Wofford alumnus and South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Joe Taylor donated $1 million for the renovation of the Curry Building into the Joe E. Taylor Athletic Building, and construction of the building was completed recently. The Taylor Building features a 7,000 square foot weight room and offices for athletic department staff. Renovations on the building, located next to Gibbs Stadium, began last fall.
Wofford director of athletics Richard Johnson answered questions about the new building and its anticipated effect on the Wofford athletics program. For those who don’t know, who is Joe E. Taylor?
Richard Johnson: Joe Taylor is a Wofford alum who was president of Southland Log Homes before selling the company in 2006 or so. Joe is now the secretary of commerce under South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. He is a very generous benefactor of Wofford and Wofford athletics.Why was this facility necessary?
Johnson: We outgrew our current facility in the Richardson Building. The primary driver here was the strength and conditioning center. With the different lifts now, we’re using a lot more free weights which requires more space. We also had to have a facility that was on grade because now with a lot of these heavier lifts such as the clean-and-jerk, you let the weight of the barbell fall (300-400 lbs) fall from chest height when you’re done. You have to have something on grade because it sounds like a cannon every time one of those is dropped. Also, we needed additional office space for our coaches.Describe the new building and what impresses you most about it.
Johnson: I think it’s the simplicity coupled with functionality. The office suite is very attractive. We have head coaches right by the assistants. We have some cubes for the assistants. It provides for one of the strengths about Wofford, which is our informality and collegiality in the athletic department. This allows that to continue. We have all sports (offices) other than football and basketball there. We have a conference room. We’ll continue to have interaction amongst our coaches and we’ll do some events to bring football and basketball together with the balance of our coaches. And the weight room is huge. For the student-athlete it’s a huge benefit. And that’s really the number one benefit of having this place. Our student athletes can now minimize their amount of time in the weight room because we can get more of them in there at once. We don’t have to spread things out and use more groups. The new facility can take 24 guys at one time. We have 12 platforms and 12 benches. So we can get them in and get them out and back in their dorms studying more quickly.This is obviously a shot in the arm for the football program. As a former coach yourself, explain how much something like this can help in recruiting.
Johnson: It’s tremendous. Kids today understand that if you’re going to be a Division I athlete, strength and conditioning is a vital part of that. The landscape has changed even in the last 10-15 years. You cannot achieve success at this level unless you’re committed to improving your strength, conditioning, flexibility, and explosiveness. This gives us a world class facility in which to do that. We have the space to do it. When kids come in they’ll see a facility where you have devoted almost 7,500 square feet to a strength and conditioning center with a scenic view overlooking the stadium. It has a state-of-the-art sound system, televisions…it just creates an atmosphere where it’s fun to work out. For prospects who understand the importance of lifting, it’s a welcoming environment. Lifting is something you have to do, so to be able to do it in that kind of environment sets us apart.How will it help the other athletic programs?
Johnson: Every sport is now committed to some sort of offseason and in-season strength and conditioning program. Everybody has a full-time strength coach now. As far as our other sports are concerned, it’s just as important to them as it is to football. Some people may misread this as a football facility, but our men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and tennis programs are very committed to strength and conditioning, and on down the line. In every sport, kids get better, stronger, quicker and faster, and during the season they have to maintain that. So they have to have this caliber of a facility. With 280 to 290 athletes, it’s vital to have that kind of square footage devoted to them with open, accessible hours and two strength coaches in there provides us with the opportunity to let our kids maximize their conditioning and their strength while minimizing the amount of time taken away from their other pursuits.How many athletic programs of Wofford’s size can you think of around the country that now have what Wofford has in terms of facilities?
Johnson: Of our size? I don’t know of anyone. I can say with a great deal of certainty that per capita we have the finest facilities in the country. Period.