Florida is stepping up its game. On Monday, the University officially opened the newly renovated Otis P. Hawkins Center for Academic and Personal Excellence at Fariror Hall after a 21 month process.
"It's been a long time planning and it's been a long time constructing," said Director of Athletics, Jeremy Foley,"and today is a good day for the program."
The Hawkins Center's square footage was nearly tripled after the update, standing at 82,613 square feet.
"I was floored," said Gator great and ESPN broadcaster, Kevin Carter. "I thought man, where was this 20 years ago when I was here."
"When I first walked in here my freshman year it was a fourth of what this building is now," said former Florida basketball player, Patric Young. "Now it's four times the size, so I'm overwhelmed right now just looking at it."
The building will now be a "home away from home" for the Gators' 500 student athletes. The space will not only provide academic support for the athletes, with its study rooms, testing rooms, advisors and state of the art Mac and PC labs, it will also provide assistance in career and personal development and will house a fueling station, where the student athletes can visit the Florida nutritionists for advice and snacks.
"We want them to come here; we want them to hang out here; we want them to come by here and pick up a snack and go visit their counselors and visit their teammates and other athletes," said Foley.
"It has all the best tutors. It has more study space, more collaboration. It has outlets. It's all here to help the student succeed,"said Florida gymnast, Morgan Frazier.
This is certainly a game changer for the student athletes already on campus, but also for recruiting.
"This gives us a competitive edge in recruiting students and then it gives them a competitive edge in their studies and when they graduate, " said UF President, Dr. Kent Fuchs.
"I'll have a parent in my office saying 'I had no idea you guys were so good academically. I know idea that we can come here and get such a degree.' You know we're trying to take that conversation off the table," added Foley.
According to Frazier, if she saw this center when she was a high school recruit, her decision to commit to the Gators would have come even quicker.
"Academics was huge for me," she said. "If this would have been here there would be no hesitation."
The $25 million renovation to the Hawkins Center is the most recent upgrade to the facilities at the Swamp. Last summer, the dorms were renovated and the $17-million indoor practice facility was completed. The next set of upgrades will focus on overall football operations.
"I don't see why anyone would go anywhere else," said Carter. "I mean if the University of Florida wants you as a student athlete, there really is no comparison."
OTHER RELATED VIDEOS: