Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Barnhart on renaming Commonwealth Stadium and not Rupp Arena, and fans’ opinions on the name

MITCH BARNHART

On going this route with Commonwealth Stadium and not Rupp Arena: “The Rupp name is an iconic name in terms of what it means to college basketball and what it means to this program. And in terms of what we do in recruiting and the people we bring into our program, I think when you say ‘Rupp Arena’ it has a special feel to it that I just don’t think — I know we’re not going to mess with that. It’s something that’s so important to us and our athletic department.

“Our football stadium, we’ve continued to sort of revamp that and remold that a little. And I don’t think we’re done. We’ll continue to do things that give us the best chance to invest in our program. This is an interesting investment, too, as it relates to the nutrition of our student athletes. We’ve got our training tables we go into and Kroger’s going to pour into that, and that’s really helpful to us. It’s another unique way we get to do that. They’re two different facilities and not everyone we’ll treat the same. And that is an iconic facility.”

On fans considered in stadium naming change: “I think you do (consider the fans), but I think there’s times when we’ve got to keep going. I absolutely respect our fan base — I’ve been here 15 years and I think that shows I have great respect for our fans; I love our fans. We want to make sure we’re always listening, but at the end of the day, I’ve still got to put the enterprise of making sure that our young people have the best opportunity to compete in the SEC. If I said to our fans, ‘What’s most important? How we get there in terms of the names and things like that or is it more important — do you want us to compete well and have really quality student athletes?’ I think they all would say let’s go do something best for our student athletes and give us the best chance we can to compete. This is one component of that. It’s not the only component, but it’s one component. It’s really, really important. But again, the landscape continues to change in what we do. And you don’t find people like Calvin (Kaufman, president of Kroger’s Louisville Division) and the people at Kroger that really want to invest in the infrastructure.”

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