Peer out a seventh-floor window, and it’s like hovering over the soon-to-be-named Burgess-Snow Field. One could see reaching out and catching a punt at its height.
It’s movin’ on up for Jacksonville State University football, to that deluxe apartment in the sky.
The Gamecocks finally got a piece of the pie.
But just as George Jefferson had his maid to reel him back to reality in the 1970s sitcom, there’s a Florence Johnston in JSU’s ointment.
Like it or not, JSU still must pay for the project, and there’s work to be done.
Like it or not, having one of the top facilities in Football Championship Subdivision means playing like it.
Like it or not, the suite life is here for JSU. The school is stuck with progress, for better and worse.
That was the takeaway from Thursday’s JSU football media day activities, which drew media from all over the northern half of Alabama. One writer came from as far as Florence, looking to gleen perspective on North Alabama’s ambitions to upgrade its football program.
With chief pitch man Dave Farrar leading the way, media donned hardhats and toured JSU’s nearly complete stadium upgrade. The tour included a walk through the club level, which Farrar called a “100-yard sports bar.”
Then came an elevator ride two floors up, to the main suite level.
The game-day home for press and JSU’s money folks is vast. It’s impressive.
One feels for other FCS programs that have to recruit against JSU. Imagine the wide-eyed tours as the best-of-the-rest prep players and potential transfers check out the facilities.
One even feels for money people who support other FCS programs but don’t watch their teams’ games in such modern comfort.
“I’d have to say that is the premier on-campus facility in FCS football,” JSU coach Jack Crowe said, “and I’ve been to Montana and Appalachian State and places.”
Montana and Appalachian State don’t have to pay for JSU’s $60 million dorm and stadium project, $17 million of which accounted for the stadium expansion.
From the beginning, JSU officials have acknowledged that they would have to sell the suites to help pay for the project. As late as OVC Media Day on July 26, JSU athletics director Oval Jaynes said about half of the 33 suites have sold.
Farrar gave a vague update during Thursday’s media tour, saying “most” of the 20 suites on the top level have sold. No word on suites on the first and second levels.
He also said nearly half of the 1,026 club-level seats have sold.
Farrar expressed confidence that the new suites and seats will sell, saying school officials have always counted on a two-year window to get it done.
Once construction is complete, Farrar can give more tours.
Once games are played, Bill Meehan can entertain potential buyers in the presidential suite.
Once would-be buyers can see, touch and feel the product in context, they will buy it — or so the hopeful theory goes.
Assuming the suites and seats come close to paying for themselves, Crowe and his program are stuck with the expectations created by having one of FCS’s top facilities.
“When you have that type of facility, you’ve got to be following it up with a national competitor,” Crowe said. “We’ve bounced around in the top 20 for quite a while here and never really gotten over the hump, so to speak.”
So movin’ on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky means movin’ the goal post.
Otherwise, poor George gets taken to the cleaners.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 235-3576 or email@example.com.