For years, Nicholls State University’s athletic facilities lagged behind their rivals in the Southland Conference — a disadvantage that coaches said put the school behind the 8-ball in recruiting.
In recent years, the Colonels have worked tirelessly to revamp all of its major facilities — so much so that the athletic department literally looks completely different now than it did 10 years ago — a series of projects to modernize the department and make the university more attractive to recruits.
And arguably the biggest project is still yet to come.
Nicholls officials announced this week that they’ve received a 2.52-million dollar athletic donation — the largest single donation ever made to the university in its history.
The money will help with an expansion project at Barker Hall, including an end zone facility at John L. Guidry Stadium.
Football coach Tim Rebowe said the donation marks a huge moment for Nicholls athletics and the football program.
Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune agreed, saying the news is a game changer for Nicholls.
The project, in total, will cost just north of $6.5 million.
“This gift truly represents a historical moment in our institution’s history,” Dr. Clune said. “And I want to express my sincerest thanks to the donor and the donor’s family for their confidence in the university and in our leadership.”
The donor has asked to remain anonymous throughout the process, but in the future, that’s likely to change so that naming rights to the new facility can be dedicated in the person’s honor.
Athletic Director Matt Roan confirmed that the person is from the area, is a close follower of Nicholls athletics and is passionate about the future of the university.
And that’s a future that’s now brighter because of the donation and renovation project.
This donation will be a huge boost to the Nicholls football program.
Throughout the news conference, Dr. Clune and Roan sung the praises of Rebowe for the work he’s done to turnaround the Colonels — a journey that’s now taken the team to the FCS Playoffs for the past two-straight seasons.
“The work we’ve done is tremendous,” Dr. Clune said. “I truly believe we have the best coach and athletic director combination in the state of Louisiana.”
When the project is complete, Barker Hall will be expanded by 20,000-square-feet. The new wing of the hall will extend to the south end zone of John L. Guidry Stadium.
Roan said the project will be a recruiting tool that will help keep Nicholls at the top. Estimates call for the project to be completed by the summer of 2020. Work will begin in the coming weeks.
“Please start praying for about 12-to-15 months of dry weather,” Roan said with a laugh.
The expansion will give the Colonels a fully equipped field house — with a new locker room, team meeting rooms, a players’ lounge, training room, equipment room, coaches offices and a catering kitchen, among other amenities.
The project will also seek to help pay for itself, because once completed, Roan said the university will open a new, end zone club seating area, which will hold about 140 seats on game days.
“For me to say that this will be first-class would be a gross understatement,” Roan said. “Instead, I will argue that this facility will be among the very best in all of the Football Championship Subdivision.”
Phase I of the project is the expansion of Barker Hall, which will begin imminently. But Roan said there is also a Phase II, which would give the Colonels an indoor practice facility in the south end zone — a project that university officials will dive into once Phase I ends.
“We will be leaders in the facilities arm’s race among all of our competition,” Roan said.
Rebowe spoke briefly at the dedication ceremony, saying that the donation and project show just how far the program has come in the past half-decade.
He said having added space will be huge toward helping the program chase the FCS National Championship.
“This will help us get to where we all are trying to strive to get to,” Rebowe said.
Roan said the donation comes at an exciting time for Nicholls athletics — a sort of golden era for the program.
In addition to the Colonels’ successes in football, the team has also won the Southland in women’s basketball, scored a 20-win season in basketball and has emerged as a powerhouse in softball.
The program also has recently expanded to offer a men’s track and field team, as well as beach volleyball to its offerings.
“Today is an exciting day for our department and its upward trajectory,” Roan said.
Roan said some of the space that’s being carved out in the expansion will be able to easily transform to suit other athletic programs.
“We’re making Barker Hall the definitive home of Colonels athletics,” Roan said.