Bruce Pearl: Basketball practice facility on hold, NIL needs to be priority

Auburn’s new men’s basketball practice facility at Neville Arena is apparently on hold for the time being, according to coach Bruce Pearl.

The Tigers’ head coach was asked Monday prior to teeing off at the Bruce, Barkley and Basketball Golf Event in Opelika about any updates on the facilities upgrade, which was approved by Auburn’s Board of Trustees back in February. Pearl said the project is being pushed to the backburner for the time being, because Auburn needs to prioritize another aspect of its athletics program first: NIL.

“We’ve got to take care of the NIL space first — in all sports,” Pearl said. “First, that’s got to be one of our commitments and our objectives…. We’ve got some other things to take care of before we take care of the practice facility.”

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The facility upgrade at Neville Arena, which was unanimously approved on Feb. 4, was set to include a new practice gym built onto the arena, as well as renovations to the team support space and to the women’s locker room area within the facility. There is already a practice gym at the arena, but it is a shared space between men’s and women’s basketball; the arena also houses volleyball and gymnastics practices and events, making scheduling for all four programs difficult at times.

The planned project at Neville Arena is the latest upgrade to the venue, which first opened in 2010, and previously saw $3 million upgrades to the men’s and women’s locker rooms prior to the 2019-20 season. The following year, the program also unveiled a new scoreboard with wraparound LED video display. The latest project is expected to be funded by gift funds and bonds, with the debt service of the bonds paid for by athletics department funds.

While Pearl previously expressed excitement about a new practice gym, he knows it is not the most important thing that needs to be done to sustain success not just for his program — which is coming off an SEC regular-season title — but across Auburn’s athletics teams given the current NCAA landscape and the manner in which business is being conducted nationally, and particularly in the cutthroat SEC.

“We’ve won sharing the practice facility with the volleyball team and the women’s basketball team and gymnastics being in there,” Pearl said. “That doesn’t transition to winning. Would I love a better teaching space? Would it be easier for our student-athletes to be able to, you know, have us not have to share time with everybody? We’re making it work. But when we do it, we’re gonna do it right. When we do it, we’re gonna do we’re gonna do it right. But we’ve got some other things to take care of before we take care of the practice facility.”

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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