Bethune-Cookman University is set to break ground on a new practice facility, thanks in part to a big assist from Charles Barkley.
B-CU Director of Athletics Reggie Theus, a former NBA All-Start himself, acknowledged Barkley’s gift helped set the stage for an April 22nd groundbreaking for a new on-campus facility that will take place in the morning before the program’s annual Maroon & Gold Spring Game. An all-star cast of B-CU greats is expected to attend the grand event.
“A start of this initiative was the gift from Charles Barkley. I want to thank him for helping us in that mindset as we try to build our athletics program. When this administration took a chance on me, I could clearly see that while athletics as a whole needed to be revamped, the most visible program that had enjoyed the most success was the football program. We have the opportunity to build at some point a full practice compound behind the ATC (formerly Handfield Center). We have the administration in place now and the vision to make this happen,” Theus said.
Reggie Theus takes over B-CU
Bethune-Cookman University found itself in a position it had not been in for decades with the retirement of longtime athletics director Lynn Thompson in 2021. For the previous 31 years Thompson had guided the program to its most successful stints on the field in several sports, but unprecedented success in football. Coming out of a global pandemic and with football expected to return to playing games in 2021, B-CU needed to move fast and secure a stabilizing force in the department.
In response, former NBA great Reggie Theus was chosen in the dual role of head men’s basketball coach and director of athletics. Theus had been coaching, but it was his first opportunity to be a D-I athletics director.
“I applaud the administration for seeing the vision I had for the program,” Theus said. “Bethune-Cookman has a rich tradition of winning in sports as well as building men and women into productive citizens. Character building is not lost on the department of athletics at B-CU.”
Departure of Sims was a turning point in Bethune-Cookman rebuild
After consecutive 2-9 seasons, Theus decided to part ways with head football coach Terry Sims in just days after the 2022 Florida Blue Florida Classic which sealed the second consecutive losing season after the break in 2020 due to the coronavirus. Theus would immediately begin the process of not only finding a new coach, but putting a roadmap together for sustained success.
“It’s no secret that the football team was practicing at the city stadium. There were not locker rooms on campus and there was no facility to call their own. We spent an enormous amount of money bussing the players back and forth for practice and the storage was not conducive with what we needed for maximum sanitation and functionality,” Theus said.
He began working on a plan to secure a permanent on-campus practice facility almost immediately and was making considerable progress. Counter to the successes that were being realized, the first coach to emerge as the replacement of Sims caused a bevy of unwanted publicity.
During the debacle that was the engagement of Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed and his reaction on campus, one of the elements that was at the center of the disagreement was an on-campus practice facility. That complaint was amplified by Reed upon coming to the Bethune-Cookman campus. Viral social media posts showed a Bethune-Cookman program that was in complete disarray.
Timeline of Charles Barkley gift and facility announcement
Theus, in an interview with HBCU Gameday, disputed the videos and several of the comments made by Reed. In the process, he revealed that he was in the process of working on an on-campus practice facility as well as working with the City of Daytona Beach to improve their facility at the stadium. The donation from Charles Barkley was announced late in 2022. In just a few weeks, ground will officially be broken, underscoring the fact that Theus had the facility in the works already.
Head coach Raymond Woodie will give the first look at the 2023 football squad.
Following the groundbreaking, the Wildcat nation will prepare for the Maroon & Gold game with a tailgate party complete with artists and DJs.
At 4:00 PM, new B-CU head coach Raymond Woodie and staff will take the Wildcats through the first Maroon & Gold Game at the helm. The day will be extra special as the game marks the kickoff of the 100th year of B-CU Football celebration. Since 1923, Bethune-Cookman has been playing collegiate football and the school has major plans to celebrate the milestone.
“Starting this 100th year of football, we want to celebrate in any way we can. We’ve had tremendous accomplishments at Bethune-Cookman,” Theus said. “The on-campus football facility will change the trajectory of our football program and it’s one of the things I was trying to do since I’ve been hired at this program. I wanted to move the needle. I wanted to give this opportunity to a program that really deserves to have its own.”