- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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In the realm of college football, there is no arms race quite like the facilities arms race in the SEC.
Schools spend millions of dollars without blinking, and facilities are seemingly out of date 10 years after being built.
It’s all about keeping up with the Joneses, because you can bet that top-flight high school recruits are keeping count when they make their visits.
Below is our best effort at ranking the football facilities in the SEC, and when we say facilities, we’re including the stadium, locker room, weight room, training room, team meeting room, indoor practice complex, coaches’ offices and academic learning center into the equation. Nobody in the SEC has what you would call poor facilities.
The more a school has, the higher it ranked. We also took into account the overall presentation of the facilities -- how nice they were, how new they were and whether or not they were all self-contained to make life easier for the players.
1. Alabama: It was a tough call between Alabama and LSU for the top spot, but all the renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium over the past few years gave Alabama the nod. Everything you need is right there at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility, including a full indoor practice complex. Nick Saban also said recently that a new weight room is in the works.
2. LSU: LSU’s Football Operations Center is an all-in-one complex that includes the locker room, weight room, training room, video operations center and the coaches’ offices. Built in 2006, it also has a full indoor practice field and is conveniently located right across the street from Tiger Stadium. LSU spared no expense in building this crown jewel, and the practice fields are all right there behind the center.
3. Tennessee: Not only has Neyland Stadium gotten a multi-million dollar facelift over the past few years, but the Vols are set to move into a new $45 million football facility this fall. The Vols already had an indoor practice facility, and their new digs will include everything from a mixed martial arts fighting cage, to a restaurant, to cell phone recharging stations in the players’ dressing cubicles in the locker room.
4. Georgia: A $40 million expansion and renovation of Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall was completed last year, and the new facilities are as plush as any in the country. There’s not a full indoor practice facility, but a 30-yard field that allows the Bulldogs to warm up. The locker room has a commons area that features televisions, massage centers, computer stations and video game stations.
5. Auburn: The Tigers opened a new $16.5 million, 92,000-square foot indoor practice facility last fall that includes a 100-yard field. Auburn previously had a smaller building that housed a 40-yard field and could only be used for smaller workouts. The facility connects to the main athletic building and student academic center with everything centrally located for the players.
6. Florida: The Gators’ football facilities were spruced up considerably a few years ago under Urban Meyer, and everything is right there at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (The Swamp). The entrance to the football offices, complete with trophies and memorabilia, is gorgeous. There is no indoor practice facility, and the practice fields aren’t very close to the stadium.
7. Arkansas: The Hogs, who already had some of the best facilities in the league, are scheduled to move into their new $35 million football operations center prior to the 2013 season. They already have a full indoor practice facility, and Razorback Stadium has been touched up nicely over the years.
8. Ole Miss: The Rebels' all-in-one indoor practice facility is one of the more underrated ones in the country. Everything is right there, from the weight room, to the locker room, to the coaches’ offices overlooking the indoor practice field. There’s also a tunnel that takes the players into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are breaking ground on a new $25 million football complex sometime this year, and there are also plans to expand Scott Field. The $10 million Templeton Athletic Academic Center was built in 2008 and is a huge draw for recruits.
10. Missouri: A $16 million expansion and renovation project opens this summer. The new facility will measure more than 100,000 square feet, almost doubling the space in the Tigers’ old facility. The locker room will have eight 30-inch plasma high-definition televisions throughout the room.
11. Texas A&M: What the Aggies have now is first-rate, and they’re in the process of doing some renovations. When those renovations are complete, they could easily move into the top half of the league in terms of overall facilities. It’s hard to beat Kyle Field on a Saturday afternoon.
12. South Carolina: Williams-Brice Stadium is the epicenter for the Gamecocks’ facilities. The weight room is new and spacious, and the Gamecocks have also recently redone the locker room. They only have a smaller indoor practice facility, 50 yards long, and the coaches’ offices are badly in need of renovation.
13. Kentucky: The Nutter Training Facility has been Kentucky’s football home since 1987. New practice fields were added in 2005, and the complex is highlighted by a 9,000-square foot weight room and new locker room. The Nutter Field House includes a 100-yard practice field, and Commonwealth Stadium has a new locker room complex as well as new video boards and audio system.
14. Vanderbilt: One of second-year Vanderbilt coach James Franklin’s priorities was to upgrade the Commodores’ facilities, and he’s going to get his wish. Vanderbilt Stadium is getting a new field this season. A new locker room and team meeting room are being built at the McGugin Center, and an indoor practice facility is also on the way and will be in place by 2014.
4dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
5dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf