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U. of Kentucky Faculty Seek Rupp Arena Name Change

Paul Steinbach

Among 10 recommendations to improve the racial climate on the University of Kentucky campus, faculty in UK's African American and Africana Studies program are calling for a change in name to Rupp Arena, home of Wildcat basketball.

The arena is named for Adolph Rupp, who coached all-white teams at Kentucky from 1930 to 1969. By the time Rupp signed his first Black player, the university had been integrating its athletic teams for six years. His all-white team lost the 1966 NCAA championship to Texas Western, which started five black players.

"The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees," the faculty wrote in a letter to UK president Eli Capilouto. "The rebuilding of the arena and the convention center offer an opportunity to change the name to a far more inclusive one, such as Wildcat Arena. In addition, the University should survey all campus buildings and remove all names of enslavers, Confederate sympathizers (such as William C.P. Breckinridge), and other white supremacists."

As reported by the Louisville Courrier-Journal, the proposal to rename Rupp Arena was last on a list of 10 suggested reforms included in the letter. The faculty also called for the following changes on campus:

  • Ensure that UK and its contractors maintain the current percentages of Black staff at every level as the university weathers the current financial environment and commit to increasing diversity among the staff at all levels.
  • Require a course on race and inequality for all undergraduates.
  • Increase Black representation among faculty to 15%, which reflects the Black population of Lexington.
  • Appoint more Black faculty and staff to leadership positions.
  • Increase support for Black students.
  • Establish a system or systems of accountability for individuals who commit racist and other acts of discrimination on campus
  • Fund the new Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies
  • Join the Universities Studying Slavery collective and initiate a major study of the histories of slavery and racism within the institution. 
  • Institute a policy that minimizes its cooperation with federal state and local law enforcement agencies including Immigration Customs and Enforcement (I.C.E) and the Lexington Police Department. 

The Lexington Center Corporation and UK announced in January that naming rights to the convention center surrounding Rupp Arena, which is undergoing a $275 million renovation and expansion, had been sold to Central Bank but that the name of Rupp Arena would not change. UK and the Lexington Center Corporation agreed not to change Rupp Arena's name while leaving opening the possibility of selling naming rights for the convention center in a lease agreement signed in February 2018. That agreement stipulated UK will pay LCC $750,000 per year for the right to license the naming rights of the facility.

"It has to be Rupp Arena," UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said at the news conference announcing the naming of the Central Bank Center. "When you’re recruiting, when you’re having teams come in here to play and people come in here, this is Rupp Arena. It’s set apart from all other places. … This one’s been this way for almost 50 years, and it can’t change."

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