clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Rupp Arena controversy is complicated

New, 113 comments

The name of Kentucky’s basketball arena has come into question and we shouldn’t be surprised.

Ian Teasley - Sea of Blue

This is obviously a touchy issue for a lot of people, but let’s be honest, it should come as no surprise that the issue of Kentucky Basketball’s arena being named after a man with a complicated racial history is being questioned right now.

Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t come up sooner.

So let’s begin.

Adolph Rupp is the most decorated coach of one of the most decorated programs in college basketball. There’s no question about it. The man’s resume speaks for itself. From 1930 to 1972, Rupp was at the helm of the Kentucky Basketball program and shaped it into what it is today.

Rupp accumulated numerous wins (876 to be exact). He won four national titles. He had an all-time winning percentage north of 82 percent. He dominated the SEC with 27 conference championships. Rupp himself won five national coach of the year awards. I could do a whole post on his accomplishments, but most people reading already know this.

It’s clear why the arena was named after Rupp. The arena was built in 1976, just four years after Rupp coached his last game for the University of Kentucky. Looking purely at basketball, it was a clear choice.

But what’s not clear is Rupp’s personal history, particularly Rupp’s views on race.

One of the most notable detriments to Rupp’s character in this regard was the movie “Glory Road.” The movie focused on the 1966 Texas Western team that consisted of five Black starters in the height of the Civil Rights Movement, facing off against Rupp’s Kentucky squad consisting of five White starters.

The movie has its good parts, but I’ve always felt like Rupp received an unfavorable showing in the movie. It lends the viewer to portray Rupp as a clear-cut racist, and I don’t think that’s a fair assessment to make.

One can point to Rupp’s days as a high school coach in which his teams had a Black player in a school with only six Black students. There are plenty of cultural and circumstantial factors to examine too. I won’t go into all of them. Instead, I’ll provide a link at the bottom that provides a thorough analysis.

I also think it’s disingenuous to claim that it’s clear Rupp didn’t have racial bias. There are plenty of written accounts that would point in that direction, from several books and newspaper articles over the years.

What I’m getting at here is that I think this is a complicated issue and much like society has trended within the last five years or so, it seems you have to have a strong opinion either way or get out of the way, and I think that’s a dangerous mindset to have.

Rupp’s history is complicated, and you can find evidence for and against whatever side you want to stand on when it comes to the issue of racism in regard to Rupp.

Does that mean that the name should be changed? To be quite frank, I don’t know. And honestly, this is probably an unpopular opinion, but I am fine either way.

At the end of the day, it has little to no effect on me. I didn’t really care for the transition from Commonwealth Stadium to Kroger Field, but I lived and the only time I ever think about it is when I accidentally write Commonwealth Stadium on this website and have to erase it.

So I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to sit back and listen. I’m going to learn. I’m not going to berate people online because of their opinion on the matter, because like I mentioned above, it’s complicated, and I truly see both sides.

To wrap this up, I’m going to provide a link to Jon Scott’s website, which provides a thorough examination into Rupp’s complicated history. It’s well worth a read if you’re open to learning more about the issue.

You can check out that site and in particular the section about Rupp here.