The old football field now is a parking lot. The weeds are growing tall where fans used to sit and watch Catholic University play. There is no turning back now.
A rejuvenated Catholic team begins its season at 1:30 p.m. today against Dickinson on the new field, which is about a mile north of campus and part of a $7.8 million athletic complex still under construction. The Olympic-size swimming pool is a long way from holding water, but the football field is ready for the start of Catholic's first season under Coach Ro Waldron.
And Waldron is ready.
"I've got a million things on my mind, but I guess Dickinson is on top," Waldron said. "It's the first game in the new facility, the first opportunity to play on the new field."
Catholic, which was 5-4 last season, has said it wants to be a Division III power in the future. How near that future might be is debatable, but Waldron, 27, thinks it can be done.
"At this point, we're rebuilding," he said. "Those things don't happen overnight. It's not like we're going to go out there, go 11-0 and go to the playoffs every year right away. But with the new athletic facility, new stadium, new practice fields, new weight room, we have a first-class facility. That's the first step. The second is recruiting players of high quality. We have some good players, but we need more of them."
One of those good players is senior quarterback Tony Gallis, who holds several Catholic passing records and should grab a few more this season. It's likely he'll set two today. Gallis needs 81 yards to move past Steve Stanislav (1977-80, 5,054 yards) in career yardage and eight completions to move past Stanislav (357) in that category.
The new facility will include the new football/soccer field with bleachers for about 3,000 people, a synthetic track around the field, baseball and softball diamonds, tennis courts and general purpose practice fields. The indoor portion of the new facility, named for alumnus Raymond DuFour, will have two locker rooms (parts of which will be used by students for intramural sports), a training room and a weight room.
CU's basketball team will play in the new building this season, if it is finished in time. Above the court will be a running track. There also will be squash and racquetball courts.
Waldron is the first full-time coach the Cardinals have had in 34 years. The "full-time" part involves the renewed commitment Catholic is making to athletics.
When asked whether he would be at Catholic without the new facility, Waldron smiles. And pauses.
"Let's just say . . . when you're entertaining the idea of becoming a head coach at my age, you like to be convinced that they are trying to make something happen," Waldron said. "It was a real sign that they're willing to back the coach."