There are calls within the University of Kentucky to change the name of the school’s basketball venue. The faculty of the African American and Africana Studies program sent UK president Eli Capilouto a letter asking for Rupp Arena to be renamed.
The arena bears the name of Adolph Rupp, who coached the Kentucky men’s basketball team from 1930 to 1972.
“The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees,” the faculty said. “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.”One of the most successful coaches in college basketball history, Rupp didn’t have a black player on his team for his first 39 seasons at Kentucky. With the first starting lineup in NCAA history to feature five Black players, Texas Western defeated Kentucky’s all-white team in the 1966 national championship game.
Rupp is sixth in NCAA men’s college basketball history with 876 wins. Rupp led Kentucky to four national titles.
Rupp Arena opened in 1976 in Lexington, Kentucky. The university has ranked either first or second in average attendance in Division 1 basketball for every year of the building’s existence, ESPN reported.
Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart told The Louisville Courier-Journal in January that Rupp Arena would not receive a name change, refuting the idea that a corporate sponsor would buy the naming rights.
“When you’re recruiting, when you’re having teams come in here to play and people come in here, this is Rupp Arena,” Barnhart said at the time “It’s set apart from all other places. … This one’s been this way for almost 50 years, and it can’t change.”
The faculty group had other demands including an increase in Black faculty members and job security for Black faculty, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“The faculty and students who have expressed these concerns are deeply valued members of our community,” UK spokesperson Jay Blanton responded in a written statement. “We thank them for their continued passion and commitment to advancing equity at UK. Senior officials have been meeting and corresponding with them to address their specific concerns, which speak forcefully to the systemic and institutional racism that we must thoughtfully and urgently address as a campus. “