When Derek Dooley started molding plans for Tennessee's new football facility to fit what he thought would give the Vols the "Wow" factor, he thought outside the box. And with $45 million and 145,000-square feet at his disposal, it allowed the third-year coach to add the little things every program needs.
Like a mixed martial arts cage.
Dooley took the Knoxville News Sentinel on an exclusive tour and pointed out all of the wonders of the facility, including the grand team meeting room, hydro therapy room, eating area and, of course, the weight room where the MMA cage is located.
Players will be able to walk straight from the 120-yard practice field into the new weight room — a 22,000 square foot "multilevel thunderdome of power," as it's called in UT's promotional video for the facility. Along with the standard free weights, machines, cardiovascular training equipment — which will be situated on a deck that overlooks the weight room — and a nutrition bar, it will feature a mixed martial arts cage "so we can go in and fight and all that stuff," Dooley said.
If only the weight room had stadium seating, then Tennessee might be able to rent the place out for fight night and filter some money back into the program. Not sure why a coach would want an MMA cage in his football facility. Seems like a recipe for disaster. Maybe there are a lot of disagreements that can only be solved with a rear-naked choke (see photo below). Or perhaps, this is how Dooley is going to determine his depth chart. Position battle? Take it to the cage! Whoever isn't beaten senseless gets to start that week. I think "Take it to the cage" should be the Vols' 2012 rally cry.
But while the MMA cage is designed to bring players closer than they've probably ever been before, Tennessee's new locker room is designed to do the exact opposite. The 7,000-square foot area features 125 lockers that each has a station to charge iPods and cell phones. It's also more spacious than the Vols' current quarters and for good reason.
"When you have 120 guys in a room and half the time they're not dressed, you need a little room so you're not bumping into each other," Dooley told the paper.
I have a feeling the idea for extra locker room space had to do with the staph infection and subsequent hygiene lesson Dooley had to give his players back in 2010.
"We had, I told them, the worst shower discipline of any team I've ever been around," Dooley told the media during his first season. "So we talked a little bit about application of soap to the rag and making sure you hit all your body."
The first move into the new facility is slated for July and the entire place will be full of football players and staff by the end of the year.