“It’s about changing lives, and this building right here will change lives.” Jeremy Foley
The new UF student-athlete center officially named The Otis Hawkins Center for Academic and Personal Excellence at Farrior Hall was christened on Monday in grand fashion with a ribbon cutting ceremony which featured the UF cheerleaders and band.
The center was brought to life by Gator boosters including a particularly generous anonymous donor all of whom saw a need and made it happen.
“This building was built because we had a lot of Gator supporters who decided our vision on the total development of our student athletes wasn’t just important to us, it was important to them,” Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said. “And this building is not here today if it wasn’t for people stepping up and supporting it. Their generosity has been off the charts, and the result is we’re going to change people’s lives.”
The center is a one-stop-shop of sorts which provides support for the various aspects of a student athlete’s life including nutritional, academic, and mental health needs and provides a centralized place for down time as well.
“It kind of gives them a home, right in the middle of campus, with nutrition coming into the building, and sports mental health being in the building also,” according to Senior Associate Athletic Director Keith Carodine. “And also gives them one place, one location where they can gather and relax between classes.”
It also shows the school’s commitment to upgrading the student athletes academic experience.
“Our job is developing young men and women,” Foley said. “Educating them, preparing them for the next game of life. And we said from day-one that this building was a game changer.”
“It’s amazing,” said linebacker Jarrad Davis. “Just to go in there and see the equipment that we have to better ourselves academically. We’ve heightened the standard athletically and we’re taking it to another level academically as well.”
Former Gator football player Kevin Carter, on-hand for the festivities, was also highly impressed.
For fans who’ve long complained that UF had fallen behind many of its rivals in the facilities arms race, the new center is a welcome relief.
Along with the new indoor practice facility which opened last year, the Hawkins center is yet another tool to aid UF recruiting, especially for parents of prospective recruits who are as concerned about off-field support as they are on-field.
“I think any student athlete that comes here, comes here with their parents,” Foley said. “They walk in this building, they get taken around this building, they can see that these folks are serious about not just winning games, which obviously we’re serious about, but serious about the lives of our daughters and our sons.”
“This is their future, this is their life. To be able to show those folks this is what we’re going to do for you. Obviously you’re doing all the work, obviously you’re going to make it happen but the support system we always said is second-to-none. I think this building totally reinforces that.”
It’s certainly a huge step forward for the Gators athletic program which still has many difficult hurdles ahead facility-wise. But for current and future Gator student athletes it’s a very happy day.
And for the athletic coaches who have faced difficulties on the recruiting trail because of somewhat inferior facilities it’s a huge boost and a very welcome sight.
“At the end of the day it’s all about getting quality people here, quality athletes here and I think this building will help us do that,” Foley said.
“The Hawkins Center at Farrior Hall, I think, is going to change the profile of our program for many, many years.”
Take a look inside the new center.