On a showery spring day well-suited to last-minute improvisation, Clemson officially broke ground for its new indoor football practice facility on Friday during, fittingly, a weather-dodging indoor ceremony at Jervey Gym.
Coach Dabo Swinney, briefly addressing a gathering of donors and supporters before heading off to oversee his team's 'Oklahoma Drill,' came armed with a list of practical applications for the new building, which is being built on an existing practice field adjacent to Clemson's indoor track facility.
"I guess there's no better to talk about an indoor practice facility than when we have to move something inside because of weather," Swinney said.
The bottom line, he said, is that once the facility is built "we'll never miss a day."
"We're trying to build a nationally-competitive program, and that's something we haven't had in a very long time," Swinney said. "We've accomplished a great deal in three years, and there's a lot more work to do. But this facility is another step."
Swinney said the new facility will enable the Tigers to stick to carefully arranged practice schedules without regard to the weather, while providing an always-available space for summer workouts, youth camp, winter mat drills and pro days, and serving as "a front door to our practice facilities."
"We're going to be recruiting-ready all the time," Swinney said. "When they drive up, they're going to see extreme commitment. All the elements are in place."
Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips noted that "every school we play is very heavily invested in facilities" and called Clemson's new building "another step in the direction" of making the school's athletic facilities second to none.
Phillips also alluded to the recruiting aspect of the investment, saying "their eyes tell them more than we can otherwise tell them."
Clemson president James Barker also addressed the gathering, and said the new facility is another way of showing "we're proud of our football team, we're proud of our ACC championship, and we're proud of the way we're doing it."
Meanwhile, on a nearby practice field, the Tigers completed the first half of their spring practice with what Swinney described as a focused, spirited eighth workout.
"Practice today was good - good energy," Swinney said. "We missed Dalton (Freeman), who was off at a student function he needed to be at, and we got two or three balls that got on the ground, which was a little disappointing with a freshman center in there.
"But I saw a lot of good things. I think the team is starting to develop a little bit of chemistry."
Swinney said he's anxious to see how the Tigers perform on Monday in their first major, full-scale scrimmage.
"This whole spring has been building toward that first big scrimmage," he said. "Monday will be the first opportunity when it's not a situational type deal. You're playing - you just play ball. Everybody's off the field and you get a good gauge for where they are.
"Then we'll have six practices left to just sort of go from there. That film is going to be really critical for us, and critical for a lot of these players, to see where we are with our depth charts and things like that.
"Right now it's a moving chart. It changes daily and sometimes changes within practice. That's good, in that we have a lot of competition. But I'm anxious to see us play and see if some guys separate a little bit on Monday."