LAFAYETTE — After Christmas came in September for the Louisiana-Lafayette football team, coach Mark Hudspeth sent out reminders that wrapping paper must be picked up and the work week is in full swing.
Wide-eyed excitement was one product of Cajuns football players taking in the now-open $30 million, 100,000-square-foot Student-Athlete Performance Center.
“Hopefully with the newness of all that on Day One, we can get over all that quickly,” Hudspeth said Monday. “Guys were just walking around and exploring. You could tell when it got down to practice, I said, ‘Hey, guys, Christmas is over. It came a little early.’ Now we have to get back to doing what we need to do to get ready for a very talented Akron team coming to town.”
While Hudspeth preached the importance of having full attention on the Zips, he was excited in his assessment of what those new experiences mean for the players and program.
“I think our guys were blown away,” Hudspeth said. “I think they expected it to be nice. I think a lot of people expected it to be nice. I don’t think anybody expected it to be what it is. I think it is by far the top facility in the Group of Five (conferences). It’s in the top half of all the facilities in the country when you also add that it is attached to our 120-yard-long indoor practice facility.”
When the time came for the players to see the builders’ work, some of the biggest surprises were waiting inside and tucked away. Hudspeth took the seniors in first. They saw reminders of the past and illustrations of the present.
“The building is one thing,” Hudspeth said. “Seeing all the graphics everywhere and all the NFL players and all the all-conference players and all those bells and whistles ... they got to see the icing on the cake. That is what makes this facility so attractive and functional.”
As music blared in the team theater and locker room and guys were playing video games in the players’ lounge, Hudspeth reflected on the efforts of those who have made fun and a better-functioning work environment part of the deal for the Cajuns.
“I’m really proud that our university is providing our student-athletes with a top-notch facility,” he said. “That is going to encourage our current players once they leave here and move on to hopefully want to give back one day, too.”