Perhaps it was a mere coincidence that after ESPN.com writer Chris Low rated Kentucky’s football facilities 13th out of 14 Southeastern Conference teams, UK¿officials showed off changes made to the Nutter Training Facility on Thursday.
Walls have been painted a vibrant blue, white and silver and are emblazoned with "Operation: Win" slogans, words from the UK fight song or images of current and past players. One wall shows all UK's players in the NFL. There is a graphic laying out UK's bowl history and logos for opposing teams.
“It just blew us away. I was in here left and right taking pictures of everything and going home and showing my family,” Smith said Thursday.
Low was not quite as blown away, even though he really had nothing negative to say about UK’s football facilities. Instead, he probably was realistic in his approach that there are no poor facilities in the SEC, including Kentucky or 14th-rated Vanderbilt. Every SEC school upgrades facilities — UK¿has had eight in eight years including new locker rooms and playing surface at Commonwealth Stadium, new indoor practice turf, upgraded outdoor practice facility with stadium lights, and new team meeting rooms at the practice facility.
Low considered stadium, locker room, weight room, training room, team meeting room, indoor practice complex, coaches’ offices and academic learning center along with how nice they were, how new they were and whether or not they were all self-contained to make life easier for the players when ranking the SEC team facilties.
Here’s what he wrote about Kentucky: “The Nutter Training Facility has been Kentucky’s football home since 1987. New practice fields were added in 2005, and the complex is highlighted by a 9,000-square foot weight room and new locker room. The Nutter Field House includes a 100-yard practice field, and Commonwealth Stadium has a new locker room complex as well as new video boards and audio system.”
What matters most is what impact the facilities have on recruiting. Smith thinks the cosmetic changes UK just made will help.
"They're making those updates and it's really helping with recruiting," Smith said. "We've got a lot of good young guys that have come here that say that they love the way everything's laid out."
But for a team coming off a 5-7 season with low outside expectations, the changes UK¿made to spruce up the training facility could help team morale/chemistry.
"They spent a lot of money and a lot of time doing this. It's really awesome that the coaches are doing this for us. It shows a huge commitment,” Smith said. "We've really talked to the seniors about stepping things up. We don't want another season like last year. We felt we got too comfortable and we got to be on our toes and keep everybody going as hard as they can."