Most of us have spent the last two weeks in wonder while watching the world’s greatest athletes, many of whom trained right here at the University of Louisville, compete and perform for a chance at a medal and the opportunity to salute their nation’s flag. It is natural to question: What amount of training is involved to reach that level of mastery? How much pressure is involved to compete on this platform? How does it all affect your personal life?
These same questions trickle down to college athletics where, not surprisingly, studies have shown that 30 percent of student-athletes polled by the American College Health Association (ACHA) reported having felt depressed in the last 12 months, and over 50 percent admitted to having felt overwhelming anxiety during that time. While those numbers aren’t entirely inconsistent with non-athletes, collegiate athletes do encounter unique stressors like missing scheduled classes, increased demands on their time and managing relationships with coaches and teammates.
Depression and anxiety can be predictors of low performance in the classroom and are highly correlated with risky behavior and, in the most extreme cases, even suicide. The University of Louisville has taken a very public and definite stance on supporting their student-athletes in their academic success – thereby improving their overall mental health – with the recent grand opening of the Thorntons Academic Center of Excellence, an impressive space that is proudly situated on the south end of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium beneath the Norton Terrace.
Of the Center, Tom Jurich said, “It may be the finest facility that we’ve built and certainly one of the most important projects we’ve taken on during my time at Louisville.” This is a grand statement coming from the vice president and director of athletics who has transformed the UofL campus with new and improved athletic facilities while also leading the fundraising that has landed the university at the very top of Forbes’ list of most valuable teams for the past five years.
The state-of-the-art facility now provides a central location for over 750 student-athletes for all 23 sports programs; previously, they had been spread all over campus. Jurich calls it a “student-first building” that houses academic operations and will serve to advance UofL athletes in their classroom achievements.
The Thorntons Academic Center of Excellence is well-appointed and well-branded, from the Republic Bank Atrium upon entry – where students can study and mingle – to the Adidas lounge – where students can relax and enjoy a break. In between, you can see fueling stations to keep student-athletes fed and hydrated, a computer laboratory with standing and seated desks, and private tutorial areas for meetings with academic counselors or tutors, or just for some solo study time. The 204-seat auditorium boasts an 18.5-by-10.5-foot screen and projection system that will be used for team meetings and seminars.
The Center is made possible thanks largely to Thorntons’ $3 million lead gift, which Cardinals fans and alumni matched and exceeded to the tune of $6 million. Additional corporate partners Stites and Harbison, who committed $2 million to the project, and Marker’s Mark, who generated a total of $2.5 in funding through marketing limited edition bottles, were major contributors in the rapid buy-in and success of this $18.5 million facility that broke ground in May 2015.
Thorntons, the Louisville-based company that is widely recognized as one of the top convenience store chains in the nation and whose name the Center proudly displays, unveiled one of their own initiatives this week by launching their “Real Kitchen. Real Food.” campaign. The on-the-go store and community partner gave out 200 mini-burritos to guests at the pump August 23-25 at their Shelbyville Road, Taylorsville Road and Westport Road locations as a way of introducing the concept, which will feature freshly prepared, high-quality ingredients.
The Thorntons Academic Center of Excellence will be a crown jewel in which fans can take pride when they descend upon Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the opening football game on September 1. Jurich declared, “We sincerely appreciate the generosity of many people that invested in the future of so many student-athletes’ lives to create probably the finest academic center in the nation. I want to particularly thank Matt Thornton, his family and his company for taking the lead on making all of this possible.” VT
Photos courtesy of UofL Athletics