BYU just got a spiffy new locker room. What will it mean for the program?
The Cougars’ upgraded football locker room was a long overdue project and will be a selling point to future recruits
It was the morning of Nov. 6, 2020, during a BYU road trip for the Boise State game. Billy Nixon was having breakfast when BYU football coach Kalani Sitake came up to him with a bombshell delivery.
Sitake told Nixon, BYU’s director of player experience and equipment operations, he was pulling the trigger on a rehaul of the team’s locker room and that Nixon was to go forward and get it done.
Nixon immediately helped form a committee, headed by director of football operations Jon Swift. He’d already done some research. He launched a series of surveys, studying what locker room features stood out at Power Five and Group of Five programs across the country.
The committee then took those ideas directly to BYU’s football players and had them vote on everything from colors, materials, charging ports, seats, privacy walls, digital locks, ventilated storage drawers and closets, entertainment features, a new sound system, and audio controlled through a wall-mounted tablet for the entire room.
Stinky shoes stacked in a pile are also a thing of the past. The new design has ventilated shoe cabinets and drawers that are hooked up to a system that pipes stale air directly outdoors. Much of the design for the 75-yard long room is fashioned after the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles’ facilities with access points directly to the equipment room, coaches lockers, an alumni area and player lounge.
What did the guys want? Whatever answers came back, Nixon’s committee put them in the hopper for consideration of the design.
“The one thing that stands out,” said Nixon, “is this locker room is the product of the players and what they want. It is theirs in every way and that was important to us.”
BYU revealed the final product Monday while Nixon was vacationing in Island Park, Idaho. His phone began blowing up. Players were pleased.
“It was like Christmas, opening up a present you didn’t expect,” said Nixon.
The final product is the envy of former players. Some G5 programs had features more attractive than P5 locker rooms in the Pac-12 and Big Ten. BYU drew from all of them.
If it knocked the socks off current players, it would certainly be a selling point in recruiting, right?
Nixon said from his committee’s research and from talks with recruiting coordinator Jason Ah You, the biggest thing recruits are looking for is parity.
“They want to know if BYU’s locker room is the same as other locker rooms we are recruiting against,” he said. “I think this locker room definitely puts us on the same level with anyone in the country.”
The old locker room was an open design and it showed messes, a feature of all locker rooms that house a hundred men.
“This is more enclosed and it kind of hides the mess. In this way, it is always going to be presentable if recruits make a visit,” Nixon said. “That’s a big plus to this design. We don’t have to worry about the staging experience of visitors.”
Social media posts of the new digs immediately went viral. So did reactions from former players who once made the locker room their home.
“For years Billy Nixon has waited in the wings of Mick Hill (equipment manager), visualizing and planning what he was going to do when it was his time to shine,” said former receiver Dylan Collie. “He took years of mental prep to create an environment that removes all of the irrelevant outside noise within the BYU recruiting scene. It shows how focused the university is on brightening that light on the hill by way of athletics.”
In a text responding to a request from the Deseret News, former Cougars quarterback John Beck, who played with Miami, Baltimore and Washington stated, “I think it shows how important the football program is to the university and how important it is that it provides a state-of-the-art locker room that competes with other top locker rooms in the country. And Curtis Brown is really bothered that they didn’t do this when he was there. LOL.”
Brown, at one time BYU’s all-time leading rusher and teammate of Beck, responded. “It’s an integral part of the entire BYU experience! As Power Five conferences continue to raise the bar on what five-star athletes should come to expect from Best-in-Class programs, it’s important that BYU continue to evolve if they want to remain competitive in recruiting.
“I was floored to see the modifications that have been made to the locker room,” he continued. “These kids deserve this experience and Kalani has worked extremely hard to give his players a positive memorable college experience both on and off the field. The locker room is where some of the strongest bonds were formed between me and my teammates. The memories that are created there will last a lifetime.”
David Nixon, a former star linebacker who is part of BYUtv’s analysis staff, said in today’s college football landscape, to remain competitive and relevant, you have to attract the top tier talent and that talent will consider “everything” when making decisions.
“One of those factors is the football facilities that they’ll be spending the majority of their time in day in and day out. Credit goes to BYU for making the locker room renovations happen and making a case for now having the best facilities in the country.”
You walk into the new locker room and motion sensors trigger the illumination system automatically. There is a barbershop complete with all the trimmings, including a blue and white barber pole sign. Nearby, is the player-requested shuffleboard table. Four big-screen TVs are situated so players can watch ESPN, live games or specific programming.
The 20-something different BYU jerseys the Cougars have sported over the years have been converted into steel and displayed on a wall.
Here’s a look at our project for the @BYUfootball locker room!— Vandy Creations (@vandy_creations) June 21, 2021
We took 23 of the jerseys BYU has had over the years, and recreated them in steel. We tried to capture every detail from each jersey to do them justice.
The 2 digit # represents the first year the jersey was worn. pic.twitter.com/KpUFrzLiBz
A Nike equipment wall, featuring BYU’s partnership with the mega sports company, is a prominent piece of the design.
Nixon said money for the build came from an endowment fund and was earmarked for a locker room renovation at some time.
“It was through the vision of athletic director Tom Holmoe and the tone set by Kalani to enhance the player experience at BYU that it got done this summer. It was needed and long overdue.”
Along with Swift, who dictated what was needed from a football perspective, other committee members included Matt Nix, associate athletic director over facilities, who coordinated with campus physical facilities folks Keith Martin and Joseph Beck. Longhorn Lockers made it a reality. Dave Broberg, creative design director, also served in the design and veteran varsity players had a voice on the committee.
“This is awesome,” said center and captain James Empey. “We are super grateful for the staff, administration and school for these renovations.
“We are blessed to have such a nice place to utilize as we get ready for workouts, practices and games. I liked that they involved us as players and made sure to ask us what we were looking for and what we wanted in a locker room. It was great to have that input in the process. There is so much attention to detail. This is great.”
Suddenly, the excitement of players returning back to campus for fall camp in August has a new feel.
It fits just fine.