UM Dedicates Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence

The 34,000-square-foot facility will serve UM's more than 400 student-athletes with resources such as a new academic center and expanded training facilities.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 04, 2013) — Architectural renderings of the University of Miami’s gleaming new Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence were like X’s and O’s on a chalkboard to Maurice Hagens when he first saw them in 2010 as a high school football recruit out of Riverview, Florida.

Today, those renderings are reality, and Hagens, now a senior fullback for the Miami Hurricanes, couldn’t be more ecstatic. “During my recruitment, the coaches would tell us about the Schwartz Center and show us drawings,” recalls Hagens. “Now, to finally see it come to fruition, it’s just amazing.”

Donors, trustees, coaches, administrators, and guests shared Hagens’ enthusiasm on October 4, when, during a ceremony held in the shadow of championship programs, UM dedicated the 34,000-square-foot Schwartz Center—a facility that will serve the University’s more than 400 student-athletes with resources such as a new academic center and expanded training facilities. Among its features:

• The Paul J. DiMare Gallery of Champions, which showcases individual and team titles, such as UM’s five national championships in football, as well as awards like the Heisman Trophies won by former Hurricanes Gino Torretta and Vinny Testaverde.

• A new football locker room made possible by a gift from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who played at UM before his successful wrestling and Hollywood acting careers.

During the dedication event, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, right, joined President Shalala in presenting Todd and Ted Schwartz with a special certificate thanking the father and son for the gift to UM.

• An academic center with new computers, study rooms, and a 140-seat auditorium. “It provides so much more to our student-athletes so they can focus on all their academic opportunities,” said David Wyman, associate athletic director of academic services. “This facility allows us to offer enhanced support and increases the potential for our kids to fulfill their academic endeavors.”

• An expansion of the existing Isadore Hecht Athletic Center to include a state-of-the-art sports medicine and training area. One of the new high-tech tools is an anti-gravity treadmill that uses adjustable weight-bearing technology to help rehabilitate lower extremity injuries. “New machines, state-of-the-art equipment, more space for doctors and trainers to work—the new training area is just what we needed,” said Lesley King, an assistant athletic trainer.

A lead gift directed by father and son Theodore G. and Todd G. Schwartz from their family foundation made the $14.7 million center possible. So, too, did the generosity of other donors, 400 of whom made gifts to a Schwartz Center brick campaign and more than 80 who made donations of substantial amounts.

Designed by AECOM and built by Moss Construction, the center is located on the north side of the Hecht Center, a facility dedicated in 1979 that also ushered in a new era for Hurricane athletics. Members of the Hecht family, longtime supports of Hurricane athletics, attended the dedication ceremony.

Todd Schwartz said the facility is just what UM needs to stand toe to toe on a level playing field with larger, state schools. “We thought it was imperative that for Miami to compete going forward in the future, it would need a facility that was representative of the University of Miami. We saw the impact of the nursing school [gift] and thought that a center like this would have a similar impact.” He was referring to the transformational gift made in 1999 by UM trustee M. Christine Schwartz and Theodore “Ted” Schwartz to build a new facility for UM’s nursing school.

The Paul J. DiMare Gallery of Champions that showcases individual and team titles, such as UM’s five national championships in football, as well as awards like the Heisman Trophies won by former Hurricanes Gino Torretta and Vinny Testaverde.

His family’s passion for the University of Miami goes back to 1964, when his father, Ted, happened to watch a UM football game on a Chicago-area TV station and fell in love with the institution.

“When I grew up in Chicago, I grew up in a sea of Notre Dame fans,” Ted Schwartz explained. “One day, for some reason, they televised a University of Miami game, and I was captivated at 10 years old by the old Orange Bowl, and seeing the palm trees by the scoreboard and the U on the helmet. Something just registered in my brain that day, and I’ve been a Hurricane fan ever since.”

Ted Schwartz recalled attending the 1984 Orange Bowl Classic, where Miami won its first national championship under coach Howard Schnellenberger. UM, he said, embodies the values his family holds dear. “Even though none of us attended Miami, [we know that it’s a] very unique place.”

He and his son have already identified their favorite part of the new Schwartz Center. For the father, it’s the new football locker room, which he describes as “phenomenal.”

“Every player can make eye contact with the coach, but there’s still a team concept built in mind,” he said.

The football players lounge includes photos of some of UM’s greatest champions.

For son Todd Schwartz, it’s the Gallery of Champions. “It takes your breath away,” he said. “It’s really a grand entrance to a grand building.”

UM President Donna E. Shalala described the center as a “home away from home for our student-athletes.”

“They train here, play here, and even receive world-class health care,” she said.

Director of Athletics Blake James called it “an investment in our student-athletes that will pay dividends for years to come.”

UM coaches are describing the facility as a major recruiting tool.

“We’ve already had student-athletes visit the campus, and our first stop was to the Schwartz Center to emphasize the great academic environment that we have here,” said men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga. “Parents have been very impressed. Young men realize that they’ll be in a very healthy and safe environment to do their studies. So it’s already been a tremendous help to us and will continue to be.”

Women’s basketball coach Katie Meier agrees, noting that coaches on her staff give every recruit a tour of the facility. “We’ve done some things online to showcase it as well,” she said. “It’s definitely helping us in recruiting. We ought to be able to say you can’t get treated any better than you can at the University of Miami—and now we can honestly say that.”

Hurricane football offensive line coach Art Kehoe calls the Schwartz Center “the Taj Mahal” of college athletic facilities. “That it helps our recruiting is the understatement of the century,” said Kehoe, who played for Schnellenberger at UM, helping the program win its first bowl game. “I’m just blown away by it—the big ceilings, the beautiful locker room, the players lounge. It’s just spectacular.”

Robert Jones can be reached at 305-284-1615.

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The new Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence is part of the ongoing transformation of the west side of UM’s Coral Gables campus, President Donna E. Shalala noted during the facility’s dedication ceremony on October 4.

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