund them. If you’re not going to do the things you need to do to be successful, then you need to get out of the game.”

What makes it so personal for Cole and his staff is the work they did to the building when no one else wanted it. “We all put in some long days over there getting that place fixed up,” Novak said.

“We did all of that work ourselves. It didn’t look anything like it does now.”

Cole said before the work was done no one even knew the building existed.

“When we started all that work no one wanted that building,” he said. “I bet there aren’t many people that even knew it was over there. There probably still aren’t many people around here that know it’s a weight room.”

While moving the weight room would a personal blow to Cole and all of the others who worked on the weight room, it would also be a serious blow to the football program as a whole, according to Cole.

“We’ve got nothing else to recruit with around here,” he said. “We don’t have a stadium or off-campus housing. What are we going to use to attract these kids to ASU? That’s all we’ve got left.

“If they move it over there and take the last recruiting tool we have, it will be a slow death for the football program.”

The football team wouldn’t be the only athletic program hurt by the move, since several other athletic teams at ASU use the weight room.

Cole said it was only the administration at ASU that thinks of it as the football team’s weight room.

“They all want to say that we’re the only ones using that weight room,” Cole said. “We’ve never claimed that weight room as our’s or kept any other team from using it. If they move it, they’ll hurt a lot of teams around here.”

While Cole and the coaching staff seem sure the move is imminent, officials at ASU don’t seem to be too sure about anything concerning the weight room. No one knows what will occupy the building if the weight room is moved, or where the final destination of the weight room will be.

“Several different things have been discussed,” ASU president Joe Lee said. “We’ve talked about using the building as part of a new health studies expansion. The new spot for the weight room also hasn’t been decided. Several different things have been discussed. We’ve talked about constructing a new facility or expanding an existing one.”

According to Leon Frazier, who is the vice president of administrative services, the weight room was supposed to return to its original location in Lockhart Hall.

“We moved the weight room out of Lockhart Hall when we started renovations to that building in 1999,” he said. “Where the weight room is now was never supposed to be its permanent location. The plan was to move it back to Lockhart Hall when the renovations were complete.”

According to Frazier, renovations to Lockhart Hall are now “98 percent complete” but there’s a small problem with the original plan to move the weight room back to its previous location.

“On the floor plans that I’ve seen for Lockhart, there is no place for a weight room,” Frazier said.

Cole said he’s happy the weight room isn’t back in Lockhart Hall.

“I’ve heard nightmare stories about that place,” he said. “It wasn’t any bigger than a 10-by-10 room and I may be giving it too much credit. It was probably more like 8-by-8. That wasn’t really a weight room, it was more like a fitness center.”

Lee said a small fitness center is exactly what was on the plans to go into Lockhart Hall. “The plan was never to move the weight room back into Lockhart,” he said.

“The only thing I know of going in there is a small fitness center. But that won’t be for athletes, just for students.”

While Frazier and Lee disagree on the original plans for the weight room and both say they know nothing about what the final decision will be, they also both seem to know a lot more about what is going on than Cole.

“No one has said a word to me about anything,” Cole said. “They haven’t told me anything about what’s going on. I guess maybe they were planning on telling me they were moving it after they started moving stuff out of the building over there.”

Both Frazier and Lee and said the final decisions would most likely be made at the May Board meeting.

Cole said that final decision may decide his fate at ASU.

“That decision will show if they want the program to move forward or not,” he said. “If they want to keep doing things like they have been and keep the program from going forward then it’s time to get out. When you see that the program can’t advance, that’s when its time to go. There’s no sense in hanging around when the only move you can make is backwards.”