D-D Breaux has become famous for her glittering attire, but her happiness at Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony for her LSU gymnastics team’s new practice facility outshone anything she could have pulled out of the closet that morning.
“I’ve waited my entire life for this moment,” said Breaux, who in her 39th year as LSU’s coach is still a geyser of energy and determination. “This experience for me and my staff, my LSU family and my personal family is so meaningful.”
A couple hundred folks gathered outside the main entrance to the facility, nestled on a former parking lot between LSU’s basketball practice gyms and the old “Dub” Robinson Tennis Stadium on the north, not far from where Breaux broke ground on the facility in July 2014 using her late father’s shovel.
On this Saturday, Breaux, her mother, Betty Breaux, Gov. John Bel Edwards, LSU President F. King Alexander, athletic director Joe Alleva and others helped cut the ribbon on the main entrance before the crowd was ushered inside.
“This facility is all about excellence,” Alleva said. “Our gymnastics program represents excellence, as well or better than any team on this campus.”
It also represents something else, something made more poignant by the fact Edwards and Alexander were also in attendance.
With the state staring down the barrel of what is potentially a nearly $2 billion budget shortfall, higher education funding is again a target. It no doubt made it politically palatable for Edwards to attend Saturday’s grand opening considering that the $12 million-plus gymnastics facility is being funded by private donations. That includes a bond measure through the Tiger Athletic Foundation that built Tiger Stadium’s south end zone addition and the new indoor tennis facility near Alex Box Stadium.
“Our commitment to women’s athletics has never been stronger,” Alexander said. “This is a fantastic facility.
“We’re in a very difficult time. We’re heading into a special session. We have such high expectations for athletics and we should have the same for academics.”
Edwards’ remarks were at the same time sobering, hopeful and realistic when he talked of the mix between LSU’s visible athletic good fortune and its less-visible academic struggles.
“The years of our athletic programs being on the rise and our academic programs being on the decline is over,” the governor said. “We’re in a difficult spot, but I’m confident and optimistic we will rise to the challenge and fix our problems.”
A common theme for LSU’s president and Louisiana’s governor was that the passion and support for LSU athletics needs to be channeled into support for the school’s academics. Edwards also didn’t waste an opportunity to tout LSU as a “flagship” university.
Politics aside, Saturday was a day for LSU and Louisiana to do something it rarely can: thrust out its chest and say it has something better than everyone else has.
Breaux, who toured gymnastics facilities at Florida, Auburn and Georgia — which is on its second practice palace — boasted that LSU now owns not only the finest facility in college gymnastics but the entire world.
“I said a long time ago I have one opportunity to build this building,” Breaux said. “I wanted to get it right.”
There’s no question the building is an 18,000-square-foot jewel, with ample practice space, meeting rooms, support facilities, even a rooftop terrace that looks out toward the Maravich Center, Bernie Moore Track Stadium and Tiger Stadium.
“This facility,” Breaux said, “is eventually going to take our program to the next level.”
Maybe it can be a beacon for the rest of LSU’s campus to follow along.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.