ATLANTA – They’re all small. Sometimes they’re downright nasty.
In the SEC, which boasts some of the best football programs and facilities in the country, visiting locker rooms are the dirty little secret.
“Whoever has the best locker room, hands to them, because some teams want to put their visiting team in the worst locker room possible trying to mess with their heads,” Georgia wide receiver Terry Godwin said last week at SEC Media Days.
The Tuscaloosa News surveyed more than three dozen players at the league’s annual preseason gathering. Of more than 20 responses naming a worst locker room, LSU had the most votes for being worst with four. Vanderbilt, Tennessee, South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Florida all got multiple mentions. Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky were also named.
A few players said they hadn’t had a bad locker room experience on the road in the SEC, but everything is relative.
“If I was a home team and I had a visiting team coming I’d design a visiting locker room like that too,” said Florida offensive lineman Martez Ivey.
Added Texas A&M defensive lineman Kingsley Keke, “I don’t expect visiting locker rooms to be great. They’re pretty much all the same.”
Which isn’t to say they are good.
That’s why the SEC included visiting locker rooms as a topic to be addressed by a working group of athletics directors and event managers assembled last year to survey facility expectations. The group’s undertaking is ongoing.
“We’ve produced some expectations already,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Absolutely visiting locker rooms are part of that discussion.”
What can be done, at least quickly, is limited. Schools would have to renovate and upgrade within existing space in most cases.
“It’s not as if you can just adjust a locker room on 30 days notice,” Sankey said. “Some of those are pretty significant structure projects.”
Sankey prefers to characterize complaints by schools about opposing locker rooms as “observations.” Some situations have been brought to his attention.
“They’ve observed the differences in visiting locker rooms, yes,” he said. “There is a wide variance in visiting team locker rooms.”
Alabama visited Texas A&M in September of 2013 and arrived to find the visiting locker room had no working air conditioning. UA brought in its own portable air conditioners to overcome the conditions.
The most repeated complaint about visiting locker rooms across the board is that they’re too small. But space isn’t the only issue.
“There’s a lot of ones that don’t have soap or hot water,” Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen said.
That’s not a problem at South Carolina.
“They have no showers,” said Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad.
What makes LSU’s so bad?
“It’s so small,” Florida defensive end CeCe Jefferson said. “It’s like little daycare cubbies and they’re like right by each other.”
Making it more cramped, there are lockers lining the walls in Tiger Stadium and another set standing up in the middle.
“It’s so crowded,” Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw said. “I just don’t like them.”
Ole Miss got low marks on a couple of fronts. Trayveon Williams said there weren’t enough lockers, so Texas A&M players had to double up.
And then there’s the restroom.
“The bathroom is nasty,” Arkansas defensive back Santos Ramirez said. “It’s like they unwelcome you on purpose. We expect that, but that’s the worst locker room.
“It’s like they’re trying to get in your head; They make it disgusting on purpose.”
Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed said Tennessee’s visiting team space is “just like a middle school locker.” South Carolina defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum added, “There weren’t really many chairs. We were standing up.”
Missouri’s issue is lack of space and air conditioning. Said Auburn defensive lineman Dontavius Russell, “It’s hot, so hot. I just hate being hot.”
Alabama named its visiting locker room after donor James M. Fail in 2008. It used to be the Crimson Tide’s home locker room, so it’s probably not as bad as a lot of others. The only player to give UA low marks for visiting accommodations, in fact, was Alabama running back Damien Harris.
“I would say our own is pretty bad,” he said. “We named it the Fail Room.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.