April 6, 2001
BOCA RATON - Tom Oxley and Florida Atlantic University President Anthony J. Catanese, along with Sara Catanese and the University's mascot, a costumed Owl, arrived by helicopter during the middle of the Fighting Owls football practice Friday afternoon. Their grand arrival was for the Tom Oxley Athletic Center ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony, but more importantly it signified that FAU Athletics has arrived on the Division I athletic scene as a championship contender.
"This university is extremely grateful to Tom Oxley for his extraordinary support of FAU football and the entire athletics program," said President Catanese. "His involvement in the developmental stages of our football program was absolutely critical, and because of his generosity we gather her today to proudly dedicate one of the finest collegiate training and academic centers in the United States."
The Oxley Center, nearly 60,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art co-educational training and academic facility, was designed to strengthen the Athletics Department and secure its future among the nation's collegiate sport leaders.
Oxley, an FAU alumnus, donated a significant portion of the facilities cost as a way of giving back to the community. His generosity has touched the lives of every FAU coach and student-athlete and has been a major recruiting tool for every sport. An example of its recruiting value is the 2001 football recruiting class: Of the 36 recruits who visited the center after its completion, 33 signed National Letters of Intent on signing day. Five players were among in the state's top-100 college prospects.
Shortly after the building opened in late December, Coach Schnellenberger predicted the Oxley Athletic Center would improve recruiting by 5,000 percent. It has done more than improve recruiting, it has given life to the combined vision of Dr. Catanese and Coach Schnellenberger.
"On Ribbon Cutting Day, it has become crystal clear that the Tom Oxley Center, a co-athletic, co- education training center, has become the hub for Florida Atlantic athletes, Schnellenberger said. "This center has so energized our coaches and players that a sense of school pride swells in the chest of all of us. Our thanks go out to President Catanese for his commitment and to the generosity that has given us this launch pad for greatness."
Tyrone Higgins, a 2000 signee and a red-shirt freshman, said he expects recruits and teammates to believe in the coaching staff. Higgins, who was recruited prior to the construction of the Tom Oxley Center, chose FAU because of Coach Schnellenberger's promise to construct a state-of-the-art training facility.
"We (2000 class) came in with nothing to go on, and everything the coaches told us came true," Higgins said in a January Boca Raton News article. "I'm going to tell the recruits that anything the coaches say is the truth."
The Tom Oxley Athletic Center houses a 4,000 square-foot weight room, available to more than 450 student-athletes and contains more than $175,000 of weight equipment. The facility also has an academic center with more than 50 computers, available to all FAU students, an auditorium with 110 theater-style seats, a reception area, an audio-visual room for instruction, the Sports Information Office, and coaches and administrative offices. Currently, 22 classes are held in five classrooms/meeting rooms.
The Tom Oxley Athletic Center, which was completed under the $8 million projected cost, is a facility that will prepare FAU student-athletes to excel through their intercollegiate careers and will help prepare other FAU students to excel academically and professionally.
Just as Tom Oxley challenged the community to get behind FAU in June of 1999, Coach Jody Brown and the FAU volleyball team ended the evening's festivities by challenging the football team to a match. Dr Catanese coached the volleyball team, while Coach Schnellenberger called the signals for the football team.