By MATTHEW STEVENS
On New Year's Day, Mississippi State head football Dan Mullen rubbed his new 2011 Gator Bowl trophy and made a wish.
"I think we ought to have a new building to put this thing in," Mullen said after the 52-14 victory over Michigan while looking at MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin.
Mississippi State University officially announced Wednesday afternoon that Mullen got his wish.
"I think we always knew it was going to be a matter of when, not if," Mullen said. "This certainly helps us take that next step into being a consistent winner."
Stricklin and Mullen described this project as a discussion topic between the two men from the moment Mullen was hired as the 32nd head football coach at Mississippi State in December 2008.
"When we got here, I knew their was some things I liked, things I didn't like (and) a vision for how to change it," Mullen said. "I had to see what our campus community was like, our student body, the state of Mississippi and find something that best fits our program instead
of being in a hurry to scream we need a new facility without a vision."
The new complex will be adjacent to the football practice fields on the MSU campus. According to Stricklin, the football-specific facility, which will consist of mostly coaching offices, will cost between $20-25 million and be completely made with privately donated funds.
The approximate 80,000 square foot football-only complex will consist of coaching offices, a weight room and give the Bulldogs program its first-ever opportunity to house its staff all in the same facility.
"We want to raise money for our football program because we think a strong football program is going to benefit our entire athletic department," Stricklin said.
The two-level building will be located behind the Palmeiro Center and adjacent to the current football practice fields.
"With this facility as people pass Highway 12, you're going to see this building then the Palmeiro Center and finally the men's basketball practice facility - the Mize Pavilion so I think it's important that this is a place that has a certain look and feel to it," Stricklin said.
Mississippi State, who previously hired the HNTB architectural firm out of Kansas City, Mo., for the project, is currently around $3 million short of the amount needed for construction to begin but Stricklin said he is assured the prospects are in place to make up for the gap of needed funds.
The second-year athletics director said the construction start date of the facility has yet to be set but he anticipates the timeline to be a 12-15 month undertaking.
“This is a vital addition our football program,” Mullen said. “We’ve talked since I arrived at Mississippi State about getting all of our football operations under one roof, allowing us daily interactions with each of our players.”
The facility is mostly becoming a reality from the $12 million donation of twin brothers Leo and Lee Seal to the football program in honor of their father Leo Jr., who lettered in football in 1947-48, was a member of the Bulldog Club and president of Hancock Bank before passing away in Nov. 2008.
"Not only is it the largest gift in our athletics history, it most likely will be one of the largest gifts in college athletics this year," Stricklin said. "It's through the people who love our
university to put us in a position financially that we're allowed to create some pretty neat experiences for our student-athletes, staff and fans."
Stricklin said the Seal brothers approached the MSU athletic department about this donation shortly after the 2010 football season.
Leo Seal Jr., provided the lead funding for the construction of the M-Club Building in the south end zone of Davis Wade Stadium as well as the complex that bares his family's name donated to the MSU College of Business.
"My brother and I both hold that same passion for our alma mater and we're excited to help the university and our football program," Lee Seal said in the university statement.
While a name for the building wasn't officially announced Wednesday, it will be dedicated to Leo Seal Jr., as well.
MSU officials said they haven't applied for approval to the state of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board but will be required to do so due to the land being owned by the state and the IHL will have to lease the area to the Bulldog Club, State's fundraising department, before it's approved.
Mullen touted the facilities obvious advantages in terms of recruiting future players as the Bulldogs third-year head coach admitted Wednesday to already showing prospects the artist renderings of the complex months before the announcement.
"I think it's fantastic when you have a young man come on campus and see a state-of-the-art football facility, walks into the front door and see a trophy showcase but then within one building, see our practice field, training room, locker room allows us to centralize what we use," Mullen said. "This is a project that is not our eye down the road for what we need next year but where we are going to be five years, 10 years or 20 years from now."