Wilkinson Hall Dedication

Wilkinson Hall, IU Bloomington

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

IU President Michael A. McRobbie presides over the dedication of Wilkinson Hall.  Photo by James Brosher, Indiana University

A consolidated athletics campus with state-of-the-art facilities

Today is an historic day for Athletics at Indiana University, for with the dedication of Wilkinson Hall, we complete the Master Plan for IU's central athletics campus —a plan that forms part of the larger Master Plan for IU Bloomington, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2010. This completion represents an investment by some of IU's most generous donors of around a quarter of a billion dollars over the last 10 years.

Now, all of IU's sports will be housed within the precinct bounded by Dunn, 17th Street, and the Bypass, with the exception of golf, cross country, rowing, and the aquatic sports. And with the completion of Woodlawn Avenue two years ago, the central athletic campus and the main academic campus are now closely and conveniently interconnected, which symbolically reflects that Athletics is part of the university, not separate from it.

Wilkinson Hall is a state-of-the-art home for IU’s wrestling and volleyball programs. It provides much easier access to IU competitions for students and the general public, and it provides IU wrestlers and volleyball players with much improved access to all the amenities of the athletics program, including the innovative personal development programs of the Excellence Academy, whose new home we dedicated in the renovated south end zone of Memorial Stadium last fall.

But, throughout the storied history of IU Athletics, the university’s athletic facilities have not always been so conveniently located.

After the campus moved to Dunn’s Woods following the 1883 fire at Seminary Square, athletes and spectators continued to walk a mile to the athletic field on the old campus for competitions and practices. This continued for 14 years, until IU acquired additional land from Moses Dunn—and Jordan Field (now the Indiana Memorial Union parking lot), became home to IU's football and baseball teams. But Jordan Field suffered notoriously from drainage problems, and spring rains often made it so muddy that games had to be cancelled.1

IU wrestling and volleyball

Of course, the members of IU's present-day wrestling and volleyball teams know something about competing in far-flung and less-than-adequate facilities.

They have been holding matches for many years in a building that was built during the Kennedy administration, the University Gym. And while fans have witnessed many memorable moments in the University Gym, not only is the facility more than 55 years old, but it is also difficult to access and is located some distance away from the athletics complex, at 10th and the Bypass.

In Wilkinson Hall, the IU wrestling and volleyball programs will have all the resources they need to compete at the very highest level.

Student-athletes in both programs have already achieved great success on the mat, on the court, and in the classroom.

Wrestling, of course, is one of the oldest forms of sport. It is featured and celebrated in cave drawings that date back 15,000 years; in Babylonian and Egyptian reliefs, statues, and monuments; and in great works of world literature, including Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and the Hindu classics the Ramayana and the Mahābhārata.2

Wrestling came to IU in 1908, when Elmer Jones, a faculty member who had been an outstanding wrestler at Columbia University, offered a class in wrestling. From that initial class, a program was built that has gone on to produce more than 50 individual All-Americans—including Coach Angel Escobedo, from whom we will hear in a moment, 12 individual NCAA champions, one team national title, and seven Olympians.

Volleyball is a relatively young sport compared to wrestling, but it, too, has a rich history. The game was created in 1895 in the United States—around the same time the game of basketball was created. Today, the game has spread around the world. In fact, the number of volleyball players worldwide is second only to the number of those who play soccer. Varsity volleyball came to IU in 1975, shortly after the passage of Title IX, which also brought women’s basketball, cross-country, and softball to IU as varsity sports.

Over the years, members of the IU volleyball team have won recognition as All-Americans, Academic-All Americans, and have received many departmental honors.

Students in both the wrestling and volleyball programs have achieved noteworthy success in the classroom. This summer, the Big Ten named 65 IU student-athletes as Big Ten Distinguished Scholars for 2017-18. This was the second-largest number ever in IU history and it included a number of members of the wrestling and volleyball programs. And eight IU wrestlers and eight members of the volleyball team were named to the Academic All-Big Ten team last year, with grade point averages of 3.0 or better.

Both the wrestling and volleyball programs have recently secured wins over nationally-ranked opponents. And both programs are also recruiting exceptionally well, which is due, in part to this wonderful new arena.

Special thanks

There is a long list of people to whom we owe enormous debts of gratitude for helping us reach this moment, and, in thanking them, we must, of course, begin with the family whose name this arena now bears: the Wilkinson family.

In 2012, the Wilkinson family made a generous gift to provide operating resources and fund equipment and training needs in the strength and conditioning center, which is now known as the Wilkinson Performance Center, or simply "the Wilk."

In 2016, Jay endowed The Nancy Wilkinson Athletic Scholarship to honor his late wife. The scholarship is given annually to at least one female varsity athlete.

And in 2017, we announced another extraordinarily generous gift to IU by the Wilkinson family—a $10 million contribution to the funding of the arena we dedicate today.

On behalf of Indiana University, I want to once again express how deeply grateful we are to Jay and his family for this wonderful gift and for their longstanding support of IU's student-athletes. We will hear from Jay in a few moments, but would all of you please join me once again in expressing our most sincere thanks to Jay, Melissa, and the entire Wilkinson family with a vigorous round of applause.

I also want to commend Athletics Director Fred Glass and his staff—including coaches Angel Escobedo and Steve Aird—and their current and former players—for all they have done to help make this project a success.

I also want to commend the many design and construction professionals, both internal and external, who have overseen the construction of this splendid new arena.


Wrestling legend and former Big Ten coach, Dan Gable, writes that "when you work together, you win together."3

For IU wrestling and volleyball, Wilkinson Hall will be a place where students learn the importance of working together, as well as the importance of respecting others, playing by the rules, balancing their commitment to their sport with their commitment to their studies, and being relentless competitors.

In this splendid arena, IU student-athletes will demonstrate the dedication, fight, pride, and resilience that are the hallmarks of Indiana University athletics. 

All of us look forward to witnessing their athletic and academic triumphs and their continued personal growth.

Source Notes

1. J. Terry Clapacs, Indiana University Bloomington: America's Legacy Campus, (Indiana University Press, 2017), 385-386.

2. Ana Penjak, Hrvoje Karnincic, "Sport And Literature: An Overview of the Wrestling Combats in the Early Literary Texts," International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 3, No. 5; March 2013, 50-52.

3. Dan Gable, A Wrestling Life 2: More Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable, (University of Iowa Press, 2017), 5.