By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN — When Joe Castiglione became Oklahoma’s athletics director in 1998, he took over a department with some aging and antiquated facilities.
Some upgrades were made quickly. Others had to wait; like a new dormitory to house the Sooners’ incoming athletes.
“When I got here, they were one of the facilities that had fallen way behind,” he said.
That changed Sunday afternoon as OU students and student-athletes began moving into the $75 million Headington Hall. The 380-bed facility may very well be the crowning achievement in the facility boom that’s occurred at OU over the last 15 years.
The facility, which will house 200 non-athlete OU students, puts OU in the lead in the arms race that’s taken over college athletics.
The dorm, which will house the freshmen in all of the Sooners’ sports as well as some second-year athletes, was constructed to be a one-of-a-kind facility.
“I think it sets the standard. I haven’t seen one that would compare to this,” Castiglione said. “Anytime we do something at Oklahoma it’s to create a standard of excellence and uphold anything that allows us to pursue excellence. At this point, it stands alone in its uniqueness, sustainability, its services to the students who will live here and use it on a daily basis. The classic and timeless architecture choice makes it feel like it is integrated with the rest of campus.”
Headington Hall sits to the southwest of Owen Field. Obviously, the football facilities are close by, but so are the training premises for track and field, volleyball and wrestling.
The Sam Bradford Dining Hall, which is located on the ground floor, will serve as the training table for Sooner athletics. Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy, donated $500,000 for the facility. Former All-American running back Adrian Peterson pledged $1 million.
It gives Sooner coaches something unique to sell on the recruiting trail. OU football coach Bob Stoops has a great view of it from his office in the Switzer Center.
“There’s nothing else like it on another campus in America,” he said. “Headington Hall is much more than a state-of-the-art residence hall, it’s a place that generations of Sooners will be able to call home.”
Sunday was the first day students could move in. Among that group was Sooner sophomore receiver Sterling Shepard. He and roommate Durron Neal lugged their possessions across Lindsey Street from Bud Wilkinson Hall to their new suite on the third floor.
The new suite included a two bathrooms and a kitchenette. The days of having to plan out showers or going to Walmart to buy a mini refrigerator were over.
“I didn’t know we were getting a real refrigerator,” Shepard said. “I was about to bring the little one over. Now we have a real one with a freezer. This is great.”
The long walks to the north side of Owen Field for study hall have ended as well. Headington Hall also houses OU’s academic center.
OU’s coaches have been touting Headington Hall for about a year, but it’s mostly been with artist’s renderings of what it would eventually be. Now, they have the real deal.
Castiglione believes this is facility that will stand the test of time.
“You only get a chance to do it right one time. We try our best to set the standard when we do it,” he said. “This is a 50- to 100-year opportunity for us, so we had to get it right the first time. We put a lot of energy into making it right.”