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Jim Harbaugh Blasts Purdue for Locker Room Conditions

NCAA Football: Michigan at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: This article was written before Purdue’s official response, which has changed some of our opinions on the matter. We are leaving the original article untouched.

On Saturday our friends at Maize N’ Brew wrote about how the visitor’s locker room at Purdue had no air conditioning and the players had to go on to the nearby motor coach to cool off at halftime and such. This is a valid concern, but not one that comes up often. It is the first time we have heard of it as Purdue fans and, really, it is an issue maybe once a season if that. Saturday was one of the hottest games on record at Purdue, however, and the danger of football players overexerting themselves and being unable to cool off was high.

Today Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had more to say on the issue:

Sadly, coach Harbaugh is 100% correct here and it is quite an embarrassment. Honestly, you don’t hear about visiting locker rooms much except for Iowa’s famous pink locker room. The only other one I can think of is the visitor’s locker room at Alabama, which is named after alumnus James M. Fail and, is thus, “the Fail Room”. They are meant to be Spartan accommodations as you don’t want your guests to be too comfortable, but this sounds like an issue Purdue is going to have to address sooner rather than later.

It is one thing to not have the nice amenities of touch screens and wide lockers, but it something completely different if you can’t have basic restroom facilities or a sanitary sports medicine area. I know Purdue has an excellent sports medicine facility nearby, but it across the street in the basement of Mackey Arena.

I was trying to research when Purdue last addressed the visitor’s locker room and could not find a concrete date. It was not addressed in the recent $65 million football performance facility addition. The addition of permanent lights did not touch it. Even the extensive $70 million renovation in 2001-2003 largely left the visitor’s locker room alone. To my knowledge it was the only area of the stadium untouched, as the new pavilion and expanded concourses made up the vast majority of that renovation. You probably have to go back to the early 1990s if not before. I have been coming to games since 1987 and I cannot think of a time when the visitor’s locker room in the southwest corner didn’t look exactly like it does today.

In fact, if I recall correctly, I believe the baseball team used it when the old Lambert Field was still being used, as Lambert had no locker rooms at all and it was the nearest facility over a third of a mile away.

I wish I could say I was surprised that conditions were like this, but given the way that Ross-Ade Stadium and its improvements were neglected after the pavilion was built I am not. It’s not like our previous leadership was concerned about helping our own program, much less the conditions of the visitor’s locker room. Before the lights were installed this summer there was not significant work (other than maintenance) done in 14 years. Just about the only thing that will fix this issue is the new South End Zone structure as part of the Purdue Football Master Plan.

We wrote about it earlier this summer when new athletic director Mike Bobinski addressed what needs to be done:

The article also states that the new game day locker room would be in conjunction with transforming the current football locker room into new academic space since it is in the Brees building. As it stands now, the main football locker room will be in the new performance facility, while the team will continue to use an area underneath the east stands for pre-game and halftime.

That’s only a small part of it, however. Eventually, that new locker room (which will have Spartan accommodations by Bobinski’s own admission) would become the new visitor’s locker room:

“While we want to make it functional, we don’t want to make it overly nice,” Bobinski said, laughing. “We want to create a space that works and accommodates our team.”

The south end zone project remains high on Bobinski’s list.

Ideas to improve the space - and other areas of the stadium - have been taken to the point of concept. Those include technology upgrades, video boards and a new sound system along with structural steel issues that need to be addressed.

The current visitor’s locker room would be gone with any new South End Zone structure, so the visitors would take over the renovated game day space and I would assume Purdue would have a new, fancy game day locker room as part of the South End Zone structure.

As always, it comes at a cost. We’re looking well north of $100 million here and the Master plan currently has $20.2 million dedicated to it. This weekend’s experience by Michigan could change things, as the need for SOMETHING better is clearly there. This puts Purdue in a pretty bad light and it is embarrassing that it has gotten to this, but that is what happens when you ignore an area for 25-30 years.

UPDATE: Purdue has officially repsoned, per Mike Carmin: