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Rupp Arena name change? A UK faculty group is asking for it

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“The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees.”

Auburn v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The University of Kentucky faculty of the African-American and Africana Studies program have asked the school to change the name of Rupp Arena.

In a letter sent to UK president Eli Capilouto, the AAAS program has called for Rupp Arena’s name to be changed as part of the school’s push for improved race relations on campus. They believe Adolph Rupp’s name is too associated with racism to remain on the arena that hosts one of college basketball’s greatest programs.

“The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees,” the letter 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.”

The issue of Rupp being accused of racism largely stems from what many perceived to be a failure to lead in era of integration during his time coaching at UK from 1930-72. It wasn’t until 1969 that Tom Payne became the first African-American basketball player at UK when he signed to play for Rupp.

Some great learning tools to use for Rupp’s history can be found at Big Blue History, as well as Dick Gabriel’s research on this complicated history of the former UK coach. There’s also a good article on the topic by Jerry Tipton.

The complete faculty letter can be seen here.

It’s far too early to tell what, if anything will actually come of this, but it’s clear that there is now a push within UK’s campus to take Rupp’s name off of the arena that has bore his name since 1976.