IT'S THE GIFT that promises to keep on giving, and go down as maybe the biggest part of Andy Talley's legacy on the Main Line.
"From my heart, it really means the establishment of Villanova football forever," said the Wildcats' football coach, who is retiring after this, his 32nd season running the program. "Because Villanova football was responsible for this."
He was referring to the three-story building that is about to open at the west end of Villanova Stadium next to Jake Nevin Field House. The state-of-the-art facility, which cost $18 million (more than half of which came from an anonymous donor), will be the program's new home base. But it will be so much more, for the entire athletic department.
"It's one-stop shopping," said Talley, whose Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Colonial Athletic Association), ranked 16th in FCS, host No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2) on Saturday afternoon. "It takes us into the future. We've played everywhere, done everything. But we've never had that final big piece where you go, 'Now you've got a program.' I don't know if this will be the difference-maker or not, but it won't hurt."
The building will be dedicated Friday afternoon, when the school announces whose name will be attached to it. Among the project's amenities are a training center, meeting rooms, 100-seat theater, academic-support space, locker room and a recreation area/lounge. And the football offices, including one for Talley while he remains on staff for another year to assist in the transition to longtime assistant Mark Ferrante.
"What it does is give football a very up-to-date home, where we can compete nationally in recruiting," said Talley, who won a national championship in 2009 and made it to the semifinals in 2002 and 2010. "It now has a showpiece. And it reinforces the fact that football is alive and well here. It's also a building that has all things for all sports, and really will be open to our other athletic teams.
"In the last 10 years, you could see that you needed to get going on something like this or you're falling behind. It's a trickle down from Division I. Villanova has a brand that's been out there for a long time. There's something about it that's special. But it's just a matter of time until a kid says, 'I'm going to James Madison because they have a great facility and you don't.' This is for all the people who stuck behind football through the years, through thick and thin."
When Talley took over in 1984, there wasn't a program. He brought it back from scratch and won his first seven games, and 15 of his first 16. By 1989 he was making the first of 11 playoff appearances, five of which have come in the last eight years. And he's had three Walter Payton Award winners, at three positions. So it obviously has been quite a ride. And now there's a lasting tribute in place as a result of those efforts.
"And you should see the view looking into the stadium," Talley marveled. "It's something else."
As was the journey that finally brought Villanova to this place in time.