July 6, 2020

A group of researchers from universities across the country recently published a collaborative study designed to help eliminate racism on college campuses by highlighting athletic structures that are named after individuals with questionable pasts.

Robert Turick, an assistant professor of sport administration at Ball State University and faculty from Louisville, Western Carolina, Florida, and Texas A&M have identified 19 facilities on college campuses named after athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists who engaged in perceived racist activities or harbored perceived racist views.

He is the lead author of “Who Are We Honoring? Extending the Ebony & Ivy Discussion to Include Sport Facilities,” which was recently published by the Journal of Sport Management.

Turick and his co-authors analyzed basketball and football facilities at Division I Football Bowl Subdivision institutions to explore the racialized history of the people whom these facilities are named after.

The authors argue, using critical race theory and systemic racism theory as interpretative lenses, that naming buildings after racists legitimizes their legacies, rationalizes systemic racism, and continues to unjustly enrich this particular group.

“Amid nationwide protests against the treatment of Black individuals, one prominently debated issue in the American higher education system is whether university officials should remove the names of individuals with racist pasts from campus buildings/structures that bear their names,” Turick said. “University officials and the campus community need to consider whether it is appropriate to judge past athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists by today’s standards of morality — while also remembering that their actions were inappropriate when they engaged in them during their time.”

In their review, the authors noted four key themes that emerged from the identified facilities: racism toward individuals, racism toward student-athletes, racism in the workplace, and racism through Confederate ties.

Examples of the facilities include:

  • William “Bill” Alexander, Georgia Institute of Technology, Alexander Memorial Coliseum (racism toward student-athletes).
  • Phog Allen, Kansas University, Allen Fieldhouse (racism toward individuals).
  • Paul “Bear” Bryant, University of Alabama Bryant-Denny Stadium (racism toward student-athletes).
  • Harold “Red” Drew, University of Alabama Thomas-Drew Practice Fields (racism toward student-athletes).
  • Edwin Jackson Kyle, Texas A&M University, Kyle Field, (racism through Confederate ties).
  • Darrell K Royal, University of Texas, Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, (racism toward student-athletes).
  • Adolph Rupp, University of Kentucky, Rupp Arena (racism toward student-athletes).
  • John Vaught, University of Mississippi, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (racism toward student-athletes).
  • Thomas Yawkey, Boston College Yawkey Athletics Center (racism toward individuals).

Turick also points out that considering the difficulties associated with finding potentially negative information on the honorees, it is conceivable that more facilities have questionable namesakes. 

“Most alums or fans probably assume that these individuals are respectable because ‘they must have been a great person to have a building named after them,’” Turick said. “To that end, our position is that university officials should engage their campus communities in a dialogue around whether they are truly celebrating and valuing racial diversity and inclusion when the name associated with a sport venue has a questionable racist past.”

Turick said that the national response to buildings and statues that are considered racist has, in most instances, been to remove them. The University of Oregon, Georgetown University, and Yale University all renamed buildings on their campuses that had previously honored an individual with a racist past.